Welcome to Contra Costa County
Contra Costa means “opposite coast” in Spanish, named for its prime location across the bay from San Francisco. The county is uniquely situated to give the best of all worlds, with the entire Bay Area a short drive or train ride away. Residents enjoy a wonderful combination of extensive waterfront, dramatic hills, and picturesque valleys. They can explore pathways and marinas along the water, enjoy vistas from the hills that rise dramatically above the water, and discover charming communities throughout the central and eastern hills and valleys. Locals love living in a county with incredible outdoor areas, sophisticated dining, cultural, and shopping options, and plentiful employment within the county or a short distance away.
Local highlights include a wide variety of options, and offer something for everyone, from hiking Wildcat Canyon in Berkeley to shopping at Broadway Plaza in Walnut Creek, playing bocce ball in the Martinez Regional Park, attending a show at the Concord Pavilion or learning about local trains at the Golden State Model Railroad Museum in Richmond.
The economy is strong. Commuters can head to San Francisco or the South Bay, but Contra Costa offers several employment options, from heavy industry, including oil refineries, steel production, and port activities, to construction, healthcare, education, retail, and hospitality. Whether residents choose smaller, rural communities or thriving urban centers, they have access to regional shopping districts, restaurants, farmer’s markets, schools, medical care, parks, and other amenities.
The lay of the land
Contra Costa County shares a long border with Alameda to the south. It is surrounded by water on two sides, with a shoreline running along San Francisco and San Pablo Bays to the west, and the Carquinez Strait and the Sacramento River Delta to the north. The northern part of the Diablo Mountain range runs through the central section of the county. Contra Costa comprises three areas: the flat lands by the bay, including Richmond and Pittsburgh; the hills of Berkeley and Oakland along with such central towns as Walnut Creek, and Danville; and the inland valleys, including Oakley and Brentwood. Contra Costa is the fourth smallest county in the Bay Area (at 715 square miles), but it has the third highest population (1,111,339, according to the U.S. Census’ 2014 estimate), the majority of which are living in the flat lands along the water. Martinez is the county seat, and has a great deal of charm as well as potential for growth.
The county is crisscrossed with highways (80, 4, 24, and 680) and has easy access to several bridges, including the Carquinez, Richmond-San Rafael, and Bay Bridges. The Caldecott Tunnel carves through the hills and connects the interior with the bay front towns. Public transportation in the form of BART and AC Transit is readily available, particularly for the areas along the Bay. County residents use their cars extensively, and the Caldecott Tunnel recently opened a new bore to help with traffic flow.
The award-winning Contra Costa School District educates 173,000 students in 19 school districts. There are a variety of Catholic, parochial, secular, and other independent schools in the county.
For higher education options, the county has Saint Mary’s College in Moraga, John F. Kennedy University in Pleasant Hill, and three community colleges—Contra Costa College in San Pablo, Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, and Los Medanos College in Pittsburg.
Although Contra Costa has no professional sporting teams, the Bay Area is home to several teams who count Contra Costa residents among their most ardent fans.
Forty-five spots are listed on the National Register of Historic Places in Contra Costa. A few highlights include: The Blackhawk Museum, the East Brother Island Light Station, the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historic Site in Richmond, the Danville Southern Pacific Railroad Depot, and John Muir National Historic Site in Martinez.
The performing arts are celebrated in the county. Venues include smaller repertory theatres such as Playhouse West in Walnut Creek or the Eugene O’Neill National Historic Site in Danville, which is also a National Historic Site. Other popular options include the California Shakespeare Theater in the hills of Orinda (Cal Shakes to the locals), The Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek, and the Concord Pavilion, where large musical acts and sports events take place in the foothills of Mt. Diablo.
Options for family fun include Tilden Park, with its popular merry-go-round, the little farm, and the Redwood Valley Railway. Waterworld in Concord allows people a fun way to cool off.
You can walk your dog at Point Isabel Regional Shoreline in Richmond, one of the largest public dog parks in the country.
The great outdoors
The East Bay Regional Park District operates a vast network of parks and regional trails in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties.
For hilly adventures, Mount Diablo State Park is an excellent spot. It provides access to one of the highest peaks in the Bay Area, along with miles and miles of hiking trails. On a clear day, the views from Mount Diablo are breathtaking, with the entire San Francisco Bay Area stretching out before you.
Other hiking options include Sugarloaf Open Space in the Diablo Hills, myriad running and hiking options in Tilden Park in Berkeley, or Briones Park in Martinez, with 6,000 acres of hiking and camping options. The Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve offers something a little different. It is the site of a former coal mining spot, and you can tour the old mines or tackle the trails.
Waterfront options are plentiful. Explore Point Pinole Regional Shoreline, with walking trails among the forest and along the water. The Martinez Regional Shoreline is a great destination, with sports fields, walking paths and picnic areas overlooking Benicia and the Suisun Point Channel. Sherman Island is a popular spot for windsurfing in the waters of the Delta. Contra Loma Park in Antioch offers cycling and walking paths, a lagoon for swimming, a reservoir for fishing, and picnic areas.
Cities located in Contra Costa County
- Bay Point
- Bethel Island
- Discovery Bay
- El Cerrito
- El Sobrante
- Pleasant Hill
- Point Richmond
- Port Chicago
- Port Costa
- Rheem Valley
- San Pablo
- San Ramon
- Walnut Creek
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