Whenever we are looking to let loose of all week’s responsibilities and take a break from the city, Tomales Bay is our last minute getaway. Within 30 minutes drive from San Francisco is a whole remoteness to connect with nature. The drive itself is beautiful through the coastal landscapes, diverse habitats from redwood forest to rolling hills to postcard perfect grasslands and grazing cows. It’s so gorgeous that at every turn I am tempted to stop for a picture. The best time to visit is the spring when the hills are dotted with wildflowers that make my heart flutter.
Things to do in Tomales Bay
The drive to Tomales Bay is through the small towns of Point Reyes Station and Inverness. Point Reyes Station downtown is the perfect first stop to pick a cuppa morning coffee and some freshly baked croissants from Toby’s Coffee Bar. The Cowgirl Creamery HQ, a restored former hay barn is a cheese heaven. They also have guided cheese tasting tour for just $5 per person, cheap deal!
Horseback riding in Five Brooks Ranch is one of my favorite activity in the area. We did this on my birthday and decided to return every year since. They take you on guided or private horse rides through the forested mountain trail, grassy meadows, and coastal beaches. 1 hr $40, 2 hrs – $60, and so on. Highly recommend.
From the ranch you can hike to the uniquely wonderful Almera waterfalls (~8.4 miles roundtrip) is a must. The sight of the falls flowing from a rocky cliff into the white sand of the ocean is a treat to the eyes.
Point Reyes is incomplete without a visit to the picturesque lightHouse. Point Reyes Lighthouse is perched on a cliff overlooking the ocean. It is most popular during whale migration season Dec-April. To get to the lighthouse be prepared to climb a flight of few hundred stairs but the view is gorgeous.
While driving to Point Reyes LightHouse calls for a quick stop at the much-photographed Cypress Tree Tunnel. This tunnel of giant Monterey cypress lining the entrance of Pt Reyes Marconi Station looks magnificent and is especially jaw-dropping during sunrise or sunset.
Visit Heidrun Meadery meadery for tasting its light refreshing champagne-style mead with unique flavors of honey and floral mixes from its own apicultural farm. Interesting to see how honey from bees pollinating different flowers effects taste. The ground is romantic with flowers, beehives, and picnic tables. A tasting is $15,tasting + tour is $25. Make your reservation in advance for the tour. Open 11:00 AM – 4:00 PM weekdays except for Tue.
The iconic Shipwreck fishing boat is another quick pull-over for a picture. It’s located behind the Inverness grocery store. How interesting it is to see the rustic boat so perfectly abandoned amidst the grassy wetland for years. It makes me wonder how it got there in the 1st place.
Hike an easy 2.5 mile through the Abbott’s Lagoon. The trail’s changing landscape keeps it interesting as you cross through marshy grassland, the Abbott lagoon, viewing a ton of wildlife, then past soft sand dunes up until the quiet beach pops at the end.
3 miles north of Abbott’s is another secluded Kehoe beach. It’s a short 0.6 miles walk from the roadside parking through beautiful grass and wildflowers.
If you are obsessed with wildflowers like me, the Tomales Point trail cannot be missed! This trail is undoubtedly one of the best and most scenic hikes in Pacific coast/Bay area. It’s 10 miles round trip (4-5 hours), lengthy but with moderate ups and downs through the rolling hills. Gorgeous scenery with ocean cliffs and crashing waves on one side, abundance wildflowers during spring (Apr-May), variety of wildlife sightings along the way (note- this place is also an Elk reserve!!) …. what more can you wish for. It feels like a scene out of National Geographic to see the majestic elks at such close proximity. Parking is near the historic ranch. Come prepared with layered clothing as it is quite windy here.
Where to eat in Tomales Bay
Try cheese at Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company, especially their famous Point Reyes Original Blue. Also, this place offers farm dinners, cheese/wine tasting and farm tour for which you need to buy tickets online in advance.
Point Reyes Station and Inverness have few great places to eat. My favorite is the Saltwater Oyster Depot in Inverness. Love the freshness of their food and crisp white coastal decor. It’s a great stop for quick snacks after a long hike in Point Reyes.
Head further north to Nick’s Cove or The Marshall Store right on Highway1, perched on the edge of the water have the best view to watch the sunset with sweeping panoramic vistas of Tomales Bay while enjoying some fresh oysters and a glass of wine or beer.
Where to stay on a budget in Tomales Bay
- Motel Inverness, rates starting at $145
- Point Reyes Hostel, a ranch house with its own private beach right on the National Seashore. Private rooms start at $105