Overview of Gerstle Cove

Gerstle Cove

California North
USA West


Gerstle Cove is found within the Salt Point State Park, and offers some of the finest Abalone hunting in this area.

Directions: About 6 miles North of Fort Ross, you'll find the campground entrance.


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Diver Reviews:    Click here to write a Site Review, and share any new information about this site!

04/06/2011 Bluestar (Avg: 3.00 Review) - I came here for an ab dive but decided not to get into the water due to water conditions. If you are looking to ab dive, be advised the very protected main Gerstle cove, which is the north cove pictured below, is a marine sanctuary. No ab diving is allowed there. The south Gerstle Cove, which is accessed via a small road just before getting to the day-use parking lot, opens to the northwest and gets the blunt of the usual swells. Ab diving is allowed here but the conditions are frequently rough.

10/16/2010 Jeff 7 (Avg: 2.87 Review) - I have heard Gerstle Cove is great diving with lots of marine life, etc. However a note of caution to those interested in diving here. Be extremely vigilant with your planning and pay attention to the swell, wind and currents. I dove here on October 10th 2010 with a reported 6-8 ft swell and an incoming tide. It was my first time diving here and should have gotten a briefing from the ranger first, but it looked calm enough and so in we went (me and 2 buddies). The surface swim out was easy....too easy (we were being helped out by the current). By the time we were ready to drop down the swell had noticeably picked up. We went down anyway and immediately encountered heavy surge along with less than 5-6 feet of visibility.....very dangerous conditions. We should have called the dive immediately, but instead we continued to dive our 'plan' (which in reality was no plan at all)...to dive the south side wall of the cove. As we swam closer to the wall we encountered heavy and unmanageable surge conditions and began to get bounced off rocks on the bottom and each other and were literally getting pushed back and forth 10-15 feet each surge!! What we didn't realize was that the current created by the nature of the water moving into and out of the cove in a circular clockwise fashion was conspiring to pull us towards the outside of the cove and out to sea, southward towards a very dangerous rock garden just south of Gerstle Cove proper. About 6 minutes after descending to the bottom and close to the south wall we got pummeled by a giant breaking wave....got rolled around....bounced of rock...complete black out vis with foaming bubbles from the wave 20 feet below the surface. Before we knew it we were on the surface without having deliberately ascended. At this point we all realized we were in a bad spot and aborted the dive and began to swim back to shore. This is the point that we realized that we had gotten ourselves into a nasty little rip current that was sweeping out and around the south point of Gerstle Cove proper. Panic tried to set in as we realized that even with moderate exertion against the current....we were not moving! After about 15-20 minutes of moderately strenuous surface swimming we made it out of the rip current, but were still several hundred yards out. It took about another 45 minutes of surface swimming to reach shore....happy to be alive. There is a life guard/ranger that lives and works this area and he actually met us on the steep ramp leading down to the water. He asked how we were and if we got caught in the rip. It was nice to know someone was looking after us. We all wished we had sought him out and asked his opinion on the conditions prior to heading out. Bottom line is that we very narrowly avoided having a really bad day and it all could have been prevented by better preparation and observation of the water patterns. Another little tid-bit…..NEVER be afraid to call a dive….that means YOU….not the others in your group. If YOU don’t feel comfortable with conditions….speak up. Everyone else is probably feeling the same way and is just to proud to say so. I will go back and dive Gerstle and try to find the elusive Norlina wreck, but only when the swell is less than 4 ft and the vis better than 10 feet.

09/04/2010 Bluestar (Avg: 4.15 Review) - 2010/08/28 I free-dived here for abalone for the very first time. Before I was an 'advanced shore-picker' -- diving only in 5' of water but I do submerge completely into water. This is the first time I'm truly free-diving. Unfortunately I got my weights wrong. I experimented to get the right weight at my neighborhood pool, but neglected to consider salt water has more buoyancy. So I was unable to dive down! I saw them abalones, they're right there, but could not dive down!! Damn it! I tried holding on to kelp, holding on to rocks, swimming with my hands, to no use. Some people have sinking problem but I had floating problem. Finally I got tired from all the swimming and just gave up. I will be correctly prepared next time. The bottom looks very lush. Lots of vegetation, lots of boulders, perfect abalone habitat. I did not see a whole lot of fish, though. I saw a couple of bluish fish; probably some kind of perch. Then again I only swam in about 200 square yards of area. I was also testing out my underwater camera for the first time in ocean. In the struggle to dive I accidentally switched to photos instead of videos, so my first underwater videography project was also a complete failure. The few photos all came out blurry. May I suggest Shorediving.com add video capability? I anticipate having videos to share in the future.

07/19/2010 Nate (Avg: 4.00 Review) - I DID NOT DIVE HERE! But I am posting much more helpful info about the shipwreck in Gerstle Cove. Here are two links to more info about the 386' long Freighter named the Norlina that was sunk here in 1926. Many people say the boilers are an incredible dive. I will be going here in October of this year. Hope this helps someone else make it there too! Diver down…

05/27/2010 Sasquatch (Avg: 3.42 Review) - This was my first dive at Gerstle Cove and it is a very nice place. I didn't care for the bowling ball sized rocks on the beach so I would recommend that you dive this location on high slack tide. My timing was waaaay off and I dove near the end of low tide. Once I got in the water I was amazed at the beauty of the rocks and plant life. Plenty of curious fish to look at while they check you out, too. The restrooms weren't open when I was there a couple of weeks ago but the showers/rinse station was operating. Services are scarce in the area. Bodega Bay for air and most everything else now that I think about it. Most of the restaurants and motels I saw were closed beyond Bodega Bay but I suspect that was a seasonal thing. I look forward to going again soon.

05/24/2010 Anonymous (Avg: 3.55 Review) - Great place but, if you hunt fish or abalone, ocean cove (the next one up the road) is even better.

06/02/2008 Connor Sharp (Avg: 4.52 Review) - I went abalone diving, and the snorkeling conditions were great!

08/14/2007 Brian Handly (Avg: 3.73 Review) - Beautiful spot. No current, a little surge. Entry over large slippery wet rocks is a bit of a challenge. Saw lots of stars, urchins, anemones, rock fish, abalone and one big wolf eel completely visible (3 to 4 feet tip to tip). Recommend diving at high tide for greater depth and fewer rocks at entry.

06/18/2007 Chris LaClair (Avg: 3.94 Review) - Parked in the south Gerstle Cove lot and walked down the trail to the farthest cove. Spear fished, and got four rockfish and a big perch. Vis was good, but surge was bad. I saw a few bigger abs, but they were hard to find since there was so much coral.

09/21/2006 David A (Avg: 4.48 Review) - Great dive site. Short surface swim, after an entry over a rocky beach, drops right into the middle of a marine preserve. The marine life is everywhere and makes for some excellent photo opportunities. Highly recommend this dive.

03/07/2006 Ryan H. (Avg: 4.10 Review) - Had a great time doing some free diving! Like the rest said, there is an abundance of sea life, more starfish you can shake a stick at. Ab's are huge around there, so can't wait for ab season to roll around. Gonna try at the mouth just outside the sanctuary. I would like to scuba this place sometime, sounds like fun!!

10/01/2005 Laszlo Nagy (Avg: 4.71 Review) - Great site. We found a lot of fish including ling cod over 40 inches. Good vis about 20'. The bottom is beautiful. I had about 10 dives in the month of September to 50'. A lot to see including a huge anchor at 47' straight out heading south. I heard there is a ship wreck out there, too.

08/09/2005 Matt Warren (Avg: 3.81 Review) - My 5th dive and it was spectacular! First since cert. Sea urchins as big as your head. Anenomies almost 10 inches across. Star fish of every size and color. Big colorful cods that just stare at you. And a small zebra striped fish we could not identify. The best hour I have spent "under" so far. Thanks to Ben at Bodega Bay Dive Shop for the tour.

11/22/2004 Brian Mathews (Avg: 3.56 Review) - Gerstle cove continues to be one of my favorite north coast dive spots. I usually scuba here and since it is a preserve, the animal life is awesome. There is a huge reef pretty far out directly in line with the cove which is home to some beautiful metridiums and cobalt blue encrusted sponge. I went ab diving here in November '04 and got 3 very nice abs just south of the edge of the protected area, but the only good ones were in 35 feet of water (it was high tide).

09/23/2004 Rick Leong (Avg: 3.48 Review) - Fun dive. A lot of life beneath the surface. Vis was about 15 to 20 ft. Did not feel the cold since my mind was preoccupied by the sites!

01/11/2004 Jesse Rorabaugh (Avg: 3.71 Review) - I dove here after a few disappointing hours of spear fishing at nearby Stillwater Cove. I was much more impressed with this site as a beginner spear fishing site. While I saw some big fish elsewhere they were too smart for me; here I had a chance. I was able to pull in several fish including a 30 inch Ling Cod in about 15 feet of water. I did see many abalone here, but they were out of season. As an aside note to clear up any confusion I have always seen this site named as 'Ocean Cove' in other lists of dive sites.

10/07/2003 Carl Bowers (Avg: 4.50 Review) - Friends and family spent the day on the rocks while the boys went free diving for abalone. Yes, we were in the South cove. Easy limits were taken by all. Visibility was about 18' and most of the abalone were deeper than 25'. It was a clear and warm day that would make a diver out of just about anyone!

08/31/2003 William L. Boldt (Avg: 4.70 Review) - This is my most reliable dive site on the Sonoma coast. When its too rough anywhere else to dive, this cove is the only place to get in. On a calm day, it's like a pond. Since the cove is a reserve, I usually do photography here. Visibility tends to be better here than most. Blue rockfish hide under the bull kelp canopy. Invertebrates are everywhere! I've seen more nudibranch here than anywhere else on the North Coast. Sea stars and urchins look like they have been dumped out of buckets across the bottom. Huge abalone sit boldly on the rocks. Be careful of urchins on the bottom and kayakers on the surface. If you want to hunt/pick abalone, there are several coves just to the north and south which are outside the preserve, though they are less protected from the surf.

06/30/2003 Eric 'Spoon' Carvaho (Avg: 3.17 Review) - Entry sucks with all the slippery rocks. Though since its in a protected cove, once you make it into the water, there are a few rock walls and caves that are interesting to scope out. Though I haven't had good vis here yet.

02/10/2003 Carl Bowers (Avg: 4.22 Review) - A two tank dive day: Water temperature was 57 degrees, 3' swells every 20 seconds and visibility was 20' or better. Morning air temperatures were colder than the water but warmed up to about 69 degrees by 2:00 PM. Great photo opportunities above and below the surface. The only tricky part about this dive site is the rocky beach which presents a challenge when fully geared and getting gear to and from the unloading area. Access is via a long, down hill one lane driveway; practice your backing skills. As always, once in the water, everything is a breeze with a nice sandy bottom and calm water to regroup. A Federal Preserve, the sea life is outstanding.

07/23/2002 Amy Galli (Avg: 4.14 Review) - Great place, low tide and mid-summer so visibility limited. Would like to dive again.


Site Photos

(click photo for a larger version)

 Map     Sat
GPS: CN0701


Parking at Gerstle Cove 

This is the upper parking area, complete with restrooms.


 Map     Sat
GPS: CN0702


Parking at Gerstle Cove 

You can drive your equipment down to the small cove area, which would otherwise be a healthy hike.




Overview at Gerstle Cove 

The rocky coast line is a terrific place to explore.


 Map     Sat
GPS: CN0704


Entry at Gerstle Cove 

The father and his 14 year old son prepare for adventure!

Last Verification: July, 2001  


Diver Averages for  Gerstle Cove  (1=worst, 5=best)

Average Site Condition

Ease of Shore Entry:  3.48
Bottom Conditions:  3.95
Reef Conditions:  4.05
Animal Life:  4.19
Plant Life:  3.86
Facilities:  3.62
Solitude 3.71
Roads:  3.81
*Site Average:  3.89

Average Enjoyment Level

Snorkel:  3.57
Beginner Scuba:  3.71
Intermediate Scuba:  3.76
Advanced Scuba:  3.43
Night diving Scuba:  3.05

Number of reviews for this site: 21


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