point arena pier
What you can find: Petrified whale bone, occasional pieces of agate.
Ease of access: About a 15-foot walk from the parking area. You might have to climb over a few rocks.
Equipment needed: Backpack for specimens
Safety considerations: As always, keep an eye on the ocean.
Where, exactly? From Point Area, just follow Port Road to the end.
Driving down Highway 1 in Mendocino County, you will notice an interesting change in the rocks a few miles north of Manchester. They shift from the dark, crumbly Franciscan Complex rocks to paler sedimentary rocks, with clearly defined layers. The reason for this change? You've just crossed over the San Andreas Fault, and you're now on an entirely different tectonic plate.
In practical terms, sedimentary rocks mean only one thing to the rockhound: look for fossils!
From Point Arena, follow the signs to the Point Arena Pier. Park near the pier, and walk down onto the beach, where careful searching may yield ocean-worn chunks of petrified whale bone, as well as pebble-sized beach agates.
When starting out, it can be good to pick a likely spot and just sit down and look through all the rocks in the vicinity, to make sure you haven't missed anything [although lazy, it can be surprisingly effective. It's surprising how much you can walk by, unless you take the time to look closely].
While you're there, watch for wildlife. They may not be fossilized yet, but there are plenty of seals and assorted sea birds around. But beware the sea gulls, for they will steal your lunch without a shred of mercy or compunction.
And if you look carefully at the cliff faces, you may see thin trickles of black running down them. It is tar, from naturally occurring tar seeps within the rocks.