Olema, California

Gateway to the Point Reyes National Seashore: Some 110 or so former Miwok Indian settlements have been identified on the Point Reyes peninsula alone, so its perhaps appropriate that the so-called “gateway” town to the National Seashore carries a Miwok name – Olema – which means coyote.

In the late 1800s, when logging was king on the Inverness ridge, Olema was a raunchy row of cardrooms, saloons and establishments of even lesser repute. It would never grow bigger.

In 1874, the narrow gauge North Pacific Coast Railroad was laid to the north, bypassing the old stage road and giving rise to what’s now Point Reyes Station. Olema’s nightlife, however, remained raucous because Galen Burdell, Point Reyes Station’s first developer, allowed only one bar in his new town.

There’s still plenty of history around. At the corner of Sir Francis Drake Boulevard and Highway 1, the Olema Inn and restaurant dates to the area’s original Spanish land grantee, Rafael Garcia, who opened the establishment on July 4, 1876 (his son later gambled it away).

These days Olema has a few shops, two restaurants, a lodge, several bed and breakfasts, a large campground, and a large retreat for the Vedanta Society. Also, the Bear Valley Visitor Center, a quarter-mile from town on Bear Valley Road, provides a standard starting point for a visit to the federal park. Inside the center are exhibits and books for sale. Outside are picnic tables, a Morgan horse ranch, and Kule Loklo, a reconstructed Miwok village.

The short Earthquake trail, which is wheelchair accessible, loops out from the visitor center parking lot to a large rupture in the ground left from the 1906 earthquake. Lore has it that during the great quake, a cow in the Olema Valley fell into a crevasse. What is known for sure is that the “San Francisco Earthquake” was centered in Olema. Indeed, Olema Valley and Tomales Bay continuing north sit uneasily atop the San Andreas Fault, where the earth’s North American Plate and Pacific Plate argue with each other and occasionally come to blows.

Rising west from the visitor center is the Bear Valley Trail, with it’s leasurely climb to Divide Meadow and slow drop to Arch Rock at the riotous Pacific Ocean.

"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 (www.pointreyes.org/marshall-marin-county.html)
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.