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Just north of the Golden Gate Bridge, Marin County is San Francisco’s playground—a stunning landscape of rolling hills, redwood trees, pristine beaches, and idyllic towns like Mill Valley and Point Reyes Station where you can easily while away your days. There’s a reason such luminaries as George Lucas reside here. Ready to see for yourself? Here are 7 places to visit in Marin County.
Sausalito’s waterfront offers various adventures and opportunities to learn about the area’s seafaring culture. Get out on the water with a kayak or stand-up paddleboard rental from Sea Trek, or take the whole family on an excursion aboard Call of the Sea’s 132′ brigantine, Matthew Turner, on which you’ll enjoy views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, and Angel Island while learning about sailing, marine life, environmentalism and maritime history. Those interested in maritime history can get an excellent overview at the Spaulding Marine Center, located in a working boatyard.
Also in the town’s central area, there’s an adventure of the culinary type that is not to be missed: at The Bump Bar by California Caviar Company, guests can indulge in a tasting of sustainable caviars and roe, accompanied by local wines as well as sparkling wines. During the summer from June through August, visitors can follow up these activities with a relaxing evening of live music: the city hosts Jazz and Blues by the Bay, a series of free evening concerts, in Gabrielson Park.
If you continue a few miles up Bridgeway, you’ll reach the city’s northern industrial zone. Attractions here include Heath Ceramics’ low-slung factory (don’t miss the discounted “seconds” at the outlet store) and the redwood-clad
A spectacular stretch of West Marin coastline that’s brimming with sandy beaches, organic dairy farms, and incredible Pacific views, Point Reyes National Seashore is a 71,028-acre treasure. You’ll find hiking trails—like the popular 9-mile out-and-back Bear Valley Trail, and the 13.8-mile out-and-back trek to Alamere Falls, which starts at the Palomarin Trailhead in nearby Bolinas—backcountry camping for hikers, cyclists, and boaters, and plenty of wildlife, including elephant seals who come to Point Reyes’ rocky headlands for mating and birthing (December through March), and tule elk whose bugle calls are prominent August-October. The park is home to the Point Reyes Lighthouse, a recently rehabilitated 19th-century lighthouse that retired from service in 1975 and is the perfect place for spotting migrating whales January through March; as well as the 33,373-acre Phillip Burton Wilderness Area, replete with dunes, grasslands, and forests filled with fir and pine trees. In a county filled with impressive landscapes, it sits toward the top of the list.
Nestled below majestic Mount Tamalpais, Mill Valley is reminiscent of a charming European village. Surrounded by national parks, including Muir Woods, an ancient coast redwood forest, Mill Valley’s lush landscape of hills and canyons is a favorite place for visitors who enjoy hiking, mountain biking, and running. And don’t miss the delightful downtown area near Lytton Square, where people gather for coffee at Equator Coffee or for a game of chess. As you stroll up and down the quaint nearby streets, you’ll be tempted by an array of fashionable boutiques and restaurants.
Start off right with some decadent gluten-free avocado toast from Flour Craft Bakery in the lovingly restored original site of the Mill Valley Lumber Yard. There are plenty of unique shops here, as well as Watershed restaurant, a good choice to consider for a meal later in the day. If you’d rather grab and go, head up Miller Avenue to Equator Coffees, founded in Marin and selling quite possibly the best-tasting, most ethical beans around. Another breakfast option is the historic Depot Café and Bookstore. This café and former railroad station has recently been renovated and provides a fabulous opportunity for people watching. Stroll up Throckmorton to spots like the Poet and the Bench, where you’ll find art, jewelry, and home goods.
The town has long been known as a cultural hub. The Mill Valley Film Festival is an internationally recognized festival that has attracted leading filmmakers and movie aficionados for the past forty-two years. The Mountain Play, produced in June in an outdoor amphitheater, attracts thousands of theater-goers to the top of Mount Tamalpais to watch Broadway musicals performed by talented local actors.
It’s easy to feel small when you’re standing at the base of the towering coast redwoods permeating the 554-acre grounds of Muir Woods National Monument. These relatives of the giant sequoia reach up to 258-feet-high within the park, and many of them are hundreds of years old. The park’s tallest trees reside in its Bohemian Grove, accessible by a boardwalk, though Muir Woods is also home to dozens of miles of trails. Easily the most popular is its 9.7-mile Dipsea Trail, which ascends through the park to reach stunning Pacific views, then crosses into nearby Mt. Tam State Park and down into Stinson Beach. Muir Woods is a must on almost every travelers’ list, especially with its superb San Francisco proximity. Congressman and conservationist William Kent deeded the entire swath of land to the U.S. Department of Interior in 1908, and it’s now part of California’s Golden Gate National Recreation Area, along with sites like Alcatraz and the Sutro Baths.
Below is a outline of all you’ll need for your visit. Make sure you get a reservation ahead of time.
Marin County is one of the Bay Area region’s best spot for fresh oysters, and there are plenty of options to choose from. In the tiny village of Marshall on Tomales Bay’s eastern shore, you’ll find Nick’s Cove Restaurant & Oyster Bar, home to the original Tomales Bay BBQ oyster topped with garlic-parsley butter and house-made BBQ sauce. Nearby at the shack-like Marshall Store, choose among oysters ranging from raw to smoked and served with cheese, chives, and chipotle aioli. Other foods include fish tacos and a chorizo fish stew.
Tiburon—nicknamed the Culinary Coast—has been experiencing a renaissance, led by its exploding food scene. Besides the regular crowd-pleasers—we’re looking at you, Sam’s Anchor Cafe—there’s the Bungalow Kitchen, opened in 2021 by celebrity chef Michael Mina, with expansive waterscapes and two floors that include a billiards room. Last fall, Michelin-starred chef Roland Passot launched Petite Left Bank, a traditional French bistro. Add the Caprice, which welcomed diners once again at the end of 2021, to your list, as it has best view of the Golden Gate Bridge, along with a revamped menu.
With their winding roads, endless views, and green grassy hillsides that undulate alongside the Pacific, the Marin Headlands are awash with incredible beauty and just on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco. It’s the perfect perch for taking in views of the San Francisco skyline or sitting out on foot for an afternoon hike. Once the home of Miwok Indians, the headlands later became a site for American military fortifications protecting the entrance to San Francisco Bay. You can still find several of these decommissioned military bunkers and batteries, including a preserved SF-88 Nike Missile silo. The Headlands are home to the dog-friendly Rodeo Beach, as well as Hawk Hill—a great place for spotting Mission Blue Butterflies, as well as migrating raptors, including vultures, eagles, osprey, and hawks, circling the skies from August to December. In spring, the hillsides come alive with colorful wildflowers. Still, you don’t need a particular season to visit the headlands’ mid-19th century Point Bonita Lighthouse, a still-active light that’s accessible across a somewhat rickety suspension bridge. It’s open Sundays and Mondays from 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Beaches are another perk of Marin’s extraordinary natural landscape. Hidden beneath rock cliff-sides just west of Highway 1 are gorgeous sandy stretches like the dog-friendly Agate Beach, a 6.6-acre park with nearly two-miles of beach during low tide, including a bevy of tide-pools filled with giant green sea anemones. Bolinas, or “Brighton” Beach, features calm, protected waters that are especially alluring for beginner surfers, while the crescent-shaped Muir Beach is known for its creek-fed lagoon and wetlands. While swimming isn’t recommended at this private cove, there are numerous hiking trailheads and pits for bonfires. The beach’s north end is also considered clothing-optional. Stinson Beach is one of Marin County’s best-known and most popular beaches—a 3.5-mile white sand beach where you can hunt for sand dollars and watch surfers tackle the swells. There are lifeguards on duty May through mid-September, making it exceptionally safe for swimmers. Traffic can come to a standstill in Stinson on warmer days, but there are plenty of eateries to wait out the backup once in town.
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