Robert W. Crown Memorial State Beach
The island of Alameda boasts the Bay’s largest and warmest beach, Crown Memorial Beach, with shallow water and tiny waves. Also known locally as Alameda Beach, it's a wonderful place for strolling or picnics, with easy wheelchair access along its entire length. Many families come here to swim and picnic on the large grassy picnic grounds with barbecue...
The island of Alameda boasts the Bay’s largest and warmest beach, Crown Memorial Beach, with shallow water and tiny waves. Also known locally as Alameda Beach, it's a wonderful place for strolling or picnics, with easy wheelchair access along its entire length. Many families come here to swim and picnic on the large grassy picnic grounds with barbecue grills. The park’s many programs for the public include nature walks, free evening concerts, and an annual sandcastle contest. Fishing is allowed, but all of the spots where I saw people fishing were inaccessible to wheelchairs due to rip-rap.
The beach has three contiguous areas, and a flat, paved 2.5-mile trail runs the entire length. At the northwestern end is Crab Cove, where at low tide you can use the Rocky Shoreline Tide Ramp, a concrete ramp, to get close to tidepools. You may find yourself at touching distance from limpets and barnacles. The base of the ramp is submerged at high tide. Look for grebes and pelicans, and at low tide, shorebirds feeding in the exposed mudflats. Another good spot to see waterfowl is closer to the beach, from an accessible overlook at the freshwater lagoon. It was teeming with coots on my late-December visit.
: At Crab Cove visitor center you can see Bay creatures in the 800-gallon aquarium system, use interactive stations to view microscopic animals, build a crab from the inside out, or get a lug worm's view of the mudflats. Other displays are about the local ecology. Pick up a brochure here for the self-guided Memory Lane History Tour.
Trailhead: Crab Cove visitor center
Length: Over 4 total miles
Typical Width: 4 ft. & above
Typical Grade: LevelThere’s only one gentle slope as you approach Shoreline Dr.
Terrain: HardThe viewing platform at the lagoon is very bumpy.
From the visitor center, if you follow the trail to the right, within a few hundred feet you will reach the concrete ramp that takes you close to the tidepools when the tide is low. The trail then curves with the shoreline and quickly leads into a housing development. Other than the ramp, there is nothing of much interest to see on this short stretch.
Back at the visitor center, turn left on the trail to work your way toward the beach, passing grassy expanses. From there you can continue 2-plus miles to the Elsie Roemer Bird Sanctuary, at the southernmost end of the trail. Once you pass through the park, the trail follows alongside Shoreline Drive, where for part of the way views of the water are obscured by brush. You can still see the hills of San Mateo County across the Bay. As you approach the bird sanctuary, sand yields to cordgrass and beachcombing gives way to bird-watching. This small sanctuary, close to the road and housing and shopping developments, shelters ducks, egrets, and wading birds, including the American avocet.
The paved trail ends at the sanctuary, but the more adventurous can extend their trip a few miles farther, to Bay Farm Island, by weaving through city streets, then crossing a bicycle/pedestrian bridge over San Leandro Bay. The route is not clearly marked.
The facilities listed below meet all of our access criteria unless otherwise noted.
To reserve a beach wheelchair, call the visitor center at (510) 544-3187 or the Crown Beach park office at (888) 327-2757, option 3, ext. 4522. Arrangements will be made to bring the chair out to the beach. It takes approximately 15 minutes to prepare the chair. Staff will give a brief orientation to the chair and arrange a time for it to be returned.
Lots at the park entrance at 8th St. and Westline Dr. serve the beach. The lot closest to the entrance has the most accessible spaces; the other two lots each have spaces next to the restrooms. The small lot at McKay Ave. serves Crab Cove visitor center and has a few accessible spaces.
At Crab Cove visitor center and just outside the visitor center, by the trail. The bathhouse restrooms were locked during my visit, and the toilet rooms at the north end of this building are not accessible. More accessible restrooms are in the parking lots at the park entrance, at the two southernmost lots, and along the trail at Grand and Park streets.
All tables require travel across firm grass. One table at the Sand Castle group picnic area has no benches, so would be good for multiple people in wheelchairs.
Other Things of Interest
The city of Alameda has been holding its annual sand castle sculpture contest at Crown Beach every June since 1967.
Reviewed by Bonnie Lewkowicz, December 16, 2014