Just about an hour’s drive from San Francisco and a world away, the Point Reyes peninsula offers a chance to experience the Bay Area’s natural beauty along with cutting-edge cuisine, a collection of fine shops, and a range of accommodations from rustic to refined.
Photo Credit: Don DeBold
Beaches Without Crowds
With 110 sq. miles of shoreline to explore, you’re sure to find your own stretch of sand. Our favorite: Kehoe Beach. Drive on Piece Point Road to the trailhead, where you can park and change into your suit in the restroom. From there, it’s a gentle ½-mile hike to the beach. Bring along a jacket in case the wind picks up. Best time of year to go there: anytime, but the hike is especially glorious in the spring and early summer when the wildflowers are in bloom.
Photo Credit: Orin Zebest
Go the Way of the Elk
Pack your sturdy shoes and hike the Tomales Point trail, a stunningly scenic 9 ½-mile trek with ocean views and plenty of wildlife. On weekends in September, docents set up binoculars and telescopes so you can get an up-close view of the Tule Elk herds strutting their stuff and clashing antlers during rutting season. For more info on the elk and hikes in the area, go here.
Photo Credit: David McSpadden
Kayaking Blue Waters
Tomales Bay, a 15-mile stretch of water in Point Reyes National Seashore, is best seen by kayak. Who floats our boat? Blue Waters Kayaking. Call to sign up for naturalist-led kayak tours, an oyster-tasting tour by kayak, or to rent kayaks for your own exploration of this beautiful body of water. Note: be sure to check the tides and wind conditions before you go. Blue Waters can help ensure you have a safe and fun kayak experience.
Shopping in Town
The main street in Point Reyes Station is home to several shops that range from charming to quirky. We like Flower Power for its artful selection of horticultural accessories and home décor. Browsing Zuma can be like traveling the world; this shop specializes in jewelry and art from far-flung places. Toby’s Feed Barn is the place to be on Saturdays in the summer, when a thriving farmer’s market takes place. Year-round, Toby’s offers a selection of local foods and artisan gourmet treats, as well as T-shirts, gift items, and artwork.
In addition to being the headquarters of the locavore movement (promoting the diet and promotion of local, organic foods), the Point Reyes area is also a gourmet’s dream.
Stop at Cowgirl Creamery in Point Reyes Station to pick up some of the award-winning organic artisan cheese, a fresh loaf of bread, and a bottle of wine for a picnic. It’s been said that Cowgirl Creamery serves among the best grilled cheese sandwiches in the land – a great way to warm up after a chilly hike in the headlands.
For a more refined dining experience, try lunch or dinner at the Manka’s in Inverness. Osteria Stellina, in the tiny downtown of Point Reyes Station, is also a local favorite. Reservations are recommended at all restaurants, particularly on weekends.
You might also head to Marshall (approx. a 15-minute drive from Point Reyes Station) and stop at Tony’s Restaurant, where you can enjoy barbecued oysters and a cold beer (Budweiser on tap!) in an authentically rustic atmosphere, right on the water. 18863 Highway 1. 415-663-1107.
Nick’s Cove, just up the road from Tony’s, also serves oysters and a great selection of comfort food with a gourmet twist. Designed by famed restaurateur Pat Kuleto, whose successes include Boulevard, Farallon, and Jardiniere in San Francisco, Nick’s is a remarkable refurbishment of the original Nick’s Cove, which opened on Tomales Bay in the 1930s.
Photo Credit: Arnold Gatilao
The Best Baked Goods
Start your morning with some of the freshest and most original bakery items available at the Bovine Bakery. A favorite among cyclists (motorized and human-powered) and locals, the Bovine is renowned for its scones and fruit slippers, both of which change daily to use the freshest local ingredients in season. The Bovine also serves wonderful dark roast coffee – no mochas, lattes, or the like – just honest-to-goodness java served here.
A Good Night’s Sleep
For a high-end take on rustic refinement, try Manka’s or Nick’s Cove. Both are on the expensive side, but well worth the splurge for a memorable getaway. Manka’s offers rooms in the lodge as well as freestanding cabins. At Nick’s, you’ll find exquisitely renovated houseboats where you can fall asleep to the sound of the water on Tomales Bay. Our favorite: the Nicolena, a tiny gem of a place.
For a quiet escape at a reasonable rate, consider Marsh Cottage. Owned and operated by a local artist, Marsh Cottage is a compact and well-appointed one-room cabin right on the Tomales Bay. No TV, no crowds, and no need to interact with other guests because there aren’t any! A delicious breakfast of fresh eggs, strong coffee, fruit, and granola can be included in your stay, thoughtfully awaiting you in the cabin fridge. A wonderful retreat for birdwatchers and those seeking the peace of nature, Marsh Cottage is a true haven for the weary mind.
Photo Credit: Miwok