Just to the north of the infamous Golden Gate Bridge in the Bay Area, is San Francisco’s playground – Marin County. Famous for its stunning landscape of California redwoods, sprawling hills, pristine beaches and quant idyllic towns, Marine County is a unique piece of the world. If you’re not a fan of the big city life of San Francisco, just a stretch away you can embrace the spaciousness of Marin County. Previously known to be a hippie-haven, the county has evolved into a chic, sophisticated place populated by old money, people from all over the world who seek the West Coast life and those who used to call San Francisco home. It’s even home to the likes of George Lucas and Sean Penn; it’s no wonder why they’ve chosen to call Marin County home. Want to see for yourself? We’ve outlined a list of some of the best things to do in Marin County.
Within a secluded canyon, just north of San Francisco, grows the primal coast redwood forest known as Muir Woods. These relatives to the massive sequoias, span the 554-acres of this National Monument. Within the park, the redwoods reach up to 258 feet high and much of them are hundreds of years old. You’ll find the tallest trees within Bohemian Grove, which can be easily accessed by a boardwalk.
However, Muir Woods provides dozens of miles worth of trails offering endless hiking and exploring opportunities. Check out the 9.7-mile Dipsea Trail for the best, most comprehensive views of the park. The park’s most popular trail offers you a chance to witness spectacular views of the Pacific as well as the nearby Mt. Tam State Park and Stinson Beach. Muir Woods is a must-do for local travelers due to its close proximity to San Francisco.
Visit the 71,028-acre Point Reyes National Seashore to experience pristine beaches, many organic dairy farms and breathtaking views of the Pacific. Like Muir Woods, here you’ll find plenty of hiking trails to fit your desires. We recommend the very popular, Bear Valley Trail for a relatively quick 9-mile out-and-back trek. The nearby Palomarin Trailhead offers backcountry camping for hikers, boaters and cyclists. Here you can also witness plenty of wildlife, including elephant seals that come to the area for mating and birthing December through March. You’ll also find the famous Point Reyes Lighthouse within the park. It was retired in 1975 but recently renovated. This is also the best area to view migrating whales starting in January through March.
The Marin County Civic Center in San Rafael was the last commission and largest public project done by the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright. This National Historic Monument is known for its sci-fi looking architecture and iconic blue roof that was built after Wright’s death in 1959. You may have seen this building in the 1997 sci-fi movie “Gattaca” or George Lucas’s “THX 1138.” Its hosted many events over the years including stand-up comedy and live music from Lyle Lovette and Johnny Mathis; to name a few. If you’re interested in paying a visit to Wright’s impressive design, you can attend one of their 90-minute walking tours.
Just on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge, are the picturesque Marin Headlands. The winding roads, rolling grassy hillsides and limitless views are truly a sight to behold. It’s the perfect place to enjoy views of the Golden Gate Bridge, the San Francisco skyline and the sparkling waters of the bay. Another excellent location for an afternoon hike, Marin Headlands offers many choices for trails.
The site also has quite a bit of history as well. Once the home of Miwok Indians, the area later became used for American military emplacements to protect the entrance to San Francisco Bay. During your hikes, you may stumble upon some of the old decommissioned military bunkers or even the preserved Nike Missile silo in the area.
Across from the bay and the Golden Gate Bridge, you’ll find the adorable seaside town, Sausalito. Reminiscent of mountainous Mediterranean villages, Sausalito is a quant, charming town. It’s home to only 7,500 residents who live in homes that cling to the steep, wooded hillside above the shoreline. The artsy town offers a slightly warmer climate and a nice break from the fog of San Francisco. Here you’ll find plenty of delightful waterfront shops and restaurants. It’s also an excellent place for tourists because of the ferries that run between SF’s Pier 41 and Sausalito.
Marin County is arguably one of the best areas in California to get the freshest seafood. Known for their oysters, you’ll have plenty of options to choose from within the county. Head to Marshall, a tiny village on Tomales Bay’s eastern shore, for Nick’s Cove Restaurant and Oyster Bar. The famous Tomales Bay BBQ oyster is a staple and a must-try. It’s topped with their in-house BBQ sauce and a garlic-parsley butter.
At the nearby Marshall Store you can choose from many different oyster options from smoked to raw and served with chives, cheese and chipotle aioli. If you’re not a fan of oysters, they also have some incredible fish tacos and a very unique chorizo fish stew. To purchase raw oysters to-go, head over to the Tomales Bay Oyster Company and make sure to bring a cooler!
Marin County’s breathtaking natural landscape goes hand in hand with their beaches. Agate Beach is just one option if you’re looking for something dog-friendly. The 6.6-acre sandy stretch features nearly two miles of beach during low tide. You’ll also find a large amount of tide-pools with giant green sea anemones.
To experience calm, protected waters or if you’re a beginner surfer, check out Bolinas, or “Brighton” Beach. Whereas, the nearby Muir Beach is a private cove known for its wetlands and lagoon. You cannot swim here however, you’ll find numerous hiking trails and bonfire pits for summer nights.
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