Point Reyes: Play Eat Stay a Stone’s Throw Away (from SF)

Things to Do in Point Reyes

Point Reyes National Seashore, in West Marin County, California, is a fun Bay Area playground. Here’s our guide to the best Point Reyes hiking trails and bicycle routes, where to go kayaking, and horseback riding.

Point Reyes is also a great place to just hang out, walk on the beach, take a guided Point Reyes food and farm tour, and eat out at quaint local restaurants.

The area also provides some of the best views around waves crashing against rocky headlands, fern-laden canyons, open grasslands, lush hillsides, and shaded forests.

Located 30 miles (50 km) west-northwest of San Francisco, the four towns that make the community of Point Reyes — Bolinas, Olema, Inverness, and Point Reyes Station — are prime choices for a badly needed day trip or weekend escape from the city.

Every time we go, we find something new to love about this coastal area with dramatic views.

The first time we visited the area we enjoyed all-day hikes and sunny California days. More recently, we saw beauty on a foggy day. I’m not sure which one I loved most.

Walk to Point Reyes Lighthouse

BANG’ TIP: Go here for updates on possible Point Reyes Lighthouse closures.

The lighthouse was built with a low profile (unlike most lighthouses) to project light below the ubiquitous Bay Area fog.

Point Reyes Lighthouse fresnel lens

Nearby, you’ll have an opportunity to hike the short trail to Chimney Rock. Bear Valley Trail is the most popular hike in the park.

Tomales Point Trail offers views of the ocean. But if you’re not ambitious, Earthquake Trail (across the parking lot at the Visitor’s Center) is an easy 0.6 mile loop that runs directly over the San Andreas Fault, so you can straddle the fault line.

For backpackers, Point Reyes has four hike-in campgrounds available by reservation.

Bang’ Tip: You’ll find detailed directions and map on the National Park Service website.

Point Reyes fog signal building

Point Reyes Station is famous for its organic farm-to-table artisan food. So if you’ve never taken a food tour before, you can’t go wrong booking your first one here.

3 Point Reyes Food Tours Worth Taking

My goal is to try a different food tour every time I visit West Marin (which I hope to do often). The following small group (5 – 7 people) Point Reyes Station Food and Farm Tours come highly recommended.

Hog Island Oyster

1. Flavors of West Marin Tour

This one is on my shortlist because you get to sample West Marin’s amazing cheese, wine, oysters, pastries, bread, organic produce, grass-fed meats, and more, all on one tour.

This tour takes you to seven hot spots for tastings and an interesting chat about the area’s distinctive culinary history.

Highlights: Cowgirl Creamery, Brickmaiden Breads, Bovine Bakery, Marin Sun Farms, Heidrun Meadery, Hog Island Oyster Company, Table Top Farm.

2. Oyster Lover’s Tour

Who doesn’t want to know more about the famous Tomales Bay oyster story? This small group tour boasts exclusive, behind-the-scenes peaks at two oyster farms with tastings at two local eateries and even a professional shucking lesson.

Raw, baked, barbecued, and smoked oysters with waterfront views of Tomales Bay. Yes! You’ll meet in Marshall, an hour north of San Francisco, and includes transportation, tours, tastings, and a wine pairing.

Highlights: Nick’s Cove, Hog Island Oyster Company, Tomales Bay Oyster Company, The Marshall Store.

3. Cheese Lover’s Tour

Calling all cheesetarians. On this behind-the-scenes cheese tasting tour, you’ll taste your way through Point Reyes’ scenic dairy lands, visit three award-winning creameries, and sample local artisan cheeses where they are made.

Walk around the farms and hang out with sheep and goats. The tour includes transportation, picnic lunch, and tastings of local cheeses, brick-oven bread, salami, fruits, nuts, local chutney and honey, wine, and non-alcoholic drinks.

Highlights: Bovine Bakery, Cowgirl Creamery, Toluma Farms, Tomales Farmstead Cheese Company, Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company, or Two Rock Valley Goat Cheese (depending on farm availability).

Station House oysters on the half shell

5 Favorite Point Reyes Restaurants

Driving through Point Reyes without stopping for a meal? Not so savvy. I would not want to see you so deprived when you have so many great options for eating out or near this food lover’s area.

1. Hog Island Oyster Co

I’ve heard about this place called Heaven on the half shell. If you like oysters, this one is a must do.

Plan a picnic at this popular spot, grab a bottle of wine, and enjoy great views along the coast highway, just past Point Reyes.

Address: 20215 Shoreline Highway, Marshall CA | 415-663-9218 | hogislandoysters.com

2. Nick’s Cove

Nick’s Cove is back and more popular than ever, with a Coastal California menu, locally sourced. The newly updated restaurant is cozy with a wood-burning fireplace and a view from every reclaimed redwood table.

They’re known for their oysters from nearby Tomales and Drake’s Bays but try their crab mac and cheese, too.

In the evening you can walk out to the lighted boat shack for cocktails by candlelight.

Address: 23240 Highway 1, Marshal CA | 866-636-4257 | nickscove.com

Nick’s Cove boat shack

3. Station House Cafe

Fresh, local & farm-to-table menu, serving breakfast, lunch or dinner (closed Wednesdays). They searve fresh seafood, including oysters, of course, and really good big salads. But if you’re tired of all that, I hear their pork chops are perfection. Some weekends they have live music. On warm days, you can sit outside on their garden patio.

Address: 11180 Highway 1, Point Reyes Station, CA | 415-663-1515 | stationhousecafe.com

4. Bovine Bakery

A from-scratch bakery with irresistible handmade pastries. You have to try their scones. People rave about the chocolate cherry almond cookie, but you really can’t go wrong. Fairtrade organic coffee, fresh and strong. If you need something more substantial, order the pizza, calzone, quiche, or soup.

Address: 11315 Highway 1, Point Reyes Station, CA | 415-663-9420 | www.bovinebakeryptreyes.com

Bovine Bakery, Point Reyes

5. Cow Girl Creamery

The original creamery and cheese shop, located at Tomales Bay Foods, is located in a restored hay barn in Point Reyes Station. Taste artisanal cheese in their shaded picnic areas, or grab lunch at The Cowgirl Cantina, a take-away deli featuring local breads, wines, sandwiches and salads.

Address: 80 4th Street, Point Reyes Station, CA | 415-663-9335 | www.cowgirlcreamery.com

9 Popular Point Reyes Hiking Trails

The National Seashore has more than 150 miles of hiking trails. Trail maps for the north and south district trails are available at the Bear Valley Visitor Center.

For more on these Point Reyes hikes, with directions to trailheads, go to www.nps.gov/pore/planyourvisit/hiking_guide.htm.

Tomales Point, Point Reyes National Seashore

1. Abbotts Lagoon{easy}

Easy walk through grasslands and coastal trails to the Great Beach. (3 miles, 2 – 3 hours.)

2. Bolinas Ridge Trail{moderate}

Lots of open space and views of Olema Valley. You can also continue on to the redwood and then chaparral forests. (2 – 22 miles, 1 – 4 hours.)

3. Tomales Point{moderate}

Goes through the Tule Elk Range, with great views of Tomales Bay, Bodega Bay, and Pacific Ocean. (9.5 miles, 4 – 5 hours.)

4. Chimney Rock Trail{moderate}

View of Drakes Bay and the Ocean. Rocky cliffs drop off steeply to the water. No beach access. Good for whale watching, tide pooling at minus low tide, depending on the time of year. (1.6 miles, 1 hour.)

Bang’ Tip: The best places in Point Reyes to see wildflowers blooming in late winter to early summer are Abbotts Lagoon, Chimney Rock, Tomales Point. 

5. Coast / Laguna Loop{easy}

Easy hike through coastal and grassland trails with ocean views. Includes a slight climb. (5 miles, 2 – 3 hours.)

6. Limantour Split / Beach Trail{moderate}

Great views and bird watching. Takes you through March land and trail dunes to the ocean. Start at the Limantour parking area.  ( 2 – 4 miles, 2 – 3 hours.)

7. Mt Wittenberg / Sky Camp{moderate}

Takes you to the top of Point Reyes Peninsula (a 750 -foot climb). Sky Trail has views of the ocean, goes through meadows and forest to Horse Trail, Z Ranch Trail, to the trail to Mt. Wittenberg summit (4.3 miles; 3 hours.)

8. Mt Wittenberg Loop{advanced}

Includes a steep 1,300-foot climb to the highest point in the park (l,407-feet), with panoramic views of Olema Valley and the ocean. Hike the Loop through forests and meadows. Climb Mt. Wittenberg Trail to the top, then down to Bear Valley via Z Ranch and Horse Trails, or via Meadow Trail. ( 5 miles, 2 – 3 hours.)

9. Sky / Bear Valley Loop{moderate/advanced}

Hike up 1.4 miles through a forest, grassland, Arch Rock, and the beach.  Continue south on Coast Trail to Arch Rock.  (10.5 miles, 5 hours.)

Point Reyes Headlands

6 Popular Point Reyes Biking Trails

Bicycling, both on and off-road, is a popular activity at Point Reyes National Seashore. From coastal bluffs to evergreen forests to scenic country roads, you can take your pick of terrain, such as the following six biking trails worth trekking (more info at www.nps.gov/pore/planyourvisit/biking.htm):

1. Bear Valley Trail{easy}

Gradual climb, great picnic spot.

2. Bolinas Ridge{easy}

View of Tomales Bay. Mostly smooth trail, some steep.

3. Drake’s Estero{advanced}

Goes to Sunset Beach or Drakes Head.

4. Inverness Ridge

Single track. View of Drakes Estero. Advanced.

5. Marshall Beach on Tomales Bay{easy}

Good for families. Picnic spot.

6. Samuel P. Taylor{easy}

Paved, cool shade, good for families.

BANG’ TIP: Pick up a free map at any of the Point Reyes Visitor Centers. The Marin County Bicycle Coalition also has a good map of bicycling routes throughout Marin County.

McClures Beach, Point Reyes National Seashore

 Where to Kayak in Point Reyes

Point Reyes National Seashore on Tomales Bay is a popular Point Reyes kayaking area. You can also kayak on Drakes Estero and Limantour Estero from July through February.

If you’re like me, you’ll want to paddle over to Marshal Beach, on the north part of Point Reyes National Seashore, along the Tomales Bay. On a sunny day, pack a picnic lunch, paddle up to the beach, and spend the afternoon there.

Marshal Beach, north part of Point Reyes National Seashore

Launching Areas

Launching areas include Tomales Bay State Park; Tomales Bay Resort, Lawson’s Landing, and Miller County Park.

For day trips only, you can also launch from Hog Island (north side), Indian Beach, and Hearts Desire Beach.

Note: Pelican Point, Duck Island and the east side of Hog Island are now closed to the public year round.

Kayak Rentals

To rent kayaks and book tours, try Blue Waters Kayaking.

Where to Ride Horses in Point Reyes

Point Reyes National Seashore’s more than 120 miles of trails are a great way to experience this magical place. Ride from forest to mountain, to meadows to beaches. Here are two places to check out, depending on whether you want to rent a horse or trailer.

Five Brooks Stables

A family-friendly full service riding stable that offers guided trail rides in the Point Reyes National Seashore area. Kids under 6 can enjoy a specially designed pony ride just for them. If you’re trailering in, they’ll also board your horse (short or long term).

Address: 8001 Highway One, Olema CA | Reservations: (415) 663-1570 | fivebrooks.com

The Point Reyes Country Inn and Stables

The Point Reyes Country Inn and Stables is a bed and breakfast with on-site horse boarding, set on four acres just minutes from downtown Point Reyes Station. If you have your own horses and trailer, this is one to check out.

Address: 12050 CA-1, Point Reyes Station, CA | Reservations: 415-663-9696 | www.ptreyescountryinn.com

Special Occasion Tours

Seaplane Tour from San Francisco

This one-hour Point Reyes Seaplane Tour starts with shuttle transport from San Francisco. Then you’ll fly by seaplane over Marin Country to Tomales Bay, Point Reyes National Seashore, and the historic Point Reyes Lighthouse.

Then the flight continues along Highway One and the Northern Californian coastline, over San Fancisco’s Golden Gate Bridge and other city sights. You’ll land in Sausalito’s Richardson Bay

Point Reyes School House

5 Favorite Point Reyes Hotels

You’ll have a choice of several nice inns, cottages, suites, and lodges on the Point Reyes Lodging page. But you may also want to check out the small nearby towns. They don’t book up as fast and are usually more affordable.

Find user reviews and booking info on this Point Reyes Hotels TripAdvisor page.

1. Point Reyes Schoolhouse

Close to Pt. Reyes Station. Fresh local flowers and a naturalist library make this place unique. Dog friendly.

2. Windsong Cottage

Spacious, serene cottage/yurt with rolling green views.

3. Black Heron Inn

This B&B has stunning views of Tomales Bay, and is convenient to the preserve, if you’re the outdoorsy type. Quiet (and the hosts don’t bother you).

4. Ferrando’s Hideaway Cottages

Quiet and private, with a choice of cottage or bungalow. Hot tub, kitchen, cookies.

5. Point Reyes Country Inn & Stables

A short drive from downtown but tucked away. Nice breakfasts.

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