The beach flanks Fort Cronkhite, one of the few preserved examples of a World War II “mobilization post.” Today the fort’s barracks, mess halls, supply buildings and other red roof-topped structures stand upright like the pages of a pop-up history book, telling the story of the enemy that never came. Some of these buildings are now used for park services, The Headlands Institute, Headlands Visitors Center, The Golden Gate Raptor Observatory and the recently renovated Marine Mammal Center, which is a must-see if visiting with kids.
In addition to historical buildings and park services, Rodeo Beach is at the foot of numerous hiking trails, from Point Bonita to the Coastal Trail to the Miwok Trail and beyond. Trails lead hikers up and over craggy coastal hillsides smelling of sweet grasses and fog. Map out a hike first, or simply set out and see if you can spot any deer, coyote, bobcats, peregrine falcons or hawks. (Although rarely seen, do beware of mountain lions.)
Of course if hiking’s not your thing, the beach is perfect for a little relaxation. A wide expanse of coarse not-too-sticky sand stretches from one cliff to another, and the beach and surrounding area is relatively dog-friendly. Just behind the beach, Rodeo Lagoon is a favorite spot for bird watching, hosting egrets, ducks and myriad other birds in its shallow wetlands. And just in front lie the crashing waves of the Pacific and the surfers who brave them. Watch container ships pull out of the Gate while a surfer paddles out to the next set and an egret stands on the rocks watching it all with you. RoDAYoh, RoDEEoh: I don’t care how you pronounce it–the beach at Fort Cronkhite has it all.