Beachcombing in Davenport, California

waves at davenport california sea glass beach

The unrivaled sea glass found at the tiny coastal town of Davenport, California, is as unique as its locals and the beaches themselves. Up the hill from the beach is the Lundberg Art Studio, where handmade glass has been manufactured since 1970. Due to heavy flooding in a storm that overflowed the San Vicente Creek, large bins of the “end of day” glass (discarded blown-glass trimmings) stored behind the studio spilled downhill, washing through the creek and into the ocean.

These pieces of glass have for decades been tumbled by the waves, becoming the much sought-after Davenport sea glass (sometimes referred to by locals as “nuggets,” or the largest, softball-sized ones, as “boulders”), now considered the most rare and beautiful in the United States because of their colors and patterns.

green and clear davenport sea glass

But there’s a problem for beachcombers hoping to find some of the colorful sea treasures. Sea glass hunting at Davenport beach isn’t strolling along a shoreline picking up pretty colored glass. This is extreme sea glass hunting, usually performed in full wetsuits by beachcombers and divers who know the surf. The spot where the choice “nuggets” wash up for about a half-second before the next wave comes is known as “the pit,” and there’s never really dry sand there at all—just the ocean, its crashing waves often as high as 20 feet or more, pounding against a cliff.

The bravest of the hunters line up at high tide in an almost hierarchical formation, in alternating order of fearlessness. The deeper in the pit, the less warning you have when the waves come. Extreme sea glass hunters in the pit have two choices when the huge waves arrive: curl up in a ball in the sand—“duck dive” the wave and let it roll over you—or brace against it.

It’s risky: if the wave wins control, you may get to sit and go for a ride, or get thrown into spin cycle in the biggest washing machine of them all, with huge rocks in the mix. The very rocks that work to tumble the glass you seek are now pummeling your shins, ankles, and other extremities. Severe bruising and broken limbs are commonplace.

davenport pier beach

There’s an odd faux-secrecy around the beach location, and some glass sellers and makers do not disclose that their wares are from Davenport (though anyone who knows sea glass would recognize Davenport glass almost immediately because of its distinctive patterns). This behavior is not a Davenport exclusive, however; many great glassing beaches are home to some very territorial and proprietary beachcombers.

Unofficially, there are 5 beaches in Davenport: Davenport Pier Beach, Davenport Beach, Secret Beach of Coast Dairies (hidden below a farm between Davenport Cove and Davenport Beach), Davenport Cove Beach, and Bonny Doon Beach.

  • A whaling captain named John Pope Davenport settled at El Jarro Point, about half a mile from present day Davenport, in 1867.
  • Current Davenport, California, Population: 408
  • The original Davenport jail was used only twice from the time of its construction in 1914 until its decommissioning in 1936.It still stands today, part of a coastal history museum.
  • A photographer’s dream, the Davenport Pier, was built in 1933-34, and stretched 2327 feet into the ocean, the first all-welded steel pier on the Pacific Coast; used primarily for only 15 years, a major portion was washed away in a 1955 storm.
  • James Lundberg founded his glass studio in tiny Davenport in 1970, and Lundberg Studios still produces remarkable art glass, vases, and lamps that can be found today in the White House, the Smithsonian, and different museums across the country. Lundberg glass can be credited with some of the more extraordinary sea glass finds today.

Where to Stay

Davenport Roadhouse Restaurant and Inn
Just off Highway 1 and a block from the ocean, billed as an historic roadhouse in an old beach town, complete with guest rooms and suites, a full restaurant serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and a gift shop featuring locally made gifts. Reasonable rates.

Dream Inn
Fifteen minutes down the road in Santa Cruz, boasts bright rooms in a beachfront hotel, complete with bar and restaurant. Well reviewed, and close to the Santa Cruz Wharf, and the thrill rides on the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.

West Cliff Inn
Gorgeous inn 20 minutes south, originally built in 1877 by a carpenter turned 49er who made his fortune in gold; has seen many incarnations, until it was completely renovated and remodeled as a B&B in 2007.

Get a peek at an unbelievable collection of sea glass from Davenport ›

Check out other great places to beachcomb in Santa Cruz County ›

best beaches for beachcombers

Learn more about the best beaches and destinations for sea and beach glass, seashells, fossils, rocks, and more beach finds around the world. Articles ›

Watch videos about all the colors of sea and beach glass

This article appeared in the Glassing Magazine July 2017 issue.


Based on this article I took a trip to Davenport Beach. The hike down to the beach was steep and covered in loose shale. We slipped to our butts a few times. Definitely not a flip flop hike. We visited at low tide. There were some small tide pools, however they are polished stone covered with seaweed and I slipped and
really badly injured my shin and knee on the rocks, muscles and barnacles. Despite searching with sand scoops we found no sea glass or shells. Quite disappointed overall. Wish I had just spent time on the sand on a beach safer to access.

Abram Hatch March 24, 2024

Sea glass isn’t in one particular area of most CA beaches but it’s more fun to have to look for it than to find in in a big pile.. Some beaches with sea glass were close to restaurants etc that threw their trash in the ocean decades ago…(long before laws forbid it) glass beer bottles, regular drinking glasses, all types of glass that held condiments, liquor, any glass containers. I’ve lived in CA all my life and I have probably 500 plus pieces of sea glass from many beaches in lots of different colors. There are a few beaches in northern ca that have sea glass but also have high cliffs and waves…Mendocino beaches are in the area of Fort Bragg. I would say you will have more luck in the central coast and continue up into northern CA beaches. Orange County and LA county beaches may have a little bit of glass but those beaches also have tons of people on the sand and the sand is groomed every night or often and things like seaweed, any trash including glass are picked up and tossed…there is about 800 miles of coast in CA. so I would suggest getting a few good books on CA beaches before you come here…you will definitely have a great time in CA!

Becky October 09, 2022

Hi Gena Crim! I’m curious if you ever made it to Davenport? If so, were you able to find any sea glass? I’d love to hear if your experience. I myself have thought of traveling to go hunt for sea treasures, just not sure to where yet! Hope to hear from you.

Cassandra Walton November 24, 2021

Hi, Gena! Be sure to make a reservation at Lundberg Studios at And check out for more places to beachcomb in Santa Cruz County! Happy hunting!

Kirsti Scott September 04, 2021

I’m coming to California and will be hunting for this treasured sea glass and visit the studio. Are there any less treacherous beaches other than the one described in the article very close by? I’m coming all the way from Huntsville, AL to find sea glass! I’m a beginner and this could be my one and only chance to get to the Pacific Coast…

Gena Crim September 04, 2021

Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published