Point Reyes National Seashore
The windswept peninsula Point Reyes is a rough-hewn beauty that has always lured marine mammals and migratory birds as well as scores of shipwrecks. It was here in 1579 that Sir Francis Drake landed to repair his ship, the Golden Hind. During his five-week stay he mounted a brass plaque near the shore claiming this land for England.
At the end of a small peninsula pointing out into the center of the bay, Tiburon is blessed with gorgeous views. The name comes from the Spanish Punta de Tiburon (Shark Point). Take the ferry from San Francisco, browse the shops on Main St, grab a bite to eat and you’ve seen Tiburon. The town is also a jumping-off point for nearby Angel Island.
The oldest and largest town in Marin, San Rafael is slightly less upscale than most of its neighbors but doesn’t lack atmosphere. It’s a common stop for travelers on their way to Point Reyes. Just north of San Rafael, Lucas Valley Rd heads west to Point Reyes Station, passing George Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch. Fourth St, San Rafael’s main drag, is lined with cafes and shops.
Sir Francis Drake Blvd & Around
The towns along and nearby the Sir Francis Drake Blvd corridor – including Larkspur, Corte Madera, Ross, San Anselmo and Fairfax – evoke charmed small-town life, even though things get busy around Hwy 101. Starting from the eastern section in Larkspur, window-shop along Magnolia Ave or explore the redwoods in nearby Baltimore Canyon.
Mt Tamalpais State Park
Standing guard over Marin County, majestic Mt Tamalpais (Mt Tam) has breathtaking 360-degree views of ocean, bay and hills rolling into the distance. The rich, natural beauty of the 2571ft mountain and its surrounding area is inspiring – especially considering it lies within an hour’s drive from one of the state’s largest metropolitan areas.
Point Reyes Station
Though the railroad stopped coming through in 1933 and the town is small, Point Reyes Station is nevertheless the hub of west Marin. Dominated by dairies and ranches, the region was invaded by artists in the 1960s. Today it’s an interesting blend of art galleries and tourist shops. The town has a rowdy saloon and the occasional smell of cattle on the afternoon breeze.
Just 5 miles north of Muir Beach, Stinson Beach is positively buzzing on warm weekends. The town flanks Hwy 1 for about three blocks and is densely packed with galleries, shops, eateries and B&Bs. The beach itself is often blanketed with fog, and when the sun’s shining it’s blanketed with surfers, families and gawkers.
Olema & Nicasio
About 10 miles north of Stinson Beach near the junction of Hwy 1 and Sir Francis Drake Blvd, Olema was the main settlement in west Marin in the 1860s. Back then, there was a stagecoach service to San Rafael and there were six saloons. In 1875, when the railroad was built through Point Reyes Station instead of Olema, the town’s importance began to fade.
This tiny town, the last outpost on your journey westward, is spread along the west side of Tomales Bay. It’s got good places to eat and, among the surrounding hills and picturesque shoreline, multiple rental cottages and quaint B&Bs. Several great beaches are only a short drive north.
Muir Woods National Monument
Walking through an awesome stand of the world’s tallest trees is an experience to be had only in Northern California and a small part of southern Oregon. The old-growth redwoods at Muir Woods, just 12 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge, is the closest redwood stand to San Francisco.