West Marin South
Muir Beach, Stinson Beach & Bolinas
A day in West Marin’s southern stretches— Muir Beach to Bolinas—is about walking, weather and eating, so start with three things: comfy shoes, layered clothes and an appetite. Begin when Muir Woods opens at 8 a.m. You’ll have a tourist-free meander through the redwoods. Caffeinate at the Muir Woods café, then go south on Highway 1 to Muir Beach. Encamp under the cliffs at the north end. Break out the books and the iPod. Stay until hunger sets in.
Head up Highway 1 and enjoy the westward views. Avoid the temptation to stop in Stinson Beach. You’ll be back. Just north of Stinson, look for harbor seals sunning on Pickleweed Island in Bolinas Lagoon.
At the end of the lagoon, take the unmarked left toward Bolinas. On the way into town, look for the towering poplars that mark the organic fields of Star Route Farms.
Downtown, answer that call of thirst with an icy draft at Smiley’s Saloon, one of California’s oldest taverns. Next, cross the street to the Coast Cafe for a local-food lunch. Afterwards, stroll to the Bolinas Museum, then along the wharf to Bolinas Beach, which offers an expansive look at your next destination: Stinson Beach.
At Stinson, park in the big free lot. Zip over to the adjacent Parkside Snack Bar for a soft ice cream cone, then burn some calories by trekking a mile to the north stub of the sand, where the Bolinas Lagoon meets the sea.
Back in town, cruise the galleries and shops (don’t miss the Live Water Surf Shop and Stinson Beach Books), then head to the Sand Dollar for dinner.
Eat (slowly), imbibe (judiciously) and leave in time for the southward drive on Highway 1 and a sunset show at Muir Overlook’s precarious promontory. A perfect place to end a West Marin day.
West Marin can be fogbound, especially in summer. No worries—here’s how to make a gray day shine. Have a pint of London Pride and a warm ham-and-cheese toasty at the very British Pelican Inn in Muir Beach. Disappear into the Sandtray Room of Self-Discovery at the Healing Arts Center in Stinson. Eat blueberry pancakes for breakfast at the Parkside. Get spooky in the Bolinas Cemetery, Marin’s oldest (Horseshoe Hill and Olema-Bolinas roads).
West Marin South Top 5
1 Coast Cafe Fresh fish and chips. Salads with greens from Paradise Valley. Burgers with Niman Ranch beef (from just up the road). Sit in the sunny courtyard or inside by the fireplace. bolinascafe.com
2 Bolinas Museum Coastal culture on display in restored waterfront buildings. Fine art, photography, sculpture and history exhibitions from local artists.
3 Parkside Snack Bar Before you can see the Parkside Snack Bar in Stinson, you can smell it—burgers, dogs and fries served to go. Eat ’em standing up, or sit in the park across the street. parksidecafe.com
4 Live Water Surf Shop Get beach-ready with flip-flops, big-brimmed sun hats and a colorful T-shirt, or rent a wet suit ($10) and a board ($20). livewatersurfshop.com
5 Sand Dollar Stinson’s oldest and liveliest restaurant. Do the deck on a sunny day with fresh oysters and steak frites. Or, chill in the bar with libations mixed by local boy Zeek Dierks.
Did You Know?
• Stinson Beach was first called Willow Camp.
• Part of Basic Instinct was filmed at Stinson Beach.
• Bolinas Lagoon sits atop the San Andreas Fault.
• William Kent paid $45,000 for Muir Woods.
• Muir Beach population: 300