Nothing controversial in this column. Instead, let’s see if I can alleviate the consternation that often hits when out-of-town friends and family come calling in Marin. Sure, you can take the traditional tour through Muir Woods. Maybe all could go wandering through downtown Sausalito. Or how about riding the ferry from Tiburon to Fisherman’s Wharf and back?
Am I hearing “been there, done that?” Or “been here a while and did that several times?” Here are five Marin destinations you might not have visited, with or without East Coast relatives.
Have you been on Angel Island lately? You can now rent Segways, those electric self-balancing devices that can glide you and your visitors from Ayala Cove to the Civil War–era Camp Reynolds to the history-haunted brick buildings of Fort McDowell and on to the restoration work under way at the Chinese Immigration Station, often called the “Ellis Island of the West.”
If you prefer saving bucks (Segways are $68 for a two-hour tour), try hiking the five miles around the island; the views of the city (panoramic, bridge to bridge) and from atop Mount Livermore (360-degree sweep of the Bay Area) are spectacular. Complete information, including ferry schedules and Segway rates, is available at angelisland.org and angelisland.com.
The herons and egrets are mating at Audubon Canyon Ranch. Those spectacular wide-winged birds are at it again, nesting, incubating, hatching and raising their chicks—but only through mid-July. ACR is free-admission (donations accepted), open daily and located just north of Stinson Beach on Highway 1. A short scenic hike takes your group up to the Henderson Overlook (elev. 200), where telescopes, binoculars and docents are ready to show and tell you all that’s going on. See page 45 in this issue for more details. After your visit, maybe drive over to Bolinas and have a cold beer at the venerable Smiley’s Saloon.
China Camp Village is practically empty. Easily accessible China Camp State Park on San Pablo Bay is often called the “most overlooked park in the Bay Area,” and China Camp Village is its crown jewel. In the late 1800s it was home to about 500 villagers, most of them from Canton (now Guangzhou), China, who shrimped the local waters. Today China Camp Village is a self-guided but seldom-visited living museum featuring all the accoutrements of the shrimping trade, including nets, skiffs, shacks and a rickety-looking pier. Picnic tables abound and on weekends a tiny cafe is open. Take North San Pedro Road exit off Highway 101, drive east for five miles and look for the China Camp Village sign.
The Vedanta Retreat is a real treat. Silence, peace and serenity are in store for those who stop in at this retreat off Highway 1 in the West Marin hamlet of Olema. A spectacular eucalyptus-lined entry and spacious lawn frame a 135-year-old two-story ranch house that’s a place of meditation for women (there’s a separate retreat house for men). The surrounding fields and meadows have their own peaceful feeling. The Vedanta Retreat, aligned with the Ramakrishna Order of India, is open daily and for group meditations; call 415.922.2323.
Cavallo Point is Marin’s newest attraction. If you know your way to Fort Baker, just south of Sausalito at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge, you can find Cavallo Point. A $100 million restoration has created a lodge and spa with 142 guest rooms, many in the tastefully renovated Colonial Revival red-roofed barracks. Also creating buzz: Farley Bar (named for the late Phil Frank’s comic strip character) and Murray Circle, a 90-seat restaurant on the loop around the stately parade grounds. Check it all out—maybe time your visit for lunch or dinner or simply walk upstairs above Murray Circle restaurant to see the large-scale photo images of elephants and pumas by Gregory Colbert, made famous in the Ashes and Snow exhibits. A cold drink on the veranda might be in order. Call 415.339.4700.
If I missed a favorite of yours, please e-mail me. There are ample adventures to be had here in Marin, and not all of them require sturdy legs or a thick wallet. That’s my point of view. What’s yours?