Marin Coast - California

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The beaches of the Marin coast are favorite holiday destinations for San Francisco Bay Area residents. Only Dillon Beach at the northwest end of the county is more than one hour's drive from the Golden Gate Bridge, and several beaches are within 30 minutes' drive, via Highway 1.

Jusr north of San Francisco, from the sea, the Marin coast is forbidding. The shoreline is shoal- ridden, the fog is frequent, and winds tend to whine too much for safe passage through these waters. On the other hand, from the shore, the coastline is made for recreational pursuits: waves made for watching and surfing, good rock fishing, rock hounding. and clamming. Several waterside parks invite swimming in warm, sheltered bays. And much of the shoreline has been preserved as park area.

Places to Visit

Muir Beach

The small beach, just off Highway 1, is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and is near the Muir Woods National Monument. The Muir Beach Overlook, a small park on a hill, gives visitors a wonderful view of the Pacific Ocean.

Stinson Beach

Next to the village of the same name is a larger day-use beach park with clean white sand. It offers swimming, surfing, fishing and picnics. Stinson Beach and Bolinas are both on Bolinas Lagoon.

Point Reyes National Seashore

With its headquarters near Olema, this federal park has several beaches on the shoreline of this geologically-amazing island, separated from the mainland by the San Andreas Fault. Drake's Bay has beaches on almost the total length of the bay. Limantour Beach and the estero (a marsh with abundant bird life) provide additional spots for sunning on the sand. The Point Reyes Beaches, southwest of Inverness, have high surf and picnic facilities. McClure's Beach is also windy with tall waves and is unsuitable for swimming but is great for walking and wave-watching. For more on the national park, go to the Pt. Reyes National Seashore Page.

Tomales Bay State Park

Near the national seashore and Inverness, the park features warm and sheltered saltwater swimming. There are beach areas in small coves along Tomales Bay.

Dillon Beach

This little resort village, to the north of Point Reyes, via Highway 1, features clamming on an island at low tide and swimming for more hardy types. There is an RV park in a large area of dunes.

Each small town in the area -- Olema, Pt. Reyes Station, Inverness, Marshal, Tomales and Dillon Beach -- has its own distinct character. Seafood is widely served fresh from the bay and ocean, in the distinctive cafes of the Marin coast.

Muir Woods

Nestled in a canyon below Mount Tamalpais, a few minutes' drive from the Marin coast, Muir Woods preserves an impressive stand of coast redwoods. Named to commemorate the pioneer environmentalist John Muir, the property was given to the United Sates government in 1908 by William and Elizabeth Kent who had purchased the property three years earlier. As a gift to the people, Muir Woods has become a supreme legacy of the Kent's desire to save the canyon from being dammed.

Muir Woods National Monument is located 12 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge, reached by taking Highway 1 (Pacific Coast Hwy.) and then the Panoramic Highway into Mt. Tamalpais State Park. Watch for the turnoff to Muir Woods just inside the state park. Muir Woods is open daily, from 8 am to sunset.

Redwood Creek runs through the canyon, providing the rich riparian habitat that nurtures the sequoia sempervirens and the many birds that live around the valley. You'll find the canyon to be extremely quiet.

Most of the resident animals and birds (owls, bats, blacktail deer) feed at night, dawn or dusk. Only the gurgling creek -- running year-round -- interrupts the quiet solitude. Fog drifting into the canyons from the nearby ocean provides the exact amount of moisture which enables the sequoia and the ferns of the forest floor to thrive.

A network of trails leads visitors down the main canyon and along the Fern Creek canyon. The trails leading from the visitor center (where a detailed trailguide is available) provide short and long walks ranging from one to six miles. The Ocean View Trail, also called the Panoramic Trail, connects with the Muir Woods trail system and leads beyond the park, offering sturdy hikers amazing views from high points along the slopes of Mt. Tamalpais. An excellent half-day excursion involving a 3-mile round trip begins at the Visitor Center, leads down Redwood Canyon beside the creek and then takes Fern Creek Trail and climbs a hill to Camp Alice Eastwood, where you'll find picnic tables and drinking water. Hiking time required is two hours. The camp is the former terminus of a gravity-powered rail car that ran between Muir Woods and the mountain peak.


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