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Getaway to Tomales Bay and Point Reyes

How to Spend a Day or a Weekend on the West Marin County Coast


Getaway to Tomales Bay and Point Reyes

On the Beach at Point Reyes

©2008 Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.

Northwest Marin County offers bucolic countryside views of the scenic Tomales Bay. It's also home to Point Reyes National Seashore.

You can plan your Tomales Bay and Point Reyes day trip or weekend getaway in a jiffy using the resources below.

Why Should You Go? Will You Like West Marin?

  • Get a Preview: Take a look at our Point Reyes Pictures
  • Tomales Bay and Point Reyes are popular with nature lovers, outdoorsmen and anyone who wants to get away from it all. You'll also find some nice beaches at Point Reyes.

Best Time to Go to West Marin

Coastal weather is best in spring and fall. Summer crowds can clog up Hwy 1 like a clogged drain, weather tends to be gloomy and ocean currents actually make the water colder. We think the best time to visit is on a clear winter day, when you can see further, but if you want to play on the beach, try for a warmer season.

Don't Miss

If you've only got a day, Point Reyes National Seashore is the place to go. Some people think it has nothing more to offer than a scenic lighthouse, but that's only the beginning. You'll also find pastoral landscapes, pretty beaches, a herd of tule elk and a surprising souvenir of the 1906 earthquake here.

4 More Great Things to Do in West Marin

  • Go to the Beach: Besides the beaches in Point Reyes National Seashore, you may like Dillon Beach north of Marshall or Stinson Beach and Muir Beach further south.

  • Water Play: Bring your own kayak or rent one at Blue Waters Kayaking in Marshall. Point Reyes Outdoors in Point Reyes Station also offers kayaking rentals and tours.

  • Oyster Farms: Both of the oyster farms along Tomales Bay are open to the public, sometimes selling their products as soon as they get them out of the water. According to friends in the restaurant industry, the old saw about eating oysters only in months with an "R" in their name doesn't apply here. On weekends, you don't need a reservation to picnic at Tomales Bay Oyster Company, but you need a reservation and will pay a small fee (which covers use of shucking tools and a barbecue grill) at Hog Island Oyster Company.

  • Birding: Bolinas Lagoon is home to more than 245 different types of birds. At Audubon Canyon Ranch, you can visit Bolinas Lagoon Preserve during the spectacular heron and egret nesting season from the third weekend in March through the second weekend in July.

Annual Events You Should Know About

Local artists hold an Open Studios Tour every year over Thanksgiving1 weekend. At Point Reyes, the annual sand sculpture contest is held on the Sunday of Labor Day2 weekend.

Tips for Visiting Tomales Bay and Point Reyes

  • Expect to average about 35 to 40 miles per hour while driving on CA Hwy 1
  • Gas stations are sparse along the coast and prices higher than inland. Fill your tank when you head west
  • If sunshine is important to you, check the forecast before you go: like most of the coast, this area is prone to gloomy, overcast weather

Best Bites

We like Nick's Cove north of Marshall so much for its waterside location, attentive service and great food that it's hard to think of dining anywhere else. We've also had nice meals at the Station House Cafe in Point Reyes Station and although we haven't been there, we've read a lot of great reviews of Drakes Beach Cafe at the Point Reyes National Seashore.

Where to Stay

You'll find a few small hotels and B&Bs in the area. Your best bet to find one that's right for you is to go to Tripadvisor's hotel reviews and price comparisons for Olema, Marshall or Point Reyes Station.

Getting To Tomales Bay and Point Reyes

It depends on exactly where you're going, but Olema (near the Point Reyes Seashore entrance) is 37 miles from San Francisco, 87 miles from San Jose, 97 miles from Sacramento and 210 miles from Lake Tahoe.

If you're starting from the south, a casual look at the map may lead you to think you should simply take CA Hwy 1 north, but the section between Muir Beach and Sausalito is steep, curving and narrow, a white-knuckle drive that's not for everyone and once you get over the hills, you may find yourself stuck in traffic through Stinson Beach.

These routes will both take you to CA Hwy 1 from US Hwy 101. Depending on your plans, we recommend using one to go out to the coast and the other to get back.

  • Follow Sir Francis Drake Blvd west out of San Rafael through San Anselmo to Olema
  • Exit 101 at Washington Blvd in Petaluma and follow it west (the name changes to Bodega Ave and again Valley Ford Rd). Turn left at Tomales-Petaluma Road to Hwy 1.

1 Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November.
2 Labor Day is celebrated on the first Monday in September.

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