EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT TOMALES BAY.
When San Francisco locals want to get away, they head for Tomales Bay. The long, slender bay separates the Point Reyes Peninsula from the mainland. On the western side of the bay, the Point Reyes Peninsula is primarily dedicated to a 71,000-acre park, complete with pristine beaches, hiking trails, and unobstructed views of the coastline. On the eastern side, a series of small communities line the waterfront. You can find a wide selection of cozy B&Bs, delicious dining establishments, and a variety of activities, entertainment, and cultural attractions to suit every interest.
How to Get There
You will want to have a car for your trip to Tomales Bay. It’s not well serviced by public transit, and some of the beaches and parks are best reached by car. From San Francisco, cross the Golden Gate Bridge and follow Route 1 north through the Golden Gate National Recreational Area. The road hugs the coastline and travels past Muir Beach and Stinson Beach before turning slightly inland. Pass through Five Brooks and Olema to Point Reyes Station, which serves as the gateway to Tomales Bay. If you stay on US 1, you will travel up the east side of Tomales Bay through the towns of Marconi, Marshall, McDonald, and Nick’s Cove.
If your plans take you to the west side of Tomales Bay, turn left on Sir Francis Drake Blvd., which will take you through Inverness and Seahaven. As you continue north, Sir Francis Drake Blvd. turns into Pierce Point Rd., which winds its way through Tomales Bay State Park.
Where to Eat
There are dining options for every taste in the Tomales Bay area, but the main reason to visit is the oysters. Many portions of Tomales Bay are just 10 feet deep, which makes it an ideal location for cultivating and harvesting shellfish. Locals and visitors agree that the Hog Island Oyster Company Shoreline Highway, Marshall is the best spot for fresh, sustainable oyster dishes.
Hog Island isn’t the only place for great oysters in Tomales Bay. The Tomales Bay Oyster Company (15479 CA-1, Marshall), established in 1909, is the oldest continuously run shellfish farm in the state. Purchase your oysters (they have five varieties to choose from) and a shucking knife, and then head to the beach to enjoy them at an oceanside picnic. There’s no picnicking at the establishment itself, but with the gorgeous beach just five minutes away, why would you stay put? If you are new to shucking, don’t worry; the staff can give you pointers.
Where to Stay
The top lodging choice for most Tomales Bay visitors is the renowned Nick’s Cove Restaurant, Oyster Bar and Cottages (23240 Highway 1, Marshall). Dating back to the 1930s, this establishment is a Tomales Bay institution. In addition to enjoying water views, Nick’s Cove has a number of activities on-site. Stay entertained with paddleboard rentals, an oyster shucking demonstration, bocce ball courts, and cornhole boards.
Where to Go for Water Sports
The bay is a popular choice for water-based activities year-round. There are opportunities for fishing, kayaking, and boating. If you plan to fish, be sure to get a fishing license, which can be purchased online for $16.20 per day. Lawson’s Landing (137 Marine View Dr., Dillon Beach) has all of the equipment you need, including boat rentals, and they operate a variety of tours and expeditions for fishing, clamming, and more.
Where to Go for Hiking, Biking, and Horseback Riding
The Point Reyes National Seashore and Tomales Bay State Parks are crisscrossed with hiking trails of varying lengths and levels of difficulty. Explore the Cypress Tree Tunnel or watch for wildlife at the Drakes Estero State Marine Conservation Area. Hike to the end of the Point Reyes Peninsula, a spot known as Tomales Point. To the north, you can see Bodega Bay. To the west, the Pacific Ocean stretches on for miles. Tomales Bay is to the east.