Unlike the parks to the north and south (Sunset Bay
and Cape Arago
), a $5 fee is required for entry at Shore Acres, partly to aid in maintenance of the gardens, but free access is possible by parking at the adjacent parks and walking along the coastal trail. This path runs right along the coast, and many places allow scrambling down to explore the rocks and coves. For those arriving by car, the entrance road leads to a good sized parking area, from where the five acre gardens are a short walk south. Another path leads to an enclosed observation building (on the mansion site - the great house having been damaged by fire in 1921 and its partially complete replacement demolished in the 1940s), useful when the weather is inclement; otherwise, the views are better along the nearby coastal trail. Another attraction are the migrating grey whales, often seen between December and June. The gardens at Shore Acres feature a wide variety of flower species, blooming at different times of the year, including daffodils, tulips, azaleas, rhododendrons, roses and dahlias. Between Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve the plants are embellished by a display of several hundred thousand colored lights.
The best eroded rocks are found towards the north end of Shore Acres State Park, near the mansion site. The receding tide reveals many parallel ridges formed by the inclined strata, angled at 45 degrees, some acting as gateways to narrow inlets. A few of these are lined by thin strips of sand, but generally the cliffs predominate, more so further south, though there is one larger beach (Simpson Cove) near the botanical gardens, a favored location for elephant seals and sea lions. The most extensive tafoni area is about 700 feet north of the observation building, near the site of the mansion's tennis courts; a plateau formed by an outcrop of bright orange sandstone surrounded by grey layers, eroded into many fantastic structures.