Top Attractions & Best Things to See & Do in Marin County
Top Attractions & best things to see & do in Marin County
Discover Marin County top attractions and hidden gems including outstanding outdoor activities and adventures. Visit Point Reyes National Seashores, Mount Tamalpais State Park, Muir Woods National Monument , Stinson Beach, Bolinas, Sausalito, Rodeo Beach, Muir Beach Overlook, Muir Beach, Marin Headlands Overlook, Mill Valley, Samuel P. Taylor State Park, Marin French Cheese Trail, China Camp State Park, Marine Mammal Center, and much more.
Muir Woods National Monument Things to See & Do
Why should you visit Muir Woods National Monument? Muir Woods National Monument is home to the famous giant coastal redwoods, the tallest trees on the planet? Did you know that if you were to stack three of these trees together, they would be the same height as the Eiffel Tower in Paris? And if you add one more tree on top of that, it would be as tall as the Empire State Building in New York City!
Stroll through the ancient redwood forest and contemplate the serenity of this majestic old grove of redwoods. Walk at your own pace among the towering redwoods and along a winding creek crossed by several bridges. We recommend walking to Bridge 3 and loop around the creek and return to the parking lot unless you want to spend more time hiking in Muir Woods.
Hiking: Muir Woods has a paved trail which is mostly flat. You can choose between many loops; from half -mile easy loop, one mile, to two miles loop which can be easily achieved in one hour or so depending on your pace. Most trails are rather easy and self-explanatory, and a free detailed map will be giving at you at Muir Woods main entrance when you’ll purchase your entrance tickets. There is an accessible gift shop, café and restroom facility located close to the main entrance by bridge number 1. However, there is no cell signal or wifi available in the woods, and no vehicles can access this steep canyon without having a special permit and advanced reservation.
For visitors who can’t talk or hike, there are many large and tall redwoods located by the main entrance and can be seen without even hiking or walking.
Important: Muir Woods has become one of the first national parks to require advanced reservation and parking permits. No one can visit or access Muir Woods anymore without a prior reservation.
Travel Tip: To avoid the crowds and large bus tours in Muir Woods forest of redwoods, we highly recommend visiting Muir Woods as early as 7:30 or 8 am.
Fun fact: Did you know that four of these redwood trees stacked on top of each other would be as tall as the Empire State Building?
Brief history: It was back in 1908 when President Theodore Roosevelt used the powers of the Antiquities Act to create Muir Woods National Monument. William Kent, who donated the land for the monument, requested that it be named for noted conservationist John Muir, considered today as the father founder of the National Park System in the USA.
Muir Woods National Monument is part of the National Park Service on Mount Tamalpais near San Francisco, in southwestern Marin County in California. It is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and is 12 miles (19 km) north of San Francisco. It protects 554 acres (224 ha] of which 240 acres (97 ha) are old growth coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) forests, one of a few such stands remaining in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Muir Woods National Monument Entrance Fees:
$15.00-Adult (16 years of age and older)
Free-Children (15 years of age and under)
Fourth Graders, Fifth Graders, and Veterans and Gold Star Families can visit for free! Follow the instructions in the link before you arrive at Muir Woods.
Muir Woods National Monument accept payment by cash and credit card
The following park passes (sold at the Muir Woods Visitor Center!) allow pass holders and up to three other adults to enter Muir Woods free of charge:
Muir Woods Annual Pass $45.00 This pass is good for 12 months. It admits the pass holder and three persons (16 and older) to Muir Woods National Monument in Mill Valley.
America the Beautiful – The National Parks and Federal Recreation Lands Pass admits pass holders and up to three other adults to Muir Woods and all National Parks/Federal Recreation Lands that charge an entrance fee. There are several different versions of this pass:
Annual Pass $80
Active-Duty Military Pass Free
Annual Senior Pass (62+) $20
Lifetime Senior Pass (62+) $80
Access Pass Free
Volunteer Pass Free
Muir Beach Things to Do and Muir Beach Overlook
Muir Woods Beach: Tucked in the foothills of Mount Tamalpais, the charming village of Muir Woods Beach is a romantic and cozy getaway for locals. Muir Beach is a quiet sheltered cove located on the Pacific Coast three miles west of Muir Woods National Monument, between Stinson Beach the Golden Gate Bridge. Muir Beach and lagoon favored by locals. Muir. The beach is accessed over a 450-foot-long pedestrian bridge that connects the parking lot to the beach, the Coastal Trail, and Kaashi Way, which is multi-use and accessible.
Muir Beach Redwood Creek and Lagoon and surrounding riparian area provide critical habitat for coho salmon and red-legged frogs and is closed to all access. Also, every autumn thousands of monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) embark on a once-in-a-lifetime migration to the California coast. Wintering monarchs can sometimes be found decorating Monterey pines in the small grove at Muir Beach; look for their distinctive orange and black wings.
There is a small free parking lot at Muir Beach but extremely limited. Large vehicles as well as commercial vehicles are not allowed without permits and advanced reservations. Muir Beach offers one of the most enjoyable hikes and trails in the Marin County with spectacular ocean views of San Francisco and the Ocean. The Pelican Inn at Muir Beach opens its doors to you for the fellowship of its Tudor bar and country cooking. Muir Beach Overlook: Muir Beach Overlook is rocky point that sits atop rugged steep cliffs overlooking Muir Beach, San Francisco, Bolinas, and Mount Tamalpais. This small park is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area located on State Route 1 between Sausalito and Stinson Beach.
Take the short hiking trail to a cliff-top lookout to enjoy a panoramic and sweeping views of the Marin coast, and Muir Beach.
The cliff plunges over 200 feet to the rocky surf. Nearby you can visit Slide Ranch and its animal farm, and below that, a tidal reef loaded with small crabs.
Brief history: Muir Beach overlook observation bunkers were built during the Second World War as part of the American coastal defense of California against the threat of Pacific invasions. This was a military outpost.
Muir Beach Bunkers contain several historic base-end stations. From these stations, soldiers viewed ships and triangulated the distance, speed, and direction of these ships in coordination with different stations. These stations were mostly important for artillery units stationed on the coast to attack any invasion.
They gained particular importance during World War II immediately after the bombing of Pearl Harbor when many in California feared San Francisco or Los Angeles would be the next target. With the advent of radar and its widespread use, these stations became obsolete.
Today, a few of them remain open like ruins where you may enter them to get somewhat of a perspective of the soldiers who were therein stationed.
Surf: Bolinas and Stinson Beach are some of the top spots for surfing in Northern California. There are pretty houses perched at the top of the cliff edge above the beach. Whales and harbors seals can be seen nearby.
Stinson Beach State Park and Seaside Village
Stinson Beach is about a 40-minute drive from the Golden Gate Bridge on California’s Pacific Highway 1. It is near excellent attractions such as Muir Woods National Monument, Point Reyes , Bolinas, Muir Beach Overlook, Muir Beach, and Mount Tamalpais. The beach is one of the cleanest in the state, and sandy, unlike the rockier neighboring beach in Bolinas.
Stinson Beach is a popular day trip for local who live in the in the San Francisco Bay Area , but also for tourists. Although most visitors arrive by private car, Stinson Beach is linked to Marin City by a daily bus service, and the network of hiking trails around Mount Tamalpais also reaches the town.
Many notable famous people fell in love with Stinson beach’s beauty, calling it home, including Senator Dianne Feinstein, Steve Miller, Jerry Garcia, and David Grisman.
Did you know that the dramatic scenery of Stinson Beach was the setting for movies including “Memoirs of an Invisible Man,” “Basic Instinct,” “Play It Again Sam,” “The Fog,” “Shoot the Moon,” and “On the Edge?”
Brief history: In 1870, the first road was built along the Pacific coast from Sausalito, California, and a tent settlement sprang up amongst the willow trees at the beach, which gave rise to the town’s original name, Willow Camp. The Mt. Tamalpais & Muir Woods Railway opened in 1896, making Willow Camp more accessible. Visitors could ride the train to West Point Inn and then hike or arrange a stagecoach to take them to the beach. In 1906, refugees from the San Francisco earthquake came to the area and built some of the area’s first businesses. Stinson Beach became the official town name in 1916, in honor of the largest landowners, Rose and Nathan Stinson.
In 1939, the beach was sold to Marin County. It was transferred to the State of California in 1950 and was eventually transferred to the National Park Service in 1977.
In 2002, a surfer was attacked by a 12-to-15-foot-long (3.7 to 4.6 m) great white shark while surfing off Stinson Beach. The young man survived but received more than 100 stitches to close his wounds. The attack was the second in Stinson Beach, and the 13th in Marin County since 1952. In 1998, Jonathan Kathrein was attacked by a great white shark while bodyboarding. His injury from the shark bite required over 600 stitches. The surf off Stinson Beach is within an area known as the Red Triangle, where there have been an unusually high number of sharks’ attacks.
The small coastal town of Bolinas
The small coastal town of Bolinas is located off Highway 1, a few miles north of Stinson Beach, surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, beautiful lagoons, and wetlands. The trough in which the lagoon sits was formed by the San Andreas Fault, which runs through it. The lagoon is separated from the main bay by a small spit of land and is a tidal estuary, which is part of the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary.
Bolinas is known for its reclusive residents and is only accessible by unmarked roads. In the past, road signs were torn down to help this area remain off-the-beaten-path. Discover the town’s natural beauty, from bird watching to surfing where you may have surf lessons as well.
Bolinas is a hidden gem and small beach town that featured in the 1981 novel “Ecotopia Emerging,” by Ernest Callen Bach. It is also the mythical setting for Richard Brautigan’s novel “In.” Bolinas has a long history of environmentalism and is characterized by its free-spirited community of surfers, actors, poets, artists, and writers.
The visitors who make it to Bolinas appreciate its earthy custom-built homes and shingled New England-styled cottages with colorful gardens.
Fun facts: Did you know Bolinas’ post office and some of Bolinas’ houses were constructed during the Gold Rush era?
Alice Waters is also a resident. She is an American chef and owner of “Chez Panisse,” the world-renowned restaurant in Berkeley, famous for its organic, locally grown ingredients and as the birthplace of Californian cuisine.
Point Reyes National Seashores Top Attractions and Things to Do
Travel to Point Reyes National Seashores and see vast farmlands and charming countryside. Enjoy your lunch at a local beach restaurant and visit Point Reyes’ historic lighthouse where whales and dolphins could be seen. (depending on the season).
In Point Reyes, you can go bird watching, whale watching, viewing an abundance of wildlife including elephant seals, foxes, coyotes, bobcats , deer and tule elk. There are awesome beaches and hidden gems to explore, wonderful bicycling paths, picnic spots, picturesque meadows, and laidback villages along the way.
Brief history and introduction: The 70,000 acres of Point Reyes have been known as a “National Seashore” since 1962. It was originally named when Spanish explorer Sebastian Vizcaino named the land Punto de los Reyes, (“King’s Point”) in 1603. It is located within the Point Reyes Peninsula in Marin County, an area geologically separated from the rest of Marin County by a rift zone of the San Andreas Fault, half of which is below sea level, forming Tomales Bay. The northernmost part of this peninsula is maintained as a reserve for Tule elk and the southern part is a protected beach for elephant seals. Point Reyes Lighthouse attracts birds and whale-watchers looking for Gray Whales migrating south in mid-January, and north in mid-March. Point Reyes Lifeboat Station is a National Historic Landmark. It is the last remaining example of a rail-launched lifeboat station, once commonly found along the Pacific coast. The style of the native Kule Loklo village, located just a few miles from the visitor center, was heavily influenced by the Coast Miwok.
Point Reyes National Seashores Top Attractions
Point Reyes Lighthouse and Visitor Center: At the western end of Point Reyes peninsula is a 308-step staircase leading to the historic Point Reyes lighthouse. Unlike many lighthouses, that were built high so ships from far away could see, Point Reyes lighthouse was built low to shine its light below the fog line
Point Reyes Lighthouse is perched on the edge at the western-most point of the Point Reyes Headlands (at the farthest distance from the park entrance). Point Reyes Lighthouse and Visitor Center are located 45 minutes west of Bear Valley (located near Olema Valley ) along Sir Francis Drake Highway. The visitor center and the lighthouse are only open Friday through Monday year-round(expectation during renovation ,pandemic and closure).
To reach Point Reyes Lighthouse from the parking lot, a short uphill walk (0.4 mile) takes visitors to the to the Lighthouse observation deck -an awesome overlook to see the lighthouse and around it. Whales often swim by (weather permitting). You can check out the lighthouse small visitor center as well, it offers exhibits on the historic Point Reyes Lighthouse, as well as on whales, wildflowers, birds, seals and sea and lions.
To reach the Lighthouse will have to go through ascending and descending 308 step stairs.
Tip: The stairs to the lighthouse are closed during high winds so check the weather forecast before visiting Point Reyes National Seashore. This remote wilderness of Point Reyes is often subject to dense for and or gusty winds, you should dress in layers.
Tip: The Lighthouse Visitor Center and stairs are open only on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday from 10-4:30. It’s closed Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday.
Whale Watching in the Point Reyes National Seashore: The headlands of the Point Reyes Peninsula offer one of the best spots to view whales. The areas around Chimney Rock and the Lighthouse offer some of the best whale watching spots in Point Reyes National Seashore. The peak of the whales’ migration usually occurs between January and March while late April and early May afford the opportunity to see mothers and calves close to shore.
Tomales Bay State Park: Tomales Bay is an as awesome hidden gem and a small beach known for locals. This remote state park is a popular destination for paddlers, picnicking, hiking, swimming, and wildlife viewing. A few loops and short hikes around and trails run through Tomales Bay State Park. This park is about 2,000 acres and it’s a California state park located in Marin County, but it’s part of the Point Reyes peninsula because it’s adjacent to Point Reyes National Seashore – operated by the U.S. National Park Service.
Best Beaches of Point Reyes National Seashore: With over 80 miles of protected coastline, Point Reyes National Seashore offers visitors some of the most pristine beaches in California. Many beaches in Point Reye are family friendly and easily accessible, but others can be reach only by hiking. McClures Beach, south of Tomales Point and west of the Pierce Point parking area, has great tide pooling and lots of wildlife. Other beaches include Palomarin Beach is the southernmost beach along the Pacific side of Point Reyes National Seashore. Limantour Beach. Drakes Beach. Chimney Rock on Point Reyes. Point Reyes North Beach. Point Reyes South Beach. Abbotts Lagoon Beach. Kehoe Beach.
Tip for visitors : Abbotts Lagoon Beach: This is a great place for bird watching , and Drakes Beach is finest of all less windy than other beaches. It’s an ideal place for picnicking swinging (taking int consideration that the waters are often cold).
Tip for visitors : Dogs are allowed only on South Limantour Beach, North and South Point Reyes Beaches, and Kehoe Beach. They are not allowed on any hiking trails.
Wildlife Watching at Point Reyes
Point Reyes Wilderness holds some of the greatest array of wildlife in California. Point Reyes wildlife includes bobcats, coyotes, tule elk, owls, badgers, elephant seals, whales, assorted raptors, weasels, badgers, foxes, barn swallows, hawks, ospreys. The most popular is watching the native Tule elk roaming in this picturesque and pastoral landscape and grasslands.
Tomales Point (Pierce Point) is located at the northern end of Point Reyes National Seashore, it’s a popular destination for visitors wishing to view tule elk, birds, birds and wildflowers. The historic Pierce Point Ranch offers a glimpse into the early dairy ranching days on the peninsula.
Black bears were historically present in the Point Reyes area but by 1901, they were extinct from the area
Top Point Reyes Hiking Areas & Loops
Best Hiking Trails in Point Reyes Bear Valley trail is the most popular hike in the park. From the visitor’s center, the trail follows streams through a shaded, fern-laden canyon, and breaks out at Divide Meadow before it heads downward to the coast and then emerges at the spectacular ocean-view at Arch Rock. Three trails, connecting from the west with the Bear Valley trail, head upward toward Mt. Wittenberg which, at 1,407 feet, is the highest point in the park. Across the parking lot at the visitor’s center is a 0.97 km loop that runs directly over the San Andreas Fault and a 0.6-mile earthquake trail deep underground, so that when standing, visitors straddle the fault line. On this fault line, you can observe details of the surrounding geology. Earthquake Trail: (0.6 miles)
Chimney Rock Trail: Length: 1.9 mi • Est. 57 m. An easy walk from the parking lot to the elephant seals vista point. It can be very windy sometimes, go early.
Here the top hikes in Point Reyes
Laguna-Coast Loop (5 miles)
Woodward Valley Loop (13 miles)
Alamere Falls via Coast Trail from Palomarin Trailhead: Length: 12.2 mi • Est. 5 h 53 m
Tomales Point Trail: Length: 9.4 mi • Est. 4 h 35 m
Bear Valley Trail to Coastal Trail: Length: 10.0 mi • Est. 4 h 7 m
Coast Trail to Bass Lake/ Coast Trail to Wildcat Camp: Length: 11.1 mi • Est. 5 h 40 m
Laguna Trail and Coast Trail Loop: Length: 6.0 mi • Est. 2 h 45 m
Muddy Hollow, Coast Trail, Sky Trail, Laguna Trail: Length: 12.4 mi • Est. 6 h 2 m. This is a very long-day hike and can begging for some hikers.
Sunset Beach Trail: Length: 7.5 mi • Est. 3 h 37 m
Abbotts Lagoon Trail: Length: 3.6 mi – Est. 1 h 34 m. A great spot to hike to a quiet beach if you have time as it takes longer to get to the beach.
Point Reyes Station and Cowgirl Creamery
Point Reyes Station is a charming historic village, it’s part of the Point Reyes National Seashore, has become a travel destination to rejuvenate amid a virtually untouched landscape.
The tiny coastal town of Point Reyes Station is located on California Coast highway 1 between Stinson Beach and Bodega Bay. There is a winery nearby, organic products and laidback farms. Cowgirl Creamery is the most famous shop in town, it celebrates the region’s organic dairy producers. Their organic, award-winning cheese is delicious. The shop features a carefully curated selection of the best of artisan goods and cheese-centric dishes for you to enjoy.
Mount Tamalpais State Park Top Things to Do
Established in 1963, Mount Tamalpais State Park is one of the Bay Area’s open space treasures and hidden gems. Mount Tamalpais State Park is on the finest parks and attractions of Marin County. These 2,571 feet (784 m) state park contains mostly redwood, fir, laurel trees, Manzanitas, pines, and oak forests. The mountain itself covers around 25,000 acres (100 km2). There are about 60 miles (97 km) of hiking trails, which are connected to a larger, 200 miles (320 km) network of trails in neighboring public lands leading to Mount Tamalpais.
From the peak of Mount Tamalpais, visitors can see up to 50 miles around and a 360-degree sweeping views of San Francisco Bay Area and the Farallon Islands. Occasionally, the Sierra Nevada are visible, 125 miles (201 km) away.
The scenic drive on the panoramic highway takes you all the way up Mount Tamalpais State Park, the highest point in Marin County and offers spectacular views of the San Francisco Bay and Pacific Ocean. Your guide will then drive you through Marin County’s scenic backroads and guide you on beautiful off-the-beaten-path hiking trails. These hiking trails are suitable for the entire family; however, you may choose not to participate in the hiking and instead, enjoy views from the parking lot and overlooks along the way. This new outdoor adventure is highly recommended for nature lovers, photographs, and families. The views from the top of Mount Tamalpais State Park are breathtaking!
Thanks to Mount Tamalpais breathtaking views, the park attracts day-trippers from all over the Bay Area, hikers, bikers, campers, nature lover and photographers!
Did you know that there was once a Railway connecting Mount Tamalpais and Muir Woods? Mount Tamalpais and Muir Woods Railway was a thrilling and scenic tourist railway operating between Mill Valley and the east peak of Mount Tamalpais in Marin County covering a distance of 8.19 miles (13.18 km), with a 2.88-mile (4.63 km) spur line to the Muir Woods. The railroad was powered by a succession of geared steam locomotives and billed as the “Crookedest Railroad in the World,” the line was renowned for its steep and serpentine route, winding through picturesque terrain to a mountaintop tavern providing first-class hospitality and panoramic views of the San Francisco Bay Area. Despite its popularity, the railway met its demise following a fire in 1929. The railroad was incorporated in January 1896 and closed in the summer of 1930.
Popular attractions and hiking trails nearby Mount Tamalpais State Park:
Alpine Dam: Alpine Dam is a gravity dam which was completed in 1917. It is 524 feet long and 143 feet high, with 8 feet of freeboard. It’s located between Mount Tamalpais State Park and Fairfax in Marin County. Alpine Dam to the west of Bon Tempe Lake has formed Alpine Lake which provides water to the Marin Municipal Water District. Below the dam, lies Kent Lake. Fishing is allowed and Largemouth Bass, Smallmouth Bass, and trout can be caught. Boats are not allowed on this lake.
Hiking: Kent trail along Alpine Lake: A trail that takes place just off the shores of Alpine Lake, up through a redwood forest onto a manzanita-covered ridge with great views. −Distance: 5.2-mile lollipop loop −Difficulty: Moderate −Dogs: Allowed on leash
Dell Landing loop: Great hike in winter! 1st 1.4 miles is pretty much straight up with several beautiful waterfalls. Lots of stone steps. You arrive at Dell Landing and then can continue up a more gradual walk through a large meadow and the wonderful sound from streams.
Caston Falls: A great waterfall and a nice trail for hikers to explore. The hiking trail is about 1 to 1.5 miles one way and follows a creek up and over a hill to the other side to the waterfall. The waterfall descends a canyon and consists of a tier of multiple waterfalls. The views of the surrounding landscape are incredible.
Bon Tempe Lake Trailhead: Bon Tempe trailhead offers short and easy hikes too. A 2 1/2-mile loop around Bon Tempe Lake is a good choice for beginners. The trail around Bon Tempe Lake is a peaceful, woodsy perimeter loop that is mostly shaded and provides excellent views of the lake throughout.
Cascade Canyon Open Space Preserve Trail Head: 504 acres of pristine habitat in the Corte Madera Creek watershed. Check out the Cascade Falls that drops 20 feet. Cataract Falls: Series of small, scenic waterfalls in a forest setting, reachable via a moderate, dirt-trail hike. Cataract Falls is one of the finest hikes in the area after. Cataract Trailhead is a continuous literal waterfall for most of the trail with beautiful flora and fauna on this hike. Watch out, it’s steep at points and even slippery when it’s wet.
Visit Fairfax in Marin County
Nestled in forested hills just sixteen miles north of San Francisco, a visit to Fairfax is like a breath of fresh air. You’ll find miles of unspoiled open space, thriving independent shops, restaurants and music venues, and a community that prides itself on retaining its quirky, small-town atmosphere.
The genial, sunny climate makes outdoor activities here a natural choice, and you can explore the area on foot, horse, or bicycle. It’s no coincidence that Fairfax is home to the Marin Museum of Bicycling, a friendly bike culture–center right downtown. Here you can check out the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame, smack dab in the area where the sport was invented back in the ’60s.
At night, live music is everywhere. Many world-renowned musicians call Fairfax home, and on any given night, you’ll find local and national touring acts jamming in a relaxed, at-home environment. There’s something for every visitor to enjoy in crunchy, laid-back Fairfax.
Marin Headlands Overlook
Marin Headlands is a crown jewel of the Golden Gate National Parks abounding with places of natural wonder and beauty. Headlands are famous for their majestic and sweeping views of San Francisco Bay, especially of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Known for its unique geology, its fog-swept coastal prairie ecosystem, and many chapters of history, the Marin Headlands has a lot of diversity in the stories it holds. Dramatic cliffs of oceanic rock offer sweeping views of the Golden Gate Bridge, and the foghorn frequently resounds over the misty lagoon and rolling hills of coyote brush and sage.
Marin Headlands’ human history is long and layered – originating with the Coast Miwok peoples who have lived here for thousands of years and evolving to become a hotspot for coastal defense through the Cold War. Today, international and local visitors, jr. rangers, hikers, surfers, students, birders, geologists, historians, and researchers.
Nestled at the foot of Mount Tamalpais and extending to the marshland surrounding Richardson Bay, Mill Valley has the charm of a small European village and elegant American small-town style.
This charming community of Mill Valley is located only 5 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge in Marin County and is characterized by its scenic views, marshlands, wooded canyons, and strong artistic heritage. Home to former musicians, authors, actors, poets and TV personalities like John Lennon, Sammy Hagar, Janis Joplin, Jack London, Kathleen Quinlan, Michael Tucker, Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Eve Arden, and Mariel Hemingway. It is also home to the Mill Valley Film Festival and was immortalized by the song “Mill Valley” (recorded in 1970).
In July 2005, CNN ranked Mill Valley tenth on its list of the “10 Best Places to live in the United States!”. Tamalpais High School is located in Mill Valley and is named after Mount Tamalpais State Park, which stands 2,500 feet high. Former students include Joe DeMaestri, Daniel Caldwell, Signy Coleman, Tupac Shakur, and actress Kathleen Quinlan who began her acting career in George Lucas’ “American Graffiti” (filmed in the school’s gym). Other notable people who live, or have lived in Marin County are Barbara Boxer, Andre Agassi, George Lucas, and Carlos Santana.
Marin Cheese Trail – French Cheese Factory
Marin County is known for its Marin Cheese Trail , open to visitors to experience the delights of western Marin County’s distinctive, hand-crafted cheeses. The Marin French Cheese Company is one of best stops along the cheese trail, it’s a manufacturer of artisan cheese located in rural west Marin County, California. The company was founded in 1865 .
Nearby is located Nicasio Valley where you may visit Nicasio Cheese Company as well. It’s also well known for its organic, farmstead cheeses and pasture fed, free-range eggs.
Nicasio Square is only a few miles away and has restaurant and minimarket offering a heady aroma of bacon and sautéed garlic with an earthy undertone and a slightly crunchy texture near the rind. You may want to check out Point Reyes Station cheese and creamery as well.
Rodeo Beach and Lagoon
Rodeo Beach is a beach located within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area located in Marin County, two miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge. Part of the beach is sheltered by cliffs and is known for its dark and pebbly sand. This hidden gem is a popular place for surfing , sunbathing, and for viewing birds and wildlife.
Rodeo Beach is unique among California beaches because it’s largely made-up of coarse and pebbly chert grains – both red and green in color. Its mineral composition sets it apart from every other beach in the state. Surfing is possible throughout the year and at all tidal stages but is best in summer – although there is a risk of shark attacks.
Due to the North bar offshore of this beach it results in big waves in the winter months with the big swells that come in. Strong currents make swimming dangerous.
The beach features free entrance, free parking, wheelchair-accessible public restrooms, showers, and picnic tables. Dogs are allowed but must be leashed or voice controlled.
China Camp State Park
China Camp State Park is a state park in Marin County, California, surrounding a historic Chinese American shrimp-fishing village and a salt marsh. The park is located near San Rafael, in Marin County on the shore of San Pablo Bay. It is known for its hiking and mountain biking trails, scenic views, and open spaces.
The 1,514-acre (613 ha) park was established in 1976. A 75-acre (30 ha) district, including the shrimping village and a prehistoric shell midden, were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979 for having state-level significance in archaeology, architecture, commerce, settlement, and social history. China Camp State Park, along with the Rush Ranch Open Space Preserve, is part of the San Francisco Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve.
This park is a pleasant destination to stop for a picnic, beach activities and short-day hikes.
In popular culture: The Chinese fishing village at China Camp was used extensively in the filming of the 1955 movie Blood Alley, starring John Wayne as a captain in the United States Merchant Marine who rescues Chinese refugees from Communist China and transports them to British Hong Kong.
In 2018, China Camp was used as a filming location for the Netflix drama, 13 Reasons Why. The park has also been used as a filming location for the 2012 HBO television film, Hemingway and Gellhorn.
Visit Sausalito and its Houseboats Community – a Mediterranean-Style Coastal Town
Sausalito is a charming Mediterranean-style coastal town, filled with history, culture, and beautiful waterfront shops.
Among top rated attractions and things to see in Sausalito include the ferry ride from Sausalito to San Francisco, Sausalito Visitors Center, the Plaza Viña del Mar Fountain and Park, Fort Baker National Park and Bay Area Discovery Museum, San Francisco Bay/Delta Model, shopping and waterfront restaurants, and Sausalito Art Festival.
For magnificent views of San Francisco, Alcatraz, and Angles Island, take a stroll from the center of town along Bridgeway – this scenic pathway features old shops boutiques, old-fashioned streetlamps, wine tasting rooms, antiques stores, candy stores and seafood restaurants. This waterfront pathway runs through Sausalito downtown regardless of where you drive from or to.
Sausalito houseboat community
While Sausalito is known as an upscale quaint and charming coastal town dotted with hillside luxury mansions, Sausalito I s also home to a houseboat community which consists of more than 400 houseboats. They were first perceived as a “hippie houseboat community and funky style floating houseboats. Today, Sausalito houseboats are still home to communities of artists and they are respected.
The of the waterfront near the houseboats provides inspiration to painters, photographers, and sculptors.
Many of the houseboats are colorful and stylish , they feature whimsical exterior decor, with potted plants and artwork displayed on the decks. The two most interesting houseboat communities are the Galilee Harbor and Waldo Point Harbor.
It was in a houseboat at Waldo Point here where the singer Otis Redding wrote his famous “Dock of the Bay” song in 1967: ” I’m sittin’ on the dock of the bay – Watching the ships roll in…the tide rolls away – I left my home in Georgia – Headed for the ‘Frisco bay – Just to make this dock my home.” This peaceful houseboat community is inspiring for all artists.
Brief History: The houseboats have been part of Sausalito’s waterfront since the 1880s, when they were used as warm-weather recreational boats and then pulled ashore during winter.
After WWII and during the era of peace and love in the 1960s, the houseboats began to attract a free-spirited bohemian crowd, and became a vibrant community for artists and writers.
Other attractions and things to do in Sausalito
The Sausalito boardwalk is a beautiful stretch of this coastal charming town featuring several locally owned, Art galleries, shops and restaurants. There are also amazing views of the San Francisco city skyline from Sausalito. Sausalito gets very busy during the summer, but it’s well worth a visit.
Take a ferry ride across the San Francisco Bay: There are 2 main ferry companies that provide bay cruises and day excursion services in the San Francisco Bay as well as ferry services to Angel Island, Tiburon, and Sausalito. The ferry rides to and from San Francisco to Sausalito last approximately between a half and one full hour. You can book your tickets in advance online. You can also buy the ferry tickets at Pier 41 or on the Sausalito side of the bay. A one-way fare is $12.50 for adults, $7.50 for seniors, and $7.50 for children between 5 and 12 years old. The ferry is free for children below 5 years of age.
Consider taking a bike ride across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco to Sausalito, visit Muir Woods, visit Tiburon, Fort Baker, the Bay Area Discovery Museum, Marine Mammal Center, Napa Valley or the Golden Gate Bridge and Marin Headlands,
Top Restaurants and Dinning Options in Sausalito
Scoma’s Of Sausalito
- Bar Bocce
- Poggio Trattoria
- Salito’s Crab House & Prime Rib
- Seafood Peddler
- Angelino Restaurant
- The Spinnaker
- Le Garage
- Fish and Chips Sausalito
- Sushi Ran
- Napa Valley Burger Company
- Venice Gourmet
- Lappert’s Ice Cream
- Fred’s Coffee Shopchalan
- Lappert’s Ice Cream
- Sausalito Bakery & Café
- Lighthouse Breakfast & Lunch
- Salsalito Taco Shop
- Copita Tequileria y Comida
- Fish Restaurant
- Saylor’s Restaurant & Bar
- Barrel House Tavern
- Taste of Rome
- Farley Bar
- Aurora Ristorante Italiano
- Bayside Cafe
- Murray Circle
Samuel P. Taylor State Park Attractions & Activities
Samuel Taylor State Park is nestled in a lush redwood-filled gorge in the steep rolling hills of Marin County, between Point Reyes Station and Fairfax in Marin County. This remote state park of coastal redwoods offers a shady picnic area, drive-in camping, and east to challenging trails that climb the grassy woody hills to see older redwood trees and views of Reyes National Seashore.
The park is named for Samuel Penfield Taylor, who found gold during the California Gold Rush and used some of his money to buy a parcel of land along Lagunitas Creek.
Samuel P. Taylor State Park includes 2,882 acres of dense wooded countryside along the steep rolling hills and towering redwoods alongside Papermill Creek. The park offers visitors a wide range of activities and places of interest. Hike among the redwoods along Lagunitas creek or hike up to one of the best viewpoints in Marin County atop Barnabe Peak.
Samuel P. Taylor State Park also has a campground known as Camp Taylor which has 51 family campsites in two loops – Orchard Hill and Creek. Campsites are among the redwoods and many are close to a nice stream. Twenty-nine of the sites can accommodate RVs, trailer, and tents, while 22 sites are designated for tents only. They also have 7 Group Campsites, smaller ones on the campground loops and others at Madrone Group Camp and at nearby Devil’s Gulch. An equestrian camp is included there.
More Information: campsites, hiking and picnicking:
Most of the park’s campsites lie beneath majestic redwoods, with a few (at Devil’s Gulch and Madrone) under oaks and bay laurel at the bottom of Barnabe Peak. Newly built cabins are also available. Reservations are highly recommended for regular campsites every day during peak season and on weekends year-round. Reservations are also recommended year-round for group sites and cabins. Please note that the Creekside Loop is off of reservations from December 1 thru February 22, 2019. The Creekside Loop will be available for reservations effective February 23rd 2018. The Orchard Hill Loop remains on reservations year-round.
Samuel P. Taylor State Park’s 2,882 acres offer shady strolls through the stately redwoods along Lagunitas Creek as well as exhilarating hikes to the top of Barnabe Peak, one of the best viewpoints in Marin County.
You can camp among redwoods, bike along the creek, explore easy-to-moderate hiking trails, watch salmon spawn, relax in the shady picnic area, and learn the story of its namesake pioneer. When you’ve finished all that, more adventures await just next door at Point Reyes National Seashore.
Wheelchair-accessible South Creek Trail winds 1.5 miles through a fern-filled forest on the banks of Lagunitas Creek. In the rainy season, you might see spawning salmon and flowers such as fetid adder’s tongue, giant trillium, and redwood sorrel along the way. Creek access is closed from December 1st through June 15th each year to protect the spawning salmon and their offspring.
The partly paved Cross Marin Trail bike path runs along Lagunitas Creek about three miles through the park. Nearly level, it follows the old North Pacific Coast Railroad right-of-way into the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. It’s the park’s only dog-friendly trail.
The park lies 15 miles west of San Rafael on Sir Francis Drake Boulevard. Fees apply for day use, camping, and cabin rentals. To camp or picnic, use the Camp Taylor entrance. To hike up Devil’s Gulch, park one mile west of Camp Taylor (in a large pullout on the left) and walk across Sir Francis Drake Boulevard.
Weather: Samuel P. Taylor State Park enjoys a mild climate, varying from dense fog and rain to full sun. Summer and spring are usually 10 degrees cooler than in San Rafael. Fall and winter can be cold, with overnight lows around freezing and frequent rainfall. (Weather readings for the park are taken from Barnabe Peak and do not always reflect the cooler, damper climate of the campground and picnic area in the redwood forest.) Layered clothing is best.
Angel Island State Park and things to Do & See
Angel Island State Park is a 740-acre mountainous island that sits in the middle of San Francisco Bay.
Angel Island State Park is a spectacular cultural and historic landmark, located only a short ferry ride away from Tiburon and Alcatraz Island. San Francisco Angel Island State Park is known as the Ellis Island of the West.
Today, you can go hiking on the island, tour its old military posts, visit the Immigration Station, and get some of the best views of San Francisco and Treasure Island.
Angel Island State Park offers a variety of activities including hiking, biking, camping, picnicking. The state park on Angel Island is open daily except during the pandemic and park closure. The cafe and bike rentals are open and tram tours run daily from April through October. Reservations are not required, but advance ferry tickets are a good idea on weekends and in summer. A day-use fee for the park included in all ferry tickets. The annual state park day-use pass doesn’t work at Angel Island State Park.
The best time to go is spring through fall when the tours are running, and the cafe is open. Go on a clear day for the best views of San Francisco. COVID-19 may change all that. Check the park website for more information.
Brief history: Angel Island is an island in San Francisco Bay. Originally the home of a military installation, the island now offers the public picturesque views of the San Francisco skyline, the Marin County Headlands and Mount Tamalpais. The entire island is included within Angel Island State Park, administered by
California State Parks. The island, a California Historical Landmark, has been used for a variety of purposes, including military forts, a US Public Health Service quarantine station, and a US Bureau of Immigration inspection and detention facility. The Angel Island Immigration Station, on the northeast corner of the island, which has been designated a National Historic Landmark, was where officials detained, inspected, and examined approximately one million immigrants, who primarily came from Asia. Under the Chinese Exclusion act of 1882, the first U.S. law to restrict a group of immigrants based on their race, nationality, and class, all arriving Chinese immigrants were to be examined by immigration or customs agents.
Marine Mammal Center near Rodeo Beach
The Marine Mammal Center was established in 1975 for the purpose of rescuing, rehabilitating and releasing marine mammals who are injured, ill or abandoned. It was founded in Sausalito, California, by Lloyd Smalley, Pat Arrigoni and Paul Maxwell.
Since 1975, it has rescued over 23,000 marine mammals. It also serves as a center for environmental research and education regarding marine mammals, namely cetaceans (whales, dolphins, and porpoises), pinnipeds (seals, fur seals, walruses and sea lions), otters and sirenians (manatees and dugongs). Marine mammal abandonment refers to maternal separation; pups that have been separated from their mother before weaning. At the center, they receive specialized veterinary care: they are diagnosed, treated, rehabilitated and ideally, released back into the wild. Animals in need of assistance are usually identified by a member of the public who has contacted the center.
These animals represent the following major species: California sea lions, northern elephant seals, Pacific harbor seals, northern fur seals and southern sea otters.