How to Spend a Weekend in the Secret-ish Coastal Town of Bolinas
A mural at Bolinas Beach hints at the thriving local artists community. (Sarah McDonald)

How to Spend a Weekend in the Secret-ish Coastal Town of Bolinas


Don’t bother looking for a road sign pointing you to Bolinas, the Marin County community 23 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge; there isn’t one.

In contrast to the neighboring tourist magnet Stinson Beach, Bolinas residents like to keep things low-key. (The old smugglers hub still has bootleggers' wariness in its blood.) But that's just fine with us: The charm of this quirky beachside retreat is in its lack of development.

If you do find your way down the winding road to the lagoon, you'll find the West Coast’s oldest saloon, casual but delicious food, and a thriving arts community where California’s counter-culture is alive and kicking.

Where to Stay + Eat in Bolinas

Book a room and grab a drink at Smiley's in Bolinas, the West Coast's oldest saloon. (via

Smiley’s Schooner Saloon

Built in the 1800s when Bolinas was a busy schooner port, the West Coast’s oldest saloon has served thirsty locals and visitors through two world wars and the years of prohibition when it rebranded as a "barbershop." The bar has spacious outdoor seating area for enjoying live music over drinks and casual Mexican fare. Grab a table early if you hope to catch a live band on weekend nights.

If you like to rest your head on a bit of history, check into one of the saloon’s recently renovated back rooms or the spacious Captain’s Quarters upstairs. Smiley’s is dog- and kid-friendly if you’re bringing the fam. // 41 Wharf Rd, Bolinas,


This farmhouse-chic restaurant serves a locally sourced and seasonally rotating menu where the vibe is very much dinner-at-a-friend’s-house (if you have talented chef friends).

For a cozy, romantic stay in the center of town, book one of the two queen rooms with clawfoot tubs upstairs. The rooms are small and best suited for singles and couples, but guests are welcome to hang out on the private back patio or in the wine bar downstairs. // 11 Wharf Rd., Bolinas

The Garden Room

Located above the village on the mesa, The Garden Room is a single-room bed-and-breakfast with a kitchenette in a lush setting. These are quiet accommodations owned by a watercolor artist whose onsite studio is open to guests. // Call (415) 868-0784 or visit

Coast Cafe

Open for lunch and dinner, Coast Cafe serves the kind of substantial comfort food that will warm you up after a day spent surfing or hiking. Fresh, local seafood is a good choice, or a hearty chili if that’s what you’re craving. In the morning, the owners put out a pastry case filled with fluffy pastries. // 46 Wharf Rd, Bolinas,


BoVida serves healthy breakfasts to set you up for a day of outdoor activities. The colorful acai bowls and vitamin-packed smoothies are popular, although they also do a tasty panini. // 6 Wharf Rd., Bolinas,

Gospel Flat Farm Stand

You’ll see a sign (residents don’t hate all signs) for this organic farm as you head out of town. Stop off for the freshest organic veggies, eggs and salads, all paid for on the honor system. Just write down what you take and pay for it with Venmo. It’s open 24 hours a day, but if you get there in the morning, you have a better chance of scoring the sourdough. // 140 Olema Bolinas Rd., Bolinas

Fun Things to Do in and Around Bolinas

Get your steps in with a visit to the Point Reyes Lighthouse. (Eleonora Patricola)

Surfing Lessons

Bolinas Beach is beloved by surfers for its consistent waves and uncrowded breaks. The lagoon offers natural protection from the massive swells, so this is the ideal location for a beginner lesson. Also browse the Surf Shop on Wharf Road. // Bolinas Surf Lessons,

Stroll on Agate Beach

Visit Agate Beach(330 Ocean Parkway) at low tide to spot beautiful sea anemones nestling in tide pools along the shoreline. Rock hounds should keep a sharp eye for jasper, agate, and fossils scattered among the pebbles. Both Bolinas Beach and Agate Beach are dog-friendly.

Bolinas Museum + Art Gallery

From schooner-building to smuggling and environmental activism, Bolinas has a long and colorful history. Make time for this tiny museum which is packed with exhibits detailing the exploits of the town, including the long-running battle against the road sign and the history of the post office. Bolinas is also home to a thriving artist community. You’ll find many of their works in the gallery. Admission is free. // 48 Wharf Rd.; admission is free,

Explore Point Reyes

Head north on Highway 1 to Point Reyes National Seashore for hiking and food adventures at Point Reyes Station. Stop at the ethereal Cypress Tree Tunnel (17400 Sir Francis Drake Blvd.) for a romantic walk, then head to Point Reyes Lighthouse. The lonely structure is beautiful and makes for a great hike if you can hack the 313 steps. After you get your steps in, head to Point Reyes Station for a bomb sandwiches at Side Street Kitchen(60 4th St) . // Point Reyes National Seashore,

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