Tomales Bay and the Point Reyes National Seashore are just an hour outside of San Francisco, in beautiful Marin County—but you’d never know you were so close to the city. With every turn the vistas grew wider and our cell reception grew weaker.
Last week I shared some photos from our lunch there—fresh oysters and local cheese—but the truth is we actually based the day off of our plans for dinner at Point Reyes Cheese. In the end, it was all just an excuse to explore this beautiful part of Northern California.
From Davis, it’s a slightly longer drive and you head in through Sonoma County. Aron and I actually missed our first exit and serendiptiously found ourselves on Lucas Valley Road surrounded by redwoods. It was a beautiful road that leads you to the tiny hamlet of Nicasio and the Nicasio Reservoir on the way into Point Reyes Station—our first stop.
Point Reyes Station takes its name from its days as a railway terminus and seaport and serves as the unofficial gateway to the Point Reyes National Seashore. But many people are familiar with it as the home of Cowgirl Creamery (you’re likely to find their triple-cream Mt. Tam or Red Hawk at artisanal cheese counters around the country).
The store is technically called Tomales Bay Foods and you can see them making cheeses inside as well as pick up picnic provisions at the Cowgirl Cantina counter. Sidenote: Aron and I once had an unexpected 6-hour layover at SFO and some really nice friends picked us up and drove us out here for lunch!
There are some farm-stand-like grocers and nice looking restaurants in town, an auto garage and a bike shop, and a few great stores. One highlight is the Coyuchi linens outlet—their former headquarters has been made into a shop where the front houses the current collection and the back offers factory seconds and discontinued items at a discount. Their other location is at one of my favorite (aspirational) shops in New York, the ABC Home Store.
From Point Reyes Station, it’s not far to Tomales Bay Oyster Company, on the east Side of the Bay in the town of Marshall, where we stopped for lunch. One day I’d like to return and stay at Nick’s Cove to more slowly explore Tomales Bay State Park.
Apparently, across the bay on the west side of the park, there are four beaches—three of which can only be accessed by foot or by boat—and a few hiking trails.
We drove along that side of the bay briefly to stop in the town of Inverness before heading out to the Pacific Ocean and the Point Reyes National Seashore. The park encompasses over 71,000 acres and 80 miles of seashore. Most of the development in the area is restricted to dairies operating on historic farmlands. The “happy cows [who] come from California” that you saw in that famous ad campaign? They live here.
We visited on a Thursday, a day when the Point Reyes lighthouse is closed, but we drove out to the windy point anyway (the windiest along the Pacific)—crossing paths with cows, spotting deer on the headlands and, eventually, watching a huge raft of sealions in the surf below.
I’ve been told a particularly stunning hike is the one at the Northernmost tip of the seashore on Tomales Point through the Tule Elk Reserve and where you’re likely to see not only elk but also foxes and otters.
The dinner sells out the day tickets go on sale and Aron had bought seats the previous November. The idea is four farmers’ market-inspired courses featuring their cheeses, all served family style. We settled in, learned about the farm from the herd manager, and got to know the folks seated beside us (who happened to own a dairy farm up the road!).
We happened to be there during peak calving season—I think they said six had been born the previous Monday with many more due still—so Aron and I both took turns sneaking down to see some of the babies.
Have you been to Tomales Bay or Point Reyes? What were your favorite stops? I noticed that the Marin Agricultural Land Trust (MALT) hosts wildflower walks and has an annual art show coming up soon. We also want to revisit some of the restaurants recommended on Weekend Del Sol (Garrick wrote the 5 Things guide to North Beach, SF, for Hither & Thither). We’ve really just scratched the surface.