Things to Do in Point Reyes, California

Back in the Loving Arms of Point Reyes!

My recent trip to San Francisco was the first time I've been back to my hometown long enough to see some of my favorite people and places since I left 3-yrs ago. At the top of the list was a day trip to one of the best places on Earth, Point Reyes, CA.

A visit to Point Reyes National Seashore should be on your bucket list if it's not already.

Life and attitudes throughout the Point Reyes Peninsula are productive and laid back. The name Point Reyes is often used to refer to communities throughout the peninsula. All hum along at a steady pace at the hands of salt-of-the-earth business owners and artisans working hard at whatever it may be they love to do, whether it be innkeeping or roasting chickens. There is a sense of satisfaction in the air stirred by the contentment of those lucky enough to be living out their days here.

Cows and elk grazing the grassy hills are a common sight near the seashore.

Handcrafted food and drink made in this region by craftspeople who take pride in their efforts is the standard here. Bars and restaurants provide friendly service, and cozy lodging is not difficult to find. Being here calms me, it makes me happy, and I never want to leave.

The beautiful offerings from Hog Island Oyster located in Marshall, CA. One of everything please!

Oysters, Beer & Picnics
When I make my way to this part of the world, there is usually a feast of oysters and beer involved. Over the past decade, oyster farmers have taken a bit of a beating due to newly enforced regulations and not being able to meet new standards quickly enough. Sadly, this has led to the closure of some and changes in the daily operations of others.

Shellfish is available raw or barbecued at the Hog Island Oyster picnic area. The staff are friendly and knowledgeable, so if in doubt let them guide you. 

I was happy to see that Hog Island Oyster Company, a "premiere producers of certified sustainable shellfish," is still standing and thriving. You do need to make reservations if you would like to guarantee a spot at their exceptional outdoor seafood shack.

Blue December skies at the Hog Island Picnic Area. Don't forget to call ahead for reservations.

If you go without a reservation, be sure to come early, or take advantage of the To-Go options offered by Hog Island Oyster Co., and nearby Tomales Bay Oyster Co. Fresh oysters and shucking gear are for sale for picnic enthusiasts.

Don't forget the beer! An oyster stout may sound crazy, but this brew is rich and delicious. In fact, HenHouse Oyster Stout is so exceptional that it is one of only a few beers on offer at the French Laundry.

You can have a great picnic around these parts, weather permitting, which it is most of the year if you're willing to wear a jacket. Make a quick stop at Palace Market, 11300 State Route One Point Reyes Station, CA on your way and take advantage of their excellent range of bread, olives and beverage options.

Cowgirl Creamery Artisan Cheese, 80 4th St, Point Reyes Station, CA 94956

Just down the road from this market Cowgirl Creamery sells a selection of local cheeses and a tasting is only USD 5 for those who may not be familiar with what they produce.

NOTE: The only gas station that I can recall is Greenbridge Gas & Auto, which is just opposite Cowgirl Creamery. If you're running low on fuel, be sure to stop off here.

Point Reyes Station House Cafe. The picture I barely got.

Point Reyes Station is the kind of place you might miss if you blink along Highway 1, but the shops and restaurants here are worthy of your attention. Among them, you will find the Station House Cafe. Brunch, dinner, cocktails and live music are the highlights here. You can make reservations through the website, but the wait is worth it if you turn up without one.

Giant Cypress trees twisting themselves up to the sky are just part of the breathtaking nature that will surround you here.

Back to picnicking. Once you have yours together, it is not far to Kehoe beach, where you can picnic in the dunes, or Tomales Bay State Park, which has all the amenities needed for a picnic including tables and barbecue pits. You can also swim and shower here, or hike a few miles to nearby Heart's Desire Beach.

Point Reyes Lighthouse - Visitors gather for whale watching and photo ops. 

The lighthouse was retired in 1975 after 105 years of service. It stands near the opening of Drake's Bay, named for Sir Francis Drake who made the first European landing here along the rough and unforgiving Northern California coast. In 1595, when the Spanish learned of Drake's landing and sent Sebastião Rodrigues Soromenho to survey the area as a potential safe harbor for their shipments sailing from the Philippines to Mexico, he was not so lucky. Losing most of his crew, his ship, the San Agustin, and all his cargo to the relentless, hammering waves common to these shores. According to local legend, some have even found Spanish coins washed up along the coast, believed to be part of the haul he lost to the sea.

The best time to walk the 308 steps down to the lighthouse (and back up) is December – April.

Whale watchers flock here during winter to see gray whales on their migration from Alaska to Mexico and rangers are typically on hand offering information about these incredible creatures and what is the longest migration known to be made by any mammal. Around the beginning of each new year, you can also visit the aptly named Elephant Seal Overlook at Chimney Rock, where elephant seals gather to battle for dominance, mate and then birth their pups. The overlook will be closed to visitors during birthing if necessary to protect the elephant seals. 

Stretch your legs and catch the shuttle to the lighthouse at Drakes Beach.

Due to very limited parking and the higher number of visitors in winter, you will need to catch a shuttle from Drake's Beach that will take you to the Lighthouse and Elephant Seal Overlook.

Visit the National Park Service website for more information on wildlife viewings, parking and shuttles and the many of the stunning sights to see here.

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