Inverness & Inverness Park, California

Judge James Shafter, whose sharp-eyed family wound up with the Point Reyes peninsula following California statehood, subdivided the wooded west shore of Tomales Bay in 1889 to recover some railroading losses. Inverness – Shafter was a Scotsman – served as a summer town from the start, a magnet for many of the Bay Area’s comfortable set and later, refugees from the 1906 San Francisco earthquake who unknowingly relocated atop the same, mischievous San Andreas Fault. Over time, Inverness has also drawn its share of artists and academicians.

A high percentage of the homes remain with their original families. One can find Shafter descendants, as well as the grand-nephew of the last tsar of Russia, plus heirs to this or that fortune that was gained generations before dot.com Monopoly money.

Many old-timey traditions survive: swimming lessons at Shell Beach (at the end of Camino del Mar), a full calendar of sailing races in summer, foot races on July 4, and in early spring, the garden club’s Primrose Tea. To walk the shady lanes under a canopy of bay, oak, and pine, is to sense a bygone era of endless family picnics, with kids meeting up to adventure in the woods or camp on the beach – an era, observes local writer John Grissim, which if it didn’t exist, it certainly should have.

For the visitor, Inverness marks the last settlement before entering the mass of the Point Reyes National Seashore, 72,000 acres of wilderness and beach and ranchland from which one can still see San Francisco.

The Inverness Library on Inverness Way houses the Jack Mason Museum in the former home of the West Marin historian. Museum hours match the libraries, which are patchy, although it’s easy enough to get an appointment to see Mason’s archives. The number to call for information is (415) 669-1099.

The Inverness Ridge presents dozens of choices for lodging. Offerings range from the minimal – the youth hostel in the Point Reyes National Seashore – to well-established and highly ranked bed-and-breakfasts, which draw birders or whalewatchers or wedding-goers throughout the year. Eating out, too, comes in several styles, from take-out deli sandwiches to wine and candlelight.