Explore San Francisco

A History Buff's Tour in Marin County, California

Slip away from busy San Francisco to explore the historic offerings in Marin County.

The history of Marin County is a fascinating tale filled with stories of Native American Indians, English captains, European cheese makers and fighter pilots. Francis Drake and his crew landed on the Marin coast in 1579 claiming the land as Nova Albion.

Then, according to historical records, the area we call Marin was named after "Marin," the great chief of the Coast Miwok Indians in the mid-1800s.

For history buffs and lovers of antiques and old-world charm, a trip to Marin County can be a surprising adventure that will give you a glimpse into the historical significance of the area.

Say Cheese

At the end of the civil war, a dairy farmer named Jefferson Thompson started making fresh cheese and delivering via schooner to the dockworkers in San Francisco. Jefferson soon gained popularity for his European style cheeses including soft-ripened Brie, Camembert and his famed Breakfast Cheese that the dockworkers were given because of the shortage of protein during that time. Almost 150 years later, Marin French Cheese still operates in the same cozy valley in Marin giving them the celebrated title of the longest continually operating cheese company in America. They welcome visitors from around the world and you can pick up everything you need to enjoy a memorable picnic by their pond. Marin French Cheese Company: 7510 Point Reyes-Petaluma Rd, Novato


One thing there is no shortage of in Marin is marvelous estates chock-full of family heirlooms. Many families are opting to downsize and that is where the fun begins for collectors. One of the prominent resellers in Marin is Laurel House Antiques located in the quaint town of Ross. They feature heritage collections of jewelry, crystal, silver, china, tableware and textiles, fine American, European and Asian furniture, and decorative and functional art. What’s great is that all purchases and donations help support the Marin Art & Garden Center. Laurel House Antiques: 30 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., Ross, CA 94957

Hamilton Field History Museum
Hamilton Field History Museum (Courtesy Marin County CVB)


Hamilton Field History Museum

Hamilton Field History Museum is a delightful destination hidden away in the Hamilton Field neighborhood of Novato. The museum showcases the history of

Hamilton Airforce Base from its beginnings in 1932 all the way up to its closure in 1974. During that time 428 planes crashed in the area and it was here where the airplane that dropped the A-bomb departed. Hamilton Field was the first destination for wounded WWII soldiers. Once they arrived at Hamilton, they were cared for, then flown home.

The museum is lovingly managed by enthusiastic veterans who are more than happy to take guests on tours of the museum and share the incredible history of the airfield. There is also a library and research center full of books, videos, and posters that the public is welcome to peruse. Hamilton Field History Museum: 555 Hangar Ave, Novato

Bolinas Museum

The Marin coastline is a dramatic slice of earth that has a rich history that is being carefully preserved at the Bolinas Museum. Their goal is to collect, preserve, and exhibit the art and history of coastal Marin and to present exhibitions and events that provide inspiration and cultural enrichment to residents and visitors. Always changing, the museum hosts 18 different exhibitions a year. Bolinas Museum: 48 Wharf Rd, Bolinas, CA 94924

Mission San Rafael Arcángel
Mission San Rafael Arcángel (©Rachel Titiriga/Flickr, Creative Commons)

Landmarks and Attractions

Mission San Rafael Arcángel

Mission San Rafael Arcángel was founded in 1817 as a hospital to treat the sick Native Americans. The mission grew and prospered and was granted full mission status in 1822. Currently, it is an impressive edifice in the middle of San Rafael and worth a visit if you follow Spanish mission history. Although all the historic adobe buildings were destroyed, in 1949 a replica of the chapel was built next to the current Saint Raphael's Church. Mission San Rafael Arcángel: 1104 Fifth Ave, San Rafael, CA 94901

Fort Cronkhite

For kids of all ages, a day at Fort Cronkhite playing hide and seek in the dramatic ruins, hiking along the coastal trails, and picnicking down by the beach are sure ways to keep a smile on your face. Perched along the Marin Headlands north of Rodeo Lagoon, Fort Cronkhite is a former World War II military post on the edge of the Pacific Ocean. Fort Cronkhite is one of the few examples of these World War II "mobilization posts" remaining in the country. The fort's barracks and other buildings are preserved and tell a story of the soldiers who waited here for an enemy that luckily never came. Marin Headlands Visitor Center: Fort Barry, Building 948 Sausalito

Olema Lime Kilns

Finding the hidden Olema Lime Kilns can be a rewarding feat for those who love a good challenge. The centuries-old kilns are recognized as a historic landmark and are located just west of Highway 1 between Olema and Bolinas. Unfortunately, they are not marked by a plaque or a formal trail. Yet with some Sherlock skills and a sense of adventure you just may get lucky. Historians have long questioned their origin. For a fun day of exploring, pack a lunch and hike out to the kilns. Olema Lime Kilns location is 300 ft W of State Hwy 1 (P.M. 22.1), 4.2 mi S of Olema (Park in the turnout that is 4.1 mile south of Olema. Head southeast through the meadow down to the creek. The kilns are west of HWY 1 and east of the creek.) 

Historic Inns

Straus House

The name Straus conjures up visions of ice cream, cheese, and milk. But in this case, the Straus name is all about the beautiful Straus House that is nestled in a quiet valley surrounded by towering eucalyptus, cypress trees, and 160 acres of organic pastures. The 150-year-old house and property was the home of the Straus Family after they escaped the Nazis in WWII. Now it serves as a charming bed and breakfast where guests can spend an afternoon relaxing on the porch overlooking the historic red-painted barns, rolling pastures, and Tomales Bay. Guests are encouraged to walk to the small beach where they can kayak. 22888 Highway 1, Marshall

Ten Inverness Way Bed & Breakfast Inn

Built in 1904 as a private home, this beautiful property was converted into a charming bed and breakfast inn during the seventies. Ten Inverness Way Bed & Breakfast Inn is a cozy stop for those who want an intimate experience on the Marin coast. The inn has only 5 rooms, so expect the personal touch when staying here. It is located at the entrance to Point Reyes National Seashore, and just one hour north of San Francisco. One of the favorite features of this darling destination is that breakfast, appetizers, and wine in the afternoons are included. 10 Inverness Way, Inverness

Ten Inverness Way Bed & Breakfast Inn
Ten Inverness Way Bed & Breakfast Inn (Courtesy Marin County CVB)