Visit | Hotels
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.