Are you planning any vacations this year? Travel is fun to daydream about during gray January, so I decided to ask a few friends to reveal the vacation spots they remember most fondly. First up, Liz Stanley from Say Yes to Hoboken raves about Stinson Beach, just thirty minutes from San Francisco...
STINSON BEACH MINI TRAVEL GUIDE
By Liz Stanley
My favorite getaway from San Francisco is a beautiful coastal town called Stinson Beach. Not only is it a quaint little town, it's also a great home base to explore the areas of Bolinas Bay, Tomales Bay and the stunning coastline of Point Reyes.
One time we rented these little cabins just two blocks from the beach. Each cabin had 1 or 2 bedrooms, a huge shared deck and sliding glass doors for a sweeping view of the ocean and Mt. Tam. They make perfect accommodations for multiple families traveling together.
The property even had lemon trees, so we made freshly squeezed lemonade!
If you'd prefer to camp, you can also reserve camping spots at Steep Ravine, which is one of the most beautiful places I've ever camped (and we camp a lot!). The campsites are perched on rocky cliffs overlooking Stinson Beach. You can also reserve primitive cabins.
Stinson Beach itself is perfect for kids—small waves and soft sand, with plenty of room to roam and build sand castles. Sharks are really common in that part of the coast, so we don't swim too much, but it doesn't usually get hot enough for that anyway.
After the beach, Parkside Cafe is a great place to grab lunch and a milkshake (their soft-serve is delicious!). It's right by the beach parking lot so it couldn't be more convenient. Other hotspots in Stinson Beach are the Breakers Cafe, San Dollar Restaurant and Surfer's Grill. There's also a great farmer's market on weekends for fresh produce.
Last time we were there, the craziest thing happened. A baby white shark accidentally beached itself in shallow water. It was still alive and having a hard time getting back beyond the waves. Poor little guy!
As you can imagine, it created quite a scene! Several people tried to pick it up and help it back—they were so brave. My son wanted to get as far away as possible, but the kids still talk about that baby white shark they saw—it was swimming right at our feet!
Bolinas Bay is just a few miles away, although it's hard to find because the protective residents of Bolinas Bay—who know what a treasure it is—have taken down any signs leading to their town along Highway 1! You have to use a GPS or smartphone to find your way. The Bolinas Lagoon Preserve is worth a stop for bird watching, and Agate Beach Park has amazing tide pools.
Continuing north on Highway 1 for about thirty minutes takes you Inverness and Tomales Bay, which are great places to head if Stinson is cloudy or windy. They're often sunny and warm, and you can let the kids play in the calm bay waters. It's also an awesome spot for kayaking (check out Blue Water Kayak), and be sure to stop by Tomales Bay Oyster Company or Drake's Bay Cafe for a bite to eat. If you're feeling adventurous, you can even kayak across the bay and camp on the other side!
Point Reyes, an hour north of Stinson Beach, is worth the drive to see the incredible shoreline and lovely lighthouse. The Point Reyes lighthouse is the foggiest place on the North American continent and the windiest spot on the Pacific Coast, so dress warmly. There are lots of places to hike around Mt Tam, so bring some hiking shoes. My favorite hike is the Point Reyes Tomales Point trail through the elk refuge. You feel like you're at the end of the earth!
Thank you so much, Liz! What a fantastic vacation spot.
P.S. More travel fantasies, if you're feeling wanderlusty...
(Photos by Liz Stanley, except the Parkside Cafe brunch photo by Identical Eye)