Early U.S. shipping records refer to the Anchor Bay area as Fish Rock. (Today the name lingers on as the name of an important local byroad and a prominent island just offshore.) Following the discovery of gold in the Sierras in 1848 the sleepy community of Yerba Buena exploded into the boom town that was San Francisco. San Francisco needed construction materials and the region north of it was one vast redwood forest appearing to offer an endless supply of lumber. On May 13, 1861, Mark T. Smith was given the right to construct a wharf at Fish Rock. A lumber mill was constructed in Fish Rock gulch (where the Anchor Bay Campground is now located). In 1866 E.J. Stevens built a lumber chute in order to facilitate the loading of small coastal schooners plying the coast north of San Francisco. The masters of these schooners had little regard for the various bays, harbors and ports that they were forced to use and it was said that these breaks in the forbidding coastline were so small that even a dog would have a hard time turning around in them - hence the name "dog hole schooner."
The community that grew up around the lumber mill and the bay was called Fish Rock. It sprawled around the gulch leading down to the beach. In addition to lumber, the area produced bricks (from clay mined in the vicinity of present day Mar Vista Cottages). The community contained a general store (which was the predecessor of present day Anchor Bay Store) as well as the usual hostels and drinking emporiums. By the time of the First World War the lumber and brick business had died out and Fish Rock had disintegrated into a collapsing huddle of wooden structures. About this time Dave Barry purchased "the Meagher place" south of the gulch and began calling the bay Anchor Bay. A few years after the war William S. Pierce retired from the United Fruit and Pacific Mail Lines and established his family on a farm in what is now known as Enchanted Meadows. In 1924 he took over the operation of the Anchor Bay Store and the following year he expanded his holdings to include Anchor Bay Campground and what is now known as St Orres Place.
Following the Second World War, Norman Pierce enlarged the Anchor Bay Campground and built the tiny town of Anchor Bay on the bluff overlooking the bay. In 1953 he added a gas station (today operated as an equipment rental shop) to service the increasing number of automobiles traversing the coast and rebuilt the town using cement block materials. These structures are unusual along the coast and give the westernmost block of structures a unique character. In 1969 Pierce sold his holdings and moved to Nevada. In the years following, Anchor Bay became a residential community centered on small family farms. It is said that bootleggers frequented the secluded bay during prohibition. Today, one sometimes sees commercial fishing boats off shore in Anchor Bay in the evening, but the best libations are today found in the restaurants and the wine section of the Anchor Bay Store.