Engagement sessions make the perfect setting to practice being in front a camera before your wedding day. You will get to know to your wedding photographer’s style while creating fun memories as an engaged couple. As a bonus, you’ll have amazing images to share if you’re sending out save-the-dates, creating a wedding or registry site, and posting updates leading up to your big day.
What makes the perfect engagement location? When it comes to location, you can make any place of special significance work great for engagement photos. My heart always leans toward anywhere near the ocean. Being a native California girl who’s lived in San Francisco for many years, I logged all of the best spots along the NorCal coast for engagement sessions. These also double as being gorgeous spots for elopements, so I snuck in a few of those here!
Here are my top 10 locations for engagement photos within San Francisco and surrounding coastal spots in Northern California. Let’s go!
1. Golden Gate Overlook
Offering one of the best views of Golden Gate bridge, this underrated location stands out with its expansive views of the bay and the Marin Headlands landscape. These were taken shortly after sunrise, so we got this popular spot all to ourselves!
2. Marshall’s Beach
This tops out as my favorite beach in San Francisco. This beach requires a mile hike in and out to access, making it feel more reclusive as if you discovered a secret location. Most of the trail is on a switchback of well maintained planked stairs along the bluffs that lead to this coastal gem.
3. Palace of Fine Arts
If you’re looking for a classic quintessential San Francisco location with remarkable architectural details, it’s all about the Palace of Fine Arts. This spot can often get crowded, but it’s all in knowing the best times to visit to get intimate images like these.
4. Rodeo Beach, Marin Headlands
Just a short drive across Golden Gate Bridge, this location brings a cross of Ireland hills mixed with the best of what the NorCal coast offers. Right by Rodeo Beach, there’s an infinite amount of gorgeous scenery all along coastal trails where you can be surrounded by ocean views that go on and on. This elopement was also featured in Wandering Weddings, where I share tips and resources on how to plan for this location.
5. Point Reyes National Park
At the furthest edge of Point Reyes National Park, there’s an open expanse of golden fields with dramatic views of the Pacific on one side and a stunning bay on the other. This specific location requires an easy hike that gently takes you up to this vantage point. We hiked back down shortly after sunset, and we got lucky when a pair of deers came out for our send off.
6. Sonoma Coast State Park
Further north of Bodega Bay, lies the breathtaking rugged Sonoma Coast State Park. The wild rocky landscape and sand dunes makes this an exceptional location for engagements and elopements. It feels like you’ve been transported to the Oregon coast, without traveling too far from San Francisco. Plus, you’re right next to wine country which makes this an idyllic spot to turn into a full weekend adventure.
7. Montara Coastal Area
Just a quick drive south of San Francisco along Highway 1, the coastal area of Montara offers many secluded spots that are tucked away from beach goers. The rolling mountains with red and green flora brings an amazing contrast against the landscape. Even with cloudy days, you can get really dreamy photos here.
8. Fitzgerald Marine Reserve
This marine reserve located in Moss Beach takes you through a peaceful grove of cypress trees before you reach the ocean. All in one spot, you get to experience both the forest and the sea without having to jump to another location. Bonus: There are some really awesome tide pools for animal lovers that want to explore the marine life here.
9. Half Moon Bay
With its dramatic coastal bluffs and beautiful sandy beaches, there are so many great locations all along the coast of Half Moon Bay. To access this specific spot in these images, we hiked a flat 1.5 mile round trip which is so worth it to get away from the crowds. Of all the beaches in HMB, I think this one feels the most remote and has some of the most photogenic ocean cliffs.
10. Garrapata State Park
For those looking to make the most of it with a weekend getaway, take a road trip further south to reach Garrapata State Park in Carmel-By-The-Sea. Coastal trails takes you to endless views of the ocean with interesting rock formations and bluffs. Local fine artists can be found doing plein air painting onsite, because one cannot help but try to preserve the unspeakably beauty of this spot. This is a dream location for both engagements and elopements!
I hope you enjoyed this resource guide as you plan out a meaningful location that speaks to you for engagement photos. There are so many other great spots to choose from, but these are by far some of my favorites. If you’re looking for a San Francisco engagement photographer to help guide you through the process and create an amazing experience together, I’d love to hear from you through my contact form here.
Happy planning as you embark on your incredible journey together!