Abstract Efficient and accurate vegetation sampling techniques are essential for the assessment of wetland restoration success. Remotely acquired data, used extensively in many locations, have not been widely used to monitor restored wetlands. We compared three different vegetation sampling techniques to determine the accuracy associated with each method when used to determine species composition and cover in restored Pacific coast wetlands dominated by Salicornia virginica (perennial pickleweed). Two ground-based techniques, using quadrat and line intercept sampling, and a remote sensing technique, using low altitude, high resolution, color and color infrared photographs, were applied to estimate cover in three small restoration sites. The remote technique provided an accurate and efficient means of sampling vegetation cover, but individual species could not be identified, precluding estimates of species density and distribution. Aerial photography was determined to be an effective tool for vegetation monitoring of simple (i.e., single-species) habitat types or when species identities are not important (e.g., when vegetation is developing on a new restoration site). The efficiency associated with these vegetation sampling techniques was dependent on the scale of the assessment, with aerial photography more efficient than ground-based sampling methods for assessing large areas. However, the inability of aerial photography to identify individual species, especially mixed-species stands common in southern California salt marshes, limits its usefulness for monitoring restoration success. A combination of aerial photography and ground-based methods may be the most effective means of monitoring the success of large wetland restoration projects.