SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA
Nature spotting was always a treat in San Francisco in the days when nudists could be found in the Castro letting it all hang out. That changed last year after City Supervisor, Scott Weiner, banned public nudity. More ironic than his surname is the fact that the nudity-phobic Weiner is openly gay. Depending on whom you talk to, the nudists were taking it too far or the Silicon Valley techie invaders are imposing values that contradict the legendary permissiveness of the city by the bay. You can still get your naked on in public at Folsom Street Fair and certain other events and San Francisco, a city not at all known for its balmy beach weather, does still offer a number of nude beaches.
With iconic views of the Golden Gate Bridge and below the cliffs of the Presidio is America’s largest nude stretch of sand, Baker Beach. Naturists can be found with their guitars, drums, frisbees and creating art in a scene reminiscent of Burning Man – in fact, Baker is where that art festival phenomenon began. For the boys, head north and if you walk farther around the rocks (be careful not to get trapped by the tide – a better option is to drive further north), you’ll arrive at Marshall, the city’s unofficial gay beach. Marshall Beach has plenty of nudity, cruising and rocks to shield sunbathers. Considering the bracingly cold waters, swimming isn’t the primary appeal, but on sunny days the boys are out there soaking up more than just vitamin D. Also known as Nasty Boys Beach, a recent refurbishment project completed an accessible trail which is a mixed blessing – like a scene out of Vertigo, unsuspecting tourists now stumble upon it.
A smaller nude beach, with spectacular views but not much sand, can be found further south at Lands End.
With sparkling clear water and pebble-free sands, you might mistake Lake Michigan’s lagoon for the Caribbean, if it weren’t for the chill factor. Oval is known for its deceptively strong rips and the alluring charms of local Chicago daytrippers. Clothing is required on the beach, but up in the ever-shifting, largely undeveloped dunes there are plenty of secluded areas to go buff on the bluff.