Top Things to Do in Zmudowski State Beach

Zmudowski State Beach - Photo from

Zmudowski State Beach is located on Monterey Bay, north of the small town of Moss Landing, CA.

It’s a long remote sandy beach with tall dunes and vast wetlands behind it. The beach area also includes the sandy mouth of the Pajaro River which is great for kayaking or canoeing.

Though swimming isn’t safe here, there are other activities you can do in this quiet beach like fishing, beachcombing, or hiking.

This is a quiet beach perfect for you who wanted a serene ambiance alone with nature.

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Zmudowski State Beach has fewer visitors than any other in the county and this is what makes it special. You can do basically any beach activity as you want: fishing, birdwatching, equestrian use, kayaking, beachcombing, hiking, or beach walking. However, the most popular activities here are surf casting and birdwatching, so make sure you don’t miss them!

Zmudowski State Beach is also a popular fishing area. Some of the fish found in this location are the perch, kingfish, sole, flounder, halibut, bocaccio (tomcod), jacksmelt, lingcod, cabezon, salmon, steelhead, and occasional rockfish.
A section of a nearby river—the Pajaro River—is a great kayaking or canoeing spot though a little bit difficult to access from the beach. Consider going to the best boat put-in at a Watsonville Park located at the end of Clearwater Lane behind the Watsonville Water Resources Center.
Horseback riding is another activity you should give a try to. It’s allowed on wet sand at Zmudowski State Beach, and you will often see riders along its shores. If you are interested in riding at Zmudowski State Beach and do not have a horse of your own, you can contact the Monterey Bay Equestrian Center.

However, please beware of dangerous rip currents, frigid water, and deep offshore drop-offs. The access to the beach is also a bit difficult, some people even recommend you to go by four-wheel drive to be able to reach the beach more easily.

Monterey Bay Equestrian Center

Family-friendly ranch offering horseback rides on the beach.

Address : 19805 Pesante Rd, Salinas, CA 93907, USA


The beach is basically free and there’s no charges for parking or visiting, so you can enjoy free activities in the beach.


As the pandemic spread is still going on, follow the visitor guidelines below:
Stay Local: Although businesses around the state are opening up, visitors should not travel significant distances for pleasure or recreation and should stay close to home. Parking is very limited or closed at park units across the state. Walk or bike to parks in your local neighborhood. Do not travel if you are sick or if someone in your household has had coronavirus in the last two weeks.

Stay Safer at 6 Feet: Maintain a physical distance of 6 feet or more. Gatherings, picnics and parties are not allowed. Visitors will be asked to leave if there are too many people at the park, beach or on trails to allow for the required physical distance.
Stay Clean: Be prepared. Bring soap/sanitizer and pack out all trash.
Stay Covered: The state now requires you to wear a face covering in the outdoors when you cannot stay at least 6 feet away from others who are not your immediate household members. For details, please read California Department of Public Health’s guidance for the use of face coverings here. Visitors should also abide by their local county health orders.


The weather can be tricky on the California coast but if you visit in mid-summer or early fall it should guarantee warm weather and sunny days. Most people assume that California beaches are always sunny with warm weather, but this is a false stereotype created by pop-culture.
Also, don’t forget the operating hours for the beach is open from 8 a.m. to ½ hour after sunset, so make sure you plan your day well beforehand.


Note that water sports like swimming and surfing aren’t safe in these cold ocean waves which are filled with strong rip currents. Luckily, you can go to the river section instead and enjoy canoeing or kayaking there. The best boat put-in is at Watsonville Park located at the end of Clearwater Lane behind the Watsonville Water Resources Center.


For staying the night, you can opt for Captain's Inn at Moss Landing. Surrounded by marshland on the Old Salinas River tidal creek, this whimsical B&B in a Victorian home is 4 minutes on foot from whale-watching tours at Moss Landing Harbor and 6 minutes' walk from the beach. it features bright rooms (some with soaking tubs), a lounge and a river-view deck.

For a great deal, you can stay in the Country Inn & Suites by Radisson, Monterey Beachfront-Marina, CA instead. This simple hotel offers free perks such as continental breakfast and WiFi, plus an outdoor pool.

Captain's Inn at Moss Landing

Bright rooms, some with soaking tubs, in a whimsical B&B featuring a lounge & a river-view deck.

Address : 8122 Moss Landing Rd, Moss Landing, CA 95039, USA

Country Inn & Suites by Radisson, Monterey Beachfront-Marina, CA

Simple hotel offering free perks such as continental breakfast & WiFi, plus an outdoor pool.

Address : 3280 Dunes Dr, Marina, CA 93933, USA


Grab your meals at Moss Landing Café, an old-fashioned eatery serving classic breakfast and lunch fare with a focus on local seafood. People love the calamari, fish and chips, as well as the awesome fried artichoke hearts.

A Mexican restaurant nearby the beach you should pay a visit is Haute Enchilada Café. They serve homemade Mexican dishes and it’s a full bar offered in a folksy setting with colorful Latin touches. Seating is available inside and outside with some patios. It also has a gallery with antique and handicraft collection which is a good place to stop by and shop if you like.

Moss Landing Cafe

Great Local Cafe Good food especially use of local ingredients, seafood and produce. Been going to the cafe for several years, after fishing or passing through.

Perfect Lunch after whale watching This small cozy restaurant was the perfect stop after a morning of whale watching. Delicious sandals paired with half an artichoke and fresh crunchy coleslaw. Delicious food and friendly service.

Get the Deep Fried Artichokes, A Burger, and a Beer! Consistently great! Good value, friendly service, outstanding food. We stop every time we're heading South and always eat the artichokes!

Address : 421 Moss Landing Rd, Moss Landing, CA 95039-9645

Haute Enchilada Café

Homemade Mexican dishes & a full bar offered in a folksy setting with colorful Latin touches.

Address : 7902 Moss Landing Rd, Moss Landing, CA 95039, USA


Wanna go to a seafood market instead? Then you should miss Phil's Fish Market & Eatery. It’s an oceanfront seafood specialist with indoor and outdoor seating serving clams, grilled fish and shrimp. Be ready to devour buckets of crab, mussels, squid, scallops and prawns covered in San Francisco-style cioppino sauce at this warehouse-sized eatery right by the harbor.

Phil's Fish Market & Eatery

Oceanfront seafood specialist with indoor & outdoor seating serving clams, grilled fish & shrimp.

Address : 7600 Sandholdt Rd, Moss Landing, CA 95039, USA


Lemongrass Seafood Bar & Grill Thai Cuisine serves local seafood prepared Thai-style which is on the long menu at an easygoing restaurant with a full bar. They offer fabulous selection of cocktails and good service. The bar opens daily from 11 a.m. to 8.30 p.m.

Lemongrass Seafood Bar & Grill Thai Cuisine

Local seafood prepared Thai-style is on the long menu at an easygoing restaurant with a full bar.

Address : 413 Moss Landing Rd, Moss Landing, CA 95039, USA