8 Best Beaches for a Marin Picnic; Plus, Where to Get Supplies Nearby

There are few things Marinites love more than the combination of the great outdoors and amazing local food, so why not plan a picnic at one of our stunning local beaches? Here are our recommendations for where to picnic on the coast, and where to pick up provisions.

China Camp Beach

This former Chinese-American shrimp fishing village is now not only an interesting historic site but a lovely place to  picnic. Conveniently located not far outside San Rafael in China Camp State Park, the beach also has the advantage of being sheltered from the wind, and on warm days, San Pablo Bay makes for an ideal swimming hole.

Amenities: Picnic tables, barbecue grills, fire pits, restrooms, water fountains, snack bar

Parking: $5

Ayala Cove

Angel Island State Park makes up the largest natural island in the San Francisco Bay, offering views, hiking trails and more. A former Miwok Indian hunting ground, quarantine site and immigration station, it has a storied history to match. The main picnic area at Ayala Cove is a short walk from the ferry dock, and tables can be reserved ahead of time. There’s also places to picnic at both the immigration station and at Fort Reynolds. For supplies, the Cove Cafe hosts a barbecued oyster bar and outdoor cantina.

Amenities: Picnic tables, fire rings, charcoal grill, restrooms, water fountains

Parking: Available at ferry/boat access points in downtown Tiburon

Muir Beach

Photo by Sean Copey.

This scenic and popular beach is perfect for bonfires. There’s a marsh leading up to the secluded cove that’s brimming with wildlife. There are also lots of hiking trails inviting exploration of the headlands. Stock up on snacks at the Pelican Inn before you roll out your beach blanket.

Amenities: Picnic tables, fire pits, restrooms

Parking: Free

Paradise Beach Park

The perfect mix of spacious lawns and calm waters, Paradise Beach Park is conveniently close to Tiburon and rarely crowded. There are big grassy areas to spread out blankets or a substantial picnic and barbecue area right along the beach with a view of the pier and San Pablo Bay. While there’s nowhere to get food out here, a stop by Rustic Bakery in Tiburon on the way there will have you covered.

Amenities: Picnic tables, barbecue pits, restrooms, water fountains 

Parking: $5

Stinson Beach

Boasting both a beautiful swathe of sand and the charming town on its shores, Stinson Beach offers a perfect combination of nature and facilities for picnicking. Take in the views of the distant city and Bolinas by spreading your blanket out on the beach, or occupy one of the many picnic tables and barbecue areas for your feast. Pick up some  tasty treats at Parkside Snack Bar, Parkside Cafe or Breakers Cafe right along the beach.

Amenities: Picnic tables, barbecue grills, restrooms, water fountains, outdoor showers. 

Parking: Free

Heart’s Desire Beach

This quiet stretch of white sand with a sheltered shoreline offers a great spot to enjoy the beauty of Tomales Bay State Park in West Marin. It has a grassy area to spread out on and picnic tables as well, and if you feel inspired after a big lunch, head out on the hiking trails to Indian Beach, Pebble Beach and Shell Beach. It’s a popular beach for families with small children. Load up with picnic fare at Inverness Park Market, or get some oysters from Tomales Bay Oyster Farm.

Amenities: Picnic tables, barbecue pits, restrooms, water fountains, outdoor showers. 

Parking: $8, limited parking

Rodeo Beach

Rodeo Beach

Situated in the Marin Headlands, guarded by the former forts Barry and Cronkhite, which now serves as National Park Service facilities, this dark pebble beach is a popular spot for surfing, sunbathing and more — and the striking setting for our cover image this month! The beach is mostly sheltered by cliffs, so it makes a good spot for picnicking; the picnic areas are located adjacent to the parking area overlooking the beach and alongside Rodeo Lagoon. There’s nowhere to eat around here, but you can’t go wrong when you pick up provisions at Driver’s Market & Deli in Sausalito.

Amenities: Picnic tables, barbecue pits, restrooms, water fountains, outdoor showers 

Parking: Free

Limantour Beach

Well-known for wildlife spotting, you might see birds, harbor seals or even gray whales on this sandy stretch situated between Drakes Bay and an estuary on the Point Reyes National Seashore. Waves are calmer here with the south-facing location and shelter of the Point Reyes Peninsula. Head to the Due West Market in Olema beforehand for gourmet supplies.

Amenities: Picnic tables, barbecue grills, restrooms, water fountains, outdoor showers 

Parking: Free

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Jessica Gliddon is the Regional Content Director of Marin Magazine and Better Bay Area for Make It Better Media Group. An international writer and editor, she has worked on publications in the UK, Dubai and Cape Town. She is a graduate of UC Santa Cruz, and is the former editor of Abu Dhabi’s airline magazine, Etihad Inflight. When she’s not checking out the latest exhibit at SFMOMA or searching out the best places to eat and drink near her home in San Francisco, she volunteers at the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito.