Across the Golden Gate Bridge, beyond Mill Valley and Mount Tam, over the hills and through the woods, is Point Reyes Station, a rural crossroads town along the western border of Marin County that feels like the Old Westâ€”complete with a historic saloon and nearby cow pastures. It’s only an hour from San Francisco, but feels like a different world. It’s one of my favorite features of living in the Bay Area and is a cherished escape spot, for me to see family and relish in endless starry skies and exquisite silence.
I’m a reluctant outdoorsman, never having quite the right footwear, but visiting Point Reyes and its environs has helped me appreciate some novel concepts: the feeling of being semi-remote, where wildlife abounds and cell service is spotty, the dearth of noise and light pollution, and things like a backyard vegetable garden and dairy products made locally (Cowgirl Creamery, Straus).
What’s so special about the town is that it offers an escape from the city and a true small-town existence while also being proximate enough to busier civilization that an evening in the city for dinner (or a run to Costco) is completely doable. I gather that it hasn’t changed drastically in the last 30 years and will continue to exist happily with an official population of 350 but a regular stream of tourists and weekend visitors.
Other than the cuteness that is a bustling 6-block center, Point Reyes Station isn’t all that visually excitingâ€”the real appeal is the surrounding area of Point Reyes National Seashore, which includes spots like Bear Valley (hiking trail), Drakes Bay (stunning beach and cliffs), Chimney Rock, and the fifteen-mile Tomales Bay, which is navigable by boat and is a popular oyster spot.
There isn’t much in the way of shopping or socializing, though in a pinch there are a few spots in town to buy things like books (Point Reyes Books), enjoy a decent espresso and quail egg tartlet (Brickmaiden Breads), or procure the odd organic linen throw blanket (Coyuchi). Tourism has encouraged a few upscale additions like Osteria Stellina and Captain Oko, but ultimately Point Reyes still feels like a remote outpost, partly removed from full-service life.
I have an extra unique perspective because I have family there, who host me, feed me, and let me sleep until noon if that’s how I’m feeling. Beyond the amenities available to all, it’s an even more soulful escape because I get away from the city and have close family to visit, enjoy, and nest with. They also happen to have an awesome living room view of Tomales Bay Ecological preserve, the marshy wetlands and southern terminus of the bay, where egrets and deer are common. Simple as it is, I have so enjoyed sitting in their garden overlooking the preserve, sun shining on my legs, cool breeze hitting my face, reading a book and dozing.
Lately I have taken to a four-mile run along Mesa Road, up and down some gentle hills and past gorgeous estates and farms, petting Woody the mini horse along the way. It’s usually the most exercise I’m interested in doing, since my brain is usually switched involuntarily into chill mode while I’m there.
Spending weekends in Point Reyes is rejuvenating because there are no buzzy distractionsâ€”one is forced to be present, in the moment, with his or her company. The pace is slower, the light is better, and it offers a different sort of weekend experience than visiting other cities or even being in wine country. It’s still, especially at night, and feels like the epitome of getting away.
What prompted this post is a newfound appreciation for those periodic escapes from the busy city to seek solitude and slowness in the country and in nature. Ever since visiting a friend’s home in pastoral, whisper-quiet Connecticut in 2017, then spending many weekends away from San Francisco in Point Reyes, it’s become clear to me that escape is essential (as I wrote last year).
But what’s true about the town is largely true about Marin County more broadly. Like a sort of modern utopia, it’s the perfect, idealized version of what Northern California is supposed to beâ€”under-developed, packed with all sorts of natural recreation, and some of the most epic views anywhere, ever. And while the cities and towns of Central Marin are lovely, they’re still within the view and mindset of San Francisco’s 24/7 challenges like traffic congestion and homelessness. Ultimately, other than the odd trip to Sausalito to have pizza at Bar Bocce or a stop in San Anselmo for lunch at M.H. Bread & Butter, my destination while passing through Central Marin is always Point Reyes Station.
A Point Reyes Spots map is below.