Daytrip: Hog Island Oyster Farm

Crossing through Sonoma and into Marin County, it’s hard not to sing the praises of Northern California. Within an hour’s drive, one passes through temperate valleys filled with fertile soil for farmlands and wineries, charming historic towns, markers for abundant trails through woodlands and redwood forests, beautiful coastal ranges, rivers, and estuaries, before coming to a gorgeous coastline rich with sealife.

Yesterday, we did just this, en route to the town of Marshall, on the northeast shore of Tomales Bay. In September, your chance of sunny days on the coast are high and the midweek crowds are low—perfect conditions for visiting the very popular Hog Island Oyster Farm picnic area.

If bivalves are your thing, look for the stanways floated out in the bay. That’s where the oysters are feeding on rich algae in the cool, tidal waters before being pulled in to the nursery. You can observe the process: the oysters are tumbled and shocked before being put into baths and sold to market.

Even better, you can reserve a picnic table and sample them.

Picnic reservations are hard to come by on the weekends, but walk-ins are sometimes available Tuesdays through Thursdays. We had made a reservation, but still had the place practically to ourselves all morning. Each reservation is for a three-hour block, and comes with a grill, oyster-shucking tools, lemons, hot sauce, Hogwash (their take on mignonette), and a shucking lesson. We packed a picnic with sparkling wine and cheese (you can bring whatever you like, except for hard alcohol), but you can also purchase almost everything you need there.

Between the two of us, we shucked and polished off five dozen oysters—though I can’t take much credit for the shucking part. I was incredibly slow at it!

And if raw oysters aren’t your thing, and you’d rather not cook, you can also reserve tables at “The Boat” oyster bar section where they’ll grill them for you.

The views are incredible, and the air is clear—it smells salty like the sea. There’s no cell-service or wifi signals, so it really feels like you’ve gotten away.

We decided to take advantage of the beautiful day and explore a bit more after lunch, driving south to Bolinas and finally Mill Valley before heading home.

Hog Island Oyster Farm, 20215 Shoreline Highway, Marshall, CA 94940.
Picnic Area, Daily Reservations from 10:30-1:30 + 2:00-5:00pm, Fri-Mon reservations required,  Tue-Thurs walk-ins welcome for tables without grills.
The Boat Oyster Bar,11:00am – 4:30pm Fri-Mon reservation required.

P.S. More places to visit in Point Reyes and Tomales Bay (including Tomales Bay Oyster Farm). Also, a day in Petaluma and a weekend visit to the Sonoma Coast.

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