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 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.

"The national seashore begins 25 miles from the Golden Gate Bridge, and it must drive developers crazy to see it just lying there, virtually empty. Its natural state is a tribute to former President John F. Kennedy, who declared that the peninsula should be saved as a national treasure. He set aside nearly 80,000 acres for public use. The largest town at the edge of the park, Point Reyes Station, consists of a couple of dozen buildings that line both sides of Route 1."

- Washington Post

"Take the roads less traveled on this coastal road trip. From San Francisco, head north to discover secret wine country, driftwood strewn beaches and romantic coastal hamlets like Mendocino. Escape to cosy B&Bs and exclusive inns, paddle along a secret river, watch the horizon for spouting whales and watch the fog roll in at sunset."

- Visit California

"Making the world your oyster in Marshall (
West Marin's coastal landscape, dominated by grazing land, dairy farms and the vast Point Reyes National Seashore, is the antithesis of the county's affluent inland cities. Marshall, at the north end of Tomales Bay, is where Marin's dairy industry started. Today, though, its fortunes rest with mollusks – about half the state's shellfish producers grow oysters, clams and mussels on the bay floor here. Buy them along the road to take home or rent a picnic spot to shuck and grill them yourself (shucking lessons available on request). Or splurge on a night or two in one of the impeccable stilted cottages over the bay water at Nick's Cove, which includes oysters upon arrival and has an oyster bar in the restaurant."

- SF Chronicle

" Stinson Beach, California - As with most West Coast shores, the hunting on Stinson Beach doesn't compare with that along the Gulf. Still, this beach just north of San Francisco does supply limpet shells and sand dollars―plus lots of surfers, a couple of nice seafood restaurants nearby, rugged natural beauty, and endearing small-town quirkiness."

- Coastal Living

From Travel & Leisure Magazine

Sun worshippers ready to escape San Francisco’s foggy wrath tend to fall back on familiar options, like the lovable but insanely crowded Stinson Beach to the north, or Santa Cruz’s classic boardwalk to the south. This Memorial Day, veer ever-so-slightly from the beaten track for these alluring, under-the-radar beach town alternatives:


Just 10 miles up the coast from its touristy neighbor Point Reyes Station, Marshall lures locals for its water-to-table fare and panoramic views of Tomales Bay. Watch fisherman haul in buckets of fresh shellfish from your perch on the sprawling deck at Nick’s Cove restaurant, or buy a sack of buttery-briny kumamoto oysters at Hog Island Oyster Co. and shuck them yourself at their bayside BYOP (Bring Your Own Picnic) tables.


Notoriously reclusive residents and unmarked roads deter the masses from Bolinas, leaving its enchanting beach and meandering coastal trails pleasantly void of Memorial Day crowds. Two Mile Surf Shop provides surfboard rentals for cruising the beach break, or trek one of Northern California’s most photogenic coastal hikes by following the Palomarin Trailhead at the end of Mesa Road to the remote and swimmable Bass Lake.