If you haven’t been to Dillon Beach, you’re missing a treat. But getting there isn’t “half the fun.” It’s a long haul! The faster route:
take 101 to Petaluma, go left on East Washington (which becomes the Tomales-Petaluma Road) to Tomales, then jog right to Dillon Beach Road, drive another 15 minutes until, voilà, you’re there. The scenic route: Point Reyes Station to Tomales, then turn left on Dillon Beach Road.
Either way, Dillon is a different world.
Founded in the 1880s by George Dillon, Dillon Beach hasn’t seen much change since 1926, when the hamlet was promoted by Howard Lawson, of Lawsons Landing fame, as “the Family Playground of Marvelous Marin County.” Dozens of newer homes were built in the 1970s and ’80s in Oceana Marin, the residential area that sits on a hill overlooking “the village” of Dillon Beach. And if anything happens in Dillon Beach, it happens in the village—a seaside nest of twisting narrow roads, weathered picket fences, and board-and-batten beach houses painted mostly in pastels.
The village’s center of activity includes the post office and Dillon Beach Resort (dillonbeachresort.com), the town’s only business. Originally, this was the hotel that town founder Dillon had hoped to build an entire resort around. Now it is an accommodating general store with groceries and sundries, a delightful cafe for weekend meals, and three ocean-view cabins that its brochure says “are big enough for a family, perfect for a honeymoon.” As for the weather, “Sure, we have our foggy days, but we have great days too,” amiable resort manager Mike Murphy reports. “And when it’s sunny in Dillon Beach, it’s really great!”
Just down the road is Dillon Beach’s third main residential area, Lawsons Landing (they’re all fairly equal population-wise, 200 residents each). If you like Dillon Beach for its laid-back, throwback qualities, you’ll go overboard for this enclave (lawsonslanding.com). For fifty years, people (many of them weekenders from the Sacramento Valley) have been here in their trailers enjoying the rural coastal life and all it has to offer.
There is plenty of space left for all to enjoy a weekend of camping, RV life, running among incredible sand dunes, or walking, maybe clamming, on a nearby beach that’s as wide and wonderful as anything along the California coast.
As for living full time in Dillon Beach, no one does it better than Stella Logan, a longtime Marinite and a resident here for 15 years. “The interesting thing about living here is we have to be a community,” she says, sitting in the sunroom of her gracious Oceana Marin home. “We are so dependent on each other; if there’s a problem, all you have to do is pick up the phone and someone’s there to help, in minutes.” Logan and her dog Sam take regular walks on the nearby open beach, make daily stops at the Dillon Beach post office (“it’s where everyone meets”) and, as “a way of touching people,” Logan works twice a week at the general store. “We’re one big family out here,” she adds. “Dillon Beach is a very spiritual place.”
One could say it’s also a relatively inexpensive place. Frank Howard Allen’s Marian Sichel has an upgraded two-bedroom, two-bath plus bonus room home listed in the village for $748,000. And according to Karen Karlow, who works in Santa Rosa for CPS Realty but lives in Dillon Beach, “A nice little house, with two bedrooms but no ocean view,” is available for $650,000. As for the high end of the market, Karlow reports that a 3,380-square-foot home in Oceana Marin with unobstructed ocean view and seven bedrooms recently closed at $1,410,000.
“I say it’s half and half,” Karlow concludes. “Half our buyers are full-time residents, and half buy second homes so they can enjoy Dillon Beach on weekends and when it’s sunny.”
Whether for permanent living or an occasional “out-of-the-ordinary-world” experience, Dillon Beach could be your perfect place to be.
Image 2: A bait-and-tackle shop, along with a boat launch and outboard repair shed, are the only businesses serving the remote trailer park and RV campground.
Image 3: Dillon Beach has a wide and windswept beach ideal for jogging and long walks.