The Point Reyes National Seashore ranks high among Bay Area day trips thanks to its proximity to the city, coastal hikes and, of course, oysters.
But the area, where the hubs of Point Reyes Station, Olema and Inverness have all the classic small town vibes you could want from a quick escape, is also home to some terrific overnight stays—from deliciously mom-and-pop to stunningly stylish—and restaurants to rival anything in San Francisco. It all adds up to a primo weekend getaway for urbanites, naturalists, and foodies. Here's how to make the most of your next drive up the coast.
Where to Stay in Point Reyes
If it's an old fashioned country escape you seek, you'll find plenty of vintage vibes among the region's boutique hotels.
For Cult-Worthy Style
Though Manka's Inverness Lodge(starting at $275 per night; 30 Callendar Way, Inverness, 415.669.1034) has never fully rebuilt since it devastatingly burned down in 2006, the rooms still operated by its owners, Margaret Grade and Daniel DeLong, remain the region's top choice for fashionable travelers. Where Manka's main house once stood you'll find an Airstream that serves as reception; once you procure your key, you're free to enter your masterfully conceived forest getaway, whether you're staying in the four-room Annex (a 1917 hunting and fishing lodge), in one of the standalone cabins, or at the boathouse down on Tomales Bay. The interiors here don't feel entirely indoors—with chunky log beds, heavy flannels, plaids and leathers, stone fireplaces, and antlers galore, the vibe here is woodsy Ralph Lauren at its finest.
In 2015, Grade and DeLong restored and opened the nearby Hotel Olema(starting at $185 per night; 10000 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., Olema, 415-663-1034) which, like its sister Manka's, has style in spades despite no working website. Tucked above the couple's absolutely dreamy restaurant, Sir and Star (more on that later), the inn has just five antique-filled rooms and an alluring avian theme.
Furthering the reach of their cult-worthy hospitality, the team recently opened Olema Druid's Hall (starting at $295 per night; 9870 Hwy. 1., Olema), an 1880s building that once hosted meetings of the United Ancient Order of Druids fraternity, just down the road. It's a charming, comfortable stay that's just a convenient stumble from the best dinner around.
For Nature Lovers
Previously the Lodge at Point Reyes, the recently revamped 22-room, two-cottage Olema House is a getaway in its own right, with four acres of private gardens and grounds between the heart of Olema and Olema Creek. Some of the rooms have private patios and Jacuzzis, while the cottages are perfect for familes. All rooms have down comforters and pillows, radiant heat-warmed floors, complimentary breakfast, and a lovely contemporary-meets-rustic nature lodge vibe that makes you want to snuggle by a fireplace with some Sonoma Coast pinot noir. Olema House's restaurant, Due West, is easily one of the finest in the area. // Starting at $275 per night; 10021 Coastal Highway 1, (Olema), olemahouse.com
The Best Eats + Drinks Around the Pt. Reyes National Seashore
If you're hanging around Tomales Bay, there's one thing you have to eat: oysters. Well that and cheese. (Though not necessarily in the same bite.) Here's where to chow.
Sir and Star
Make no mistake about it, Margaret Grade and chef Daniel DeLong's refined restaurant on the ground floor of the old-as-the-town Olema Inn is one of the best restaurants anywhere in Marin County. Serving the couple's three boutique hotels as well as taking reservations for intimate feasts, the restaurant specializes in the kind of decadent fare you'd expect to eat by the fire as taxidermy birds keep an eye on things—but they keep things fresh and exciting from Marin's excellent year-round produce and seafood. Preparations are serious and beautiful—focaccia and fennel-stuffed quail; heritage lamb chop with oven-dried tomatoes and a lovely salad of potatoes salt-cured olives vinaigrette—while names are whimsically playful like "'faux gras' fashioned from local duck livers so delicious it should be illegal" and "the softly cured salmon of surrounding seas." In Sir & Star style, we'd describe this restaurant as "the wonderful restaurant by the sparkling sea that deserves a booking well in advance." // 10000 Sir Francis Drake Blvd. (Olema), sirandstar.com
Olema House's restaurant offers weekend lunch and nightly dinner in a charming building built in 1865, recently redone with a heavily black-painted wood design. You'll find all the farm-to-table trends here with house-cured pork belly tacos, all sorts of local ingredients, and a spruced-up burger and fried chicken sandwich, plus plenty of Tomales Bay oysters. // 10005 Coastal Highway 1 (Olema), olemahouse.com
Hog Island Oyster Company
This wildly popular go-to needs little introduction—since 1983, Hog Island has been farming fresh, sustainable oysters feeding them to the masses (those who managed to get reservations, that is). If you want a seat on the bay-side patio for fresh-shucked and barbecued oysters, you better call ahead or reserve online. Seatings are limited to 90 minutes. // 20215 Shoreline Highway (Marshall), 415.663.9218, hogislandoysters.com
The Marshall Store Oyster Bar & Smokehouse
When Tomales Bay Oyster Company was forced to close its picnic area due to permitting issues, a favorite BYOB bivalve spot was lost forever. While that's not stopping us from picking up bags of oysters and mussels to take to the beach, we are also happy as clams to have a full-service meal—including in-season crab, smoked oysters on crostini, local rock cod tacos, and sandwiches—at the company's Marshall Store, with spectacular Tomales Bay views. // 19225 State Route 1 (Marshall), themarshallstore.com
Hog Island's influence on the Tomales Bay dining scene expanded south earlier this year after the company purchased and beautifully renovated a 71-year old waterfront establishment that badly needed, in the words of Hog Island cofounder John Finger, "some TLC." Sure, Tony's is a smart choice if you didn't plan ahead with a Boat Bar reservation or want to be protected from the wind and hungry birds (though Tony's also has a patio), but it's a great restaurant on its own with a much more ambitious seafood-centric menu than its nearby sibling. Plus, there's Straus soft serve with seaweed brittle for dessert, which is as special a West Marin dessert as it gets. // 18863 Shoreline Hwy. (Marshall), tonysseafoodrestaurant.com
One of Northern California's truly great destination restaurants has a new executive chef, Kua Speer, a former sous chef here who went on to open Luma in Petaluma and start the culinary program for Sterling Vineyards before returning to Tomales Bay. He's continuing the high level of coastal-influenced seasonal California cooking at the restaurant, while also taking advantage of their on-site garden, The Croft. And by the way, Nick's Cove is still one of the best spots to catch those magical West Marin sunsets, not to mention one of the region's top spots to spend the night in a waterfront cottage. // 23240 CA-1 (Marshall),nickscove.com
Saltwater Oyster Depot
Inverness Park Market
This is the kind of place where neighbors run into each other, popping in to grab their morning coffee and a breakfast sandwich. Meanwhile, the adjacent Tap Room has an eclectic gastropub-style menu, barbecue oysters on weekends, sushi on Wednesdays, and a Thai menu on Thursdays…plus great beers, of course. // 12301 Sir Francis Drake Blvd (Inverness), invernessparkmarket.com
Point Reyes Station
Side Street Kitchen
This bustling eatery from longtime Point Reyes resident Sheryl Cahill may have replaced a beloved greasy spoon a few years ago, but the bright, cheery space still has a warm "come as you are vibe" and the 1950s era diner-style counter overlooking the open kitchen. Go for slow-cooked meats, smoked fish, and pristine salads, plus superb chicory iced coffee, local beers, and chocolate chip cookies. // 60 4th St, (Point Reyes Station), sidestreet-prs.com
Point Reyes Station's five-block main stretch is home to clapboard buildings, small shops, and a saloon straight out of the 1800s. But never mind the decidedly wild west vibe—you'll find modern Italian fare and the area's best wine list at Christian Caiazzo's Osteria Stellina, where the laid-back but vibrant vibe is perfect spot for noshing tasty pizzas, pastas, and nightly specials. The oyster pizza, beans & greens, and lunchtime-only epic grilled cheese are mandatory orders. // 11285 Highway 1 (Point Reyes Station) osteriastellina.com
Station House Cafe
Across the street, Station House Cafe's secret garden-esque patio fills up quickly when the weather is nice. Loved by locals and tourists alike, the eatery serves up quality comfort food made with ingredients sourced from neighboring farms, fisheries, and creameries. Swing by for a breakfast of French toast, eggs Benedict, or Pacific oyster hangtown fry. At lunch, get festive with oysters and bubbly. Dinner is reserved for guilty pleasures—think mac and cheese, turkey chili, and roast chicken. If you're around on a Sunday, pop in for live music and the best cocktails in town (prickly pear mezcal margarita, anyone?). // 11180 Highway 1 (Point Reyes Station) stationhousecafe.com
Cheese and Mead Tastings
The Point Reyes Seashore also has a thriving agricultural community. While you'll get a chance to try locally sourced produce, fish, and cheese at more than a few of the area's restaurants, you can see where the stuff is made and take tours and tastings in Point Reyes Station.
At Cowgirl Creamery(80 4th St., Point Reyes Station) you can sample classics including their Mt.Tam and Red Hawk cheeses, then buy some cheeses and wine (or Equator Coffee if it's freezing) for a picnic outside or in the park. The attached Cowgirl Cantina has both ready-to-go and cooked-to-order items on the menu with a recently changed emphasis towards more seasonal-inspired sandwiches, salads and soups, but of course there's still a classic grilled cheese and tomato soup pairing. On Fridays, make a reservation for a tour ($5 per person).
When your belly's full of snacks, head up the road to Heidrun Meadery(11925 State Route 1, Point Reyes Station), where you can witness "flower to flute" mead production. Drop by for a tasting; on Saturdays and Sundays, tour their farm, beehives, and meadery to learn how they make this sweet treat.
The indecisive will struggle at Point Reyes Station's beloved bakery. Everything is great at the almost three decade-old classic, from muffins and scones to cookies and pies. If you need savory food for an actual meal, don't worry, the pizza slices after 11 am have you covered. Just don't ask for a cappuccino here because they only serve drip coffee. // 11315 State Route 1 (Point Reyes Station), bovinebakeryptreyes.com
Toby's Feed Barn
Part general store, part cultural center, part yoga studio, part actual feed barn, Toby's is a whole smorgasbord of activity every day and serves seemingly a dozen different purposes. For visitors, it's all about the adorable little cash-only coffee kiosk that singlehandedly has saved many mornings for tired, frozen tourists. The hot chocolate is particularly great here. // 11250 State Route 1 (Point Reyes Station), tobysfeedbarn.com
Pretty much every restaurant in the Point Reyes/Tomales Bay area serves Brickmaiden Bread—and for good reason. The wild yeast-based, wood-fire oven-baked breads are phenomenal, whether it's studded with apricots and pecans or a whole grain California wheat boule. Previously just a wholesale supplier, the bakery recently opened to the public with a little café offering those breads plus pastries, coffee and tea. // 40 4th St. (Point Reyes Station), brickmaidenbreads.com
William Tell House
Dating back to 1877, Marin County's oldest saloon was recently refurbished by new owner Ted Wilson (of Oakland's Alice Collective) and is now a destination restaurant for its timeless setting and the fresh, exciting cooking of chef-partner Austin Perkins. To fully soak up the history, belly up to one of the 35 stools at the mahogany bar and order a craft cocktail. Or, just linger outside on the patio by a fire pit with some fried oysters and chips, and live music on Fridays. The inn also has three revamped rooms above the saloon. // 26955 Coastal Highway 1, (Tomales), williamtellhouse.com
Things to Do in Point Reyes National Seashore
Even though Point Reyes National Seashore is just 40 miles from San Francisco, it's rugged, wild, and best explored by bike, foot, or kayak.
The region is home to more than 1,500 species of plants and animals, but the herd at Tule Elk Preserve(nps.gov) is perhaps the most impressive. See more than 400 tule elk grazing freely, and schedule a tour during rut season in the fall. Alamere Falls is a must-hike and can draw a crowd, but the 8.4 mile round-trip trek rewards hikers with a glimpse of the splendid waterfall dropping directly into the Pacific.
For a shorter, very rewarding hike, head to Piece Point Road for the 3.6 mile round trip hike along Abbotts Lagoon. The trail turns around at Point Reyes Beach, so there are gorgeous views at the half-way point and usually excellent bird-watching (and spring wildflowers) along the way.
Instead of hiking on your two feet, Five Brooks Ranch offers horseback rides on various trails within the park, ranging from an easy forest stroll to a two-hour climb up to Inverness Ridge to an all-day trek to Wildcat Beach and Alamere Falls. (Horseback riding on a secluded beach…talk about a prime Instagram opportunity!)
There aren't any zebras or rhinos on this safari, but you'll see plenty exciting wildlife during a nature tour with Point Reyes Safaris. Along with tule elk, there's a good chance you'll see bobcats, grey fox, owls, and badgers.
Mountain bikers credit Marin County as the birthplace of the sport, starting in the 1970s on nearby Mt. Tam, but the neighboring Point Reyes National Seashore doesn't exactly lack for excellent trails. Get dirty going downhill on the roads behind Inverness, on the Inverness Ridge Trail, or meander down Drake's Bay on the Sunset Beach Trail. Need a rental? Swing by Mountain Bike San Francisco, in the bike-obsessed town of Fairfax (40 Manor Rd.), on your way up north—there are no bike rentals in Point Reyes.
Kayaking + Bioluminescence Tours
The Tomales Bay can be notoriously windy and chilly, but catch it on a calm day and you'll make kayaking magic. Rent a rig from Point Reyes Outdoors(11401 Hwy 1, Point Reyes Station) and paddle your way up the 14-mile stretch of unspoiled coastline. Peer into tidal pools and keep an eye out for the birds who nest here as you go. Take your kayak trip after sundown for some incredible bioluminescent gazing. Point Reyes Outdoors and Blue Waters Kayaking(12944 Sir Francis Drake Blvd, Inverness) both offer guided tours to visitors wanting to see the glittering, natural phenomenon that occurs when tiny plankton emit light.
Whale and Seal Watching
Nature's giant mammals are the stars of the famous Whale Trail, which has viewing points from Alaska all the way down to San Diego. Head out to Point Reyes Lighthouse or Chimney Rock December through February and March through May, when pods of California Grey Whales make the trek south to Baja and back again. (Please note that the lighthouse is under renovation and inaccessible through the end of 2019.) For a front row seat to the action, drive up to Bodega Bay to link up with one of six local outfitters.
If you want to see some seals, Chimney Rock is the best spot, home to a sizable population of northern elephant seals. Hike up the two-mile roundtrip trail to the aptly named Elephant Seal Overlook. Check with the National Park Service for shuttles and road closures. The elephant seals also headed over to nearby Drakes Beach earlier in 2019, so there are now two viewing options most of the year.
(Courtesy of Marin CVB)
Whether you're local or just visiting, Marin County has something for everyone, and it's just one famous bridge away from San Francisco. Next door to the unparalleled vineyards of Napa and Sonoma and boasting more than 500 restaurants representing nearly every region around the world, Marin is a playground for wine lovers and foodies. It's paradise for outdoor recreation, too. Lace up your hikers or grab your bike and hit the trails, or spend a day kayaking on the water. Wherever you start, make Marin the backdrop for your next staycation. Learn more at visitmarin.org.
Thank you to our partners at Marin Visitors Bureau.