It only takes about an hour’s drive north from San Francisco to arrive at the pristine wilderness of Point Reyes. Outlined by Highway 1 and the Pacific Ocean, the peninsula encompasses towering redwoods and rolling pastureland dotted with grazing cows. At the 71,000-acre park known as Point Reyes National Seashore, you’ll find miles of beaches, end-of-earth views from rugged coast and flourishing wildlife.
You might spot otters and harbor seals while kayaking in Tomales Bay or wild elk while hiking the Tomales Point Trail. Birdwatchers have hundreds of species to spot, and late December ushers in the gray whale migration through Drakes Bay and the arrival of the elephant seals near Chimney Rock.
Here in rural West Marin, supporting sustainable and organic agriculture and local artisan foods has been a way of life for decades. (Straus Family Creamery, the first certified organic dairy west of the Mississippi, opened here in 1994, and today 70 percent of local dairies are organic.) Winter is an ideal season to explore the area, as the crowds have thinned and the fog has cleared yet the weather remains mild.
What to Do
About 150 miles of hiking trails wind through Point Reyes National Seashore. Plan your route at the Bear Valley Visitor Center, which offers trail maps and exhibits that provide historical context.
With its 80 miles of shoreline, the area is also popular with beachgoers, who (along with local wildlife) flock to Limantour Beach and Drakes Beach. The latter is sheltered by dramatic sandstone cliffs and located near Point Reyes Lighthouse, built in 1870 to warn ships of the jutting Point Reyes Headlands, often obscured by intense wind and fog.
Today a visitor center adjacent to the retired lighthouse is open to the public. In the bordering Tomales Bay, sea kayakers paddle among wildlife (Blue Waters Kayaking provides rentals) and horseback riders explore the surrounding hills, meadows and coastal scrub (Five Brooks Stable leads guided trail rides). Apart from all the outdoor recreation, Main Street in the town of Point Reyes Station (population 848) makes for a pleasant afternoon stroll.
Where to Eat
This bucolic cape is a food destination, attracting epicurean-minded visitors with its oyster farms and artisan cheeses. Hog Island Oyster Co. and Tomales Bay Oyster Company supply freshly harvested oysters for beachside feasts. Housed in a former hay barn in Point Reyes Station, Tomales Bay Foods is your one-stop shop for picnic provisions.
Here you can watch Cowgirl Creamery’s Red Hawk cheese (it showcases organic milk from nearby Bivalve Dairy and earned Best-in-Show at the American Cheese Society’s Annual Conference) being made and buy cheeses as well as prepared foods. Savor your purchases on the trail or at the shaded picnic tables outside.
On Fridays, Cowgirl Creamery hosts a Cheese 101 Class (reserve early). Just steps away, Toby’s Feed Barn indeed carries sustenance for farm animals, but it also houses a coffee bar, art gallery, yoga studio and gift shop. If you stick around the area for dinner, head to Sir and Star at the Olema, a roadhouse that encapsulates the Point Reyes vibe, serving sophisticated dishes made with ingredients direct from local farmers and vintners.