Top 20 Things to Do in Point Reyes: Everything You Need to Know for a Wonderful West Marin Getaway

If you’ve read some of our other posts, you know that we usually focus on California travel with kids in tow. But now and again, John and I need an easy parent’s getaway. One where we can stop and eat anywhere that looks good, hike a smidge longer, unwind at a local meadery, and kayak by moonlight. And the Point Reyes National Seashore area is where we can do all the above. 

An easy drive from the Bay Area, there are plenty of things to do in Point Reyes that are family-friendly, and we would happily bring the kids along to many of the places listed below. But we’re also going to share some of our favorite things to do in Point Reyes when it’s just us.

Read on for the best things to do in and nearby Point Reyes National Seashore plus a 3-day itinerary.

Things are always changing! Make sure to double-check schedule changes and closures before your trip.

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Map of Attractions in this Post

The Point Reyes National Seashore is located in Marin County, about 35 miles north of San Francisco along Highway 1. It’s surrounded by charming small towns like Point Reyes Station, Olema, Inverness, and Marshall. We include them here in our list of things to do in and around Point Reyes.

The map below includes points of interest in this post, with the exception of tours that go to multiple places.

Trip map created using Wanderlog, a road trip planner app on iOS and Android

Things To Do in Point Reyes National Seashore

The Point Reyes National Seashore is West Marin’s main attraction. Managed by the National Park Service for 60 years, the area is a sanctuary for more than 1,500 plants and animals.

From gorgeous beaches to wild grasslands, there is much to explore. Though it’s close to one of California’s largest cities, it retains a wild feel and remains one of California’s lesser-known National Parks.

1. Visit the Visitor Centers

The Bear Valley Visitor Center is a good first stop to get oriented to the park.
Get started at the Bear Valley Visitor Center

When visiting a National Park, a visitor center is always a good place to start! 

A stop at the Bear Valley Visitor Center provides an engaging orientation to the park’s roads, trails, and histories. There’s a good little bookstore here too. If you’re interested in learning more about the park while you drive through it, download this audio driving tour of Point Reyes. It points out the park’s history as you make your way from the Bear Valley Visitor Center to the Lighthouse.

The Kenneth C. Patrick Visitor Center at Drake’s Beach is further in the park. It offers coffee and pre-packaged snacks for those who need a warm-up from the ocean breezes. The Point Reyes Lighthouse Visitor Center is nearby and – no surprise – provides a historical context for its namesake site.

2. The Point Reyes Lighthouse

Hiking up and down the stairs of the Point Reyes Lighthouse is one of the most popular things to do in Point Reyes.
Getting to the Lighthouse takes some work!

The Lighthouse is one of the most famous attractions in Point Reyes National Seashore. It was built in 1870 to protect ships traveling north of San Francisco Bay. The Point Reyes Headlands jut 10 miles out into the ocean near here, making this a dangerous route for ships. It was in service for 105 years until the Coast Guard installed automated lights nearby. After that, the preservation of this historic landmark was transferred to the Park Service.

One thing that makes visiting the lighthouse so memorable is the journey that it takes to get there. The lighthouse is located at the far-western tip of the Point Reyes Headlands at the end of Sir Francis Drake Boulevard. As you get closer to it, the road becomes increasingly winding and slow-going. If you’re driving straight there from the Bear Valley Visitor Center, allow at least 45 minutes for the 20-mile drive.

After you reach the parking lot, walk half a mile to get to the Lighthouse Visitor Center. From there, descend 313 steps to the lighthouse itself. Just remember, what goes down must come back up. The return is quite a workout! And if winds exceed 40 mph, the stairs will be closed for understandable safety reasons.

The journey that comes with visiting this landmark makes it well worth a visit. And a selfie or two.

3. The Cypress Tree Tunnel

Our turn trying to capture the Cypress Tree Tunnel
Our turn to try to get a photo that captures the impressive Cypress Tree Tunnel.

As you drive along Sir Frances Drake Blvd toward the Point Reyes Lighthouse, you’ll likely notice a cluster of cars parked alongside the road. This is a telltale sign that you are nearing the Cypress Tree Tunnel, easily one of the top things to do in Point Reyes National Seashore.

The trees were planted here around 1930 to frame the walkway to the Historic KPH Maritime Receiving Station. You can still see the station today at the end of the path. The Monterey Cyprus is one of the few trees hardy enough to adapt to the area’s high winds and ocean-air conditions.

Today the trees arch and connect, creating a tunnel effect. It’s now a favorite location for amateur and professional photographers alike. Those who are serious about capturing the tunnel in its best light arrive at sunrise or sunset. Sunrise is the least crowded, but sunset has the best light.

The station that the tunnel leads to is often overlooked but has an interesting history of its own. During much of the 20th century, the west coast was dotted with Morse code radio stations like this one, which provided ship-to-shore communication. The station at Point Reyes, once called the Wireless Giant of the Pacific, is the last one standing. Before COVID, the Maritime Historical Society gave weekend tours. They have not yet resumed at the time of writing.

4. Go on Safari

If your Point Reyes list of things to do is long and you’re not sure how to fit it all in, hire an expert. When possible, I love hiring tour guides to show us a side of a park that we may not have otherwise noticed, or understood, on our own.

For your best shot at spotting local wildlife or guidance on the best places to take a stunning photo, hire a guide from Point Reyes Safaris. These professionals customize your visit to give you the best chance of finding, watching, and photographing the park’s bobcats, coyotes, badgers, foxes, elk, elephant seals, raptors, owls, whales, and more.

Point Reyes National Seashore Beaches

Views out to the water from the South Beach Overlook, Point Reyes National Seashore
Views from the South Beach Overlook

The windswept beaches of Point Reyes are full of wild beauty. The following four beaches can be accessed by driving. You can reach even more on foot (see the “Best Hikes” section below):

5. Drakes Beach

Known for the sandstone cliffs that reminded Sir Francis Drake of Dover, this popular beach is known for its wide stretch of sand and calmer waves that reach the shore from Drakes Bay.

In recent years, parts of Drakes Beach, including areas near the Visitor Center, have been inhabited by elephant seals during their mating and birthing seasons. Check the NPS website before you go. Sections of the beach might be closed, especially during the winter months.

Visitors often share that they love getting up close to elephant seals on Drakes Beach. Please remember that these are wild animals and you should give them plenty of space. Not only is it for the health and safety of the animals, but they move much faster than you might think. I was charged once and know from experience!

6. Limantour Beach

Located on the eastern half of Drakes Bay, Limantour Beach is 4 miles long and enjoys the Bay’s calmer waters. Many consider this to be the prettiest of the Point Reyes Beaches. It’s also a popular spot for families. 

Bring a blanket and maybe a kite. Take a long walk, look for signs of whales, and enjoy the beach’s wild natural beauty. For a special experience that will also keep you warm, build a bonfire. Fires are allowed with permits issued by the Bear Valley Visitor Center.

Limantour is only a 20-minute drive from the Visitor Center, making it more accessible than the others. Leashed dogs are welcome at the southeastern end, but it’s not uncommon to see pups running free here.

Like many other Northern California beaches, it’s better to look at the ocean than swim in it. The water is super cold, and rip tides are always something to be aware of around here.

7. Great Beach: North and South Beaches

The separate parking areas and restrooms at the north and south ends of this immense beach make it seem like two distinct beaches. When considered in its entirety, this 11-mile stretch of sand is known as The Great Beach or Point Reyes Beach.

This is a great spot to take a long walk, snap a sunset photograph, and view wildlife. But don’t plan on getting in the water. This beach faces the Pacific Ocean and huge waves are known to crash along the shore. Sneaker waves are a common hazard. Keep your eyes open and stay back from the surf!

Best Hikes in Point Reyes National Seashore

Hiking ranks high among the things to do at Point Reyes National Seashore. The following trails are highlights of this wild and wonderful park.

8. Alamere Falls

Views of Alamere Falls from the beach below, Point Reyes National Seashore
Alamere Falls (Photo Credit: crew141 from Getty Images via Canva)

A sight to see, Alamere Falls is one of only two California tide falls, or waterfalls that fall directly into the ocean. Unlike the other tide fall, McWay Falls in Big Sur, you can hike down to the beach at Alamere Falls to get an up-close look. Also unlike McWay Falls, it’s going to take a bit of work to get there.

The Palomarin Trailhead, where you’ll begin the 14-mile trek to Alamere Falls, is located on the far south end of the park, in the town of Bolinas. This is about a 30-minute drive south of the Bear Valley Visitor Center or an hour north of the Golden Gate Bridge. Because it’s so close to San Francisco, get to the parking lot early to grab a space and avoid adding mileage to your hike.

Timing this hike also takes a little planning. You want to get to the parking lot by 8 am to get a spot, especially if you’re there on a weekend. But you also want to arrive at the beach during a low tide so you can go down to the sand and see the stunning falls from below. If the tide is already approaching the falls when you see it, stay at a higher elevation to avoid getting stuck!

In addition to the pay-off views of Alamere Falls itself, the hike features gorgeous coastal scenery along the way and passes four lakes. Bass Lake in particular is known to be a popular resting (and summer swimming) spot.

All in all, venturing to the falls makes for a challenging, but unique and memorable, day.

10. Tomales Point Trail

Located in the north corner of Point Reyes National Seashore, the Tomales Point trail is known to have some of the best wildlife viewing in the park. The highlight here is the tule elk you can spot roaming within the area’s wildlife preserve.

The hike starts near Pierce Point Ranch, where you can learn a bit about the region’s historic dairy and cattle industry. As you head deeper into the trail, you’ll approach an open ridge that offers amazing views down to Tomales Bay, Bodega Bay, and the Pacific Ocean at McClure Beach.

The full trek to Tomales Point is about 10 miles, but it’s an out-and-back trail, meaning you can choose to hike shorter distances. Because the elk are a top attraction, many opt to return after reaching Lower Pierce Point Ranch. A stock pond at this site is a popular watering hole for elk, heron, and ducks making for great wildlife viewing. If you turn back here, the hike is just about 6 miles round trip.

With coastal views, historic structures, and fascinating wildlife, this trail is considered one of the best in the Bay Area.

9. Chimney Rock

Views out onto the Chimney Rock Trail, Point Reyes National Seashore
The Chimney Rock Trail (Photo Credit: Conrad J Camit from Getty Images via Canva)

If you don’t have time for a long hike but want to take in some of Point Reyes’ spectacular scenery, the Chimney Rock hike might be for you.

Extending into Drake’s Bay, this hike is surrounded by water on both sides for just under 2 miles. The trail follows a peninsula making for beautiful views of the crashing ocean waves and the calm bay below. This is a great hike to take in the Spring when colorful wildflowers and spouting gray whales can be added to the list of possible sightings.

Some report being disappointed by the site of Chimney Rock itself, but to me, the appeal of this hike is the journey more than the destination.

11. Earthquake Trail

On our last visit to Point Reyes, we didn’t have a lot of extra time for hiking but wanted to explore a bit. We chose to walk the Earthquake Trail located near the Bear Valley Visitor Center. At half a mile, this is a short and sweet loop that offers some fascinating insights about the San Andreas fault and local geology.

A popular point along the trail is a fence that was constructed to illustrate the massive displacement that occurred in the area during the 1906 earthquake.

And in addition to the history and geology lessons, it made for a lovely little walk.

Things to Do Near the Point Reyes National Seashore

While the Point Reyes National Seashore has plenty to keep you occupied, there’s also plenty to do nearby. Whether looking for more outdoorsy adventures or just a place to relax and enjoy a good meal, you’ll want to make time to explore the unique towns surrounding the park.

12. Enjoy the Drive

I love traveling with my kids. And they are growing up to be great little road-trippers. But a purposely long and leisurely drive rarely makes it onto one of our family trip agendas. The kids are always eager to reach the next destination, which is perfectly understandable for 5 and 7-year-olds. And then getting in and out of the car can still be a hassle, even though these booster seat days are a significant improvement to their bulky car seats!

So when we get away for a parents’ weekend, I love to take my time wandering through backroads. We can switch between our favorite songs and a good audiobook and stop whenever we want to along the way. In my book, this is a perfect way to get into adventure mode, even when we’re only an hour or two away from home.

13. Kayak Tomales Bay

The bioluminescent kayaking experience is hard to photograph, but is one of the most unique things to do in Point Reyes.
A glimpse of our bioluminescence kayaking adventure.

On our last visit to Point Reyes, we finally got the opportunity to go bioluminescence kayaking on Tomales Bay. This is one of the most unique things to do in Point Reyes, and I was thrilled to go!

Bioluminescence is the emission of light from a living organism. On dark moonless nights, bioluminescent dinoflagellates create white flickers of light in water when disturbed. Kayaks and paddles can create this effect as can the schools of fish swimming beneath you. A lucky few might even encounter a seal chase, which causes the biggest show!

Tomales Bay is the only place in Northern California that offers a guided bioluminescence kayaking experience, and we were thrilled to check it out with Blue Waters Kayaking.

Kayaking at night was different and exciting in and of itself. We were able to see some bioluminescence on our trip. I thought it was pretty fascinating, but John-the-adrenaline-seeker was a bit underwhelmed. Know that the amount of bioluminescence you see varies on each trip, no matter how dark the skies are.

For those looking for a daytime paddle, Blue Water Kayaking also offers an exploration of Drake’s Estero back in Point Reyes National Seashore. Considered one of the most stunning places to paddle in California, kayakers might get a chance to glimpse harbor seals, bat rays, leopard sharks, osprey, hawks, loons, and more. I have this one on my list for a future trip, maybe with the kids in tow.

14. Set Sail

I love that the Point Reyes area is filled with activities that are a combination of outdoorsy adventures and relaxing getaways. Setting sail on Tomales Bay is a perfect way to experience both in one memorable outing.

Tomales Bay Sailing’s 22-foot catamaran is uniquely suited to exploring the Bay by water. What you experience depends on the weather. Calm days allow passengers to glide along the water while enjoying the stunning scenery. Windy days bring more of a thrill with the opportunity to experience a catamaran at racing speed.

Whatever the weather, you are assured of some great memories and a unique Tomales Bay experience.

15. Relax on the Tomales Bay Beaches

Inland from the wild waves of Point Reyes National Seashore and backed by a ridge that blocks the wind, the beaches of Tomales Bay offer more of a relaxed beach-going experience. If you want to chill out in the sunshine or try an activity like standup paddle boarding, this could be the place for you.

The most popular beach is Hearts Desire Beach in Tomales Bay State Park. Located near the main parking lot, Hearts Desire is easily accessible with safe water for wading and swimming when the weather cooperates. You won’t find sneaker waves here! There are also amenities like picnic tables and restrooms, making this beach a popular spot for families.

If you want to get away from the crowds, several other State Park beaches along Tomales Bay are accessed by a short hike. Indian Beach, Pebble Beach, and Shell Beach are ideal for seeking some quiet with a side of adventure. Each requires about a half-mile trail walk. As most of the beaches share a main parking lot with the Hearts Desire Beach crowd, aim to get there early for a parking space.

At the far north end of Tomales Bay is lovely Dillon Beach. A big draw is the wide sandy beach and relaxed, dog-friendly atmosphere. Facing Bodega Bay, the sea conditions here are milder than others facing the ocean directly. The water may still be freezing, but you’ll find plenty of surfers, swimmers, and wave jumpers. Cars are charged $10 for parking at Dillon Beach.

16. Stroll through Point Reyes Station

Toby's Feed Barn in Point Reyes Station
Toby’s Feed Barn has everything you need, from morning coffee to an art gallery.

When we get a weekend away without kids, one of our favorite things to do is simply to wander around town, stopping whenever the mood strikes and taking our sweet time in a cafe. Similar to the joy of an unrushed drive, it’s a thrill to explore without having a set destination in mind. Or hearing, “I’m bored.”

Point Reyes Station is a great little town for such wanderings. With a population of just over 200, this is the largest commercial district near Point Reyes National Seashore. You’ll find a delicious bakery, some great restaurants, a wonderful bookstore, and Toby’s Feed Barn, the general store/feed barn/gift shop/art gallery/event space.

The whole town is only one or two main streets, so park at one end and enjoy an afternoon amble. 

17. Mead Tasting at Heidrun Meadery

Mead views from Heidrun Meadery in Point Reyes Station
Loving the mead and the vibe.

Before our visit to Heidrun in Point Reyes Station, my association with mead had something to do with alcohol in Olde England. Curious to see what a contemporary meadery might be like, we decided to give it a try.

The gorgeous flowers and orchards that greeted us were a surprise. Though it makes perfect sense. Mead is a drink made with fermented honey. Honey requires bees. And bees need flowers. Duh.

Though the owner has been experimenting with mead-making since the late ’90s, in 2012 the operation moved to its current location, a former Point Reyes Station dairy farm. The site now includes a commercial beekeeping operation and experimentation with bee-friendly crops.

It’s a lovely place to spend an afternoon indeed and one of our favorite relaxing things to do in Point Reyes. 

Bring some cheeses from Point Reyes Station or Inverness Park Market, enjoy a tasting, and feel the tension of everyday life melt away.

18. Eat Some Cheese

The spread at Cowgirl Creamery in Point Reyes Station
If you like cheese, you’ll be pretty happy in Point Reyes.

Dairy farming and cheese production have a long history in the Point Reyes region and can still be seen today. As you drive into West Marin, you’ll be surrounded by rural countryside with cows and barns dotting the hillsides. Just an hour outside of San Francisco, it feels like you are in a different part of the state altogether. But one thing that city and country residents of this area agree on is a love of good food. 

Until recently, Cowgirl Creamery in Point Reyes Station was the go-to stop for picnic supplies. They sadly closed their doors in September 2022, but that doesn’t mean you can’t sample their delicious cheeses. Palace Market, a grocery store in the heart of Point Reyes Station, has a wide assortment of yummy cheeses for a picnic and/or charcuterie tray. Cheesemongers are on hand to help you perfect your pairings.

For a more in-depth experience, check out the tastings and tours offered by Point Reyes Farmstead. From a cheese lovers’ tasting (options include “unique grilled cheeses, ooey-gooey mac & cheese and YES – our world-famous, house-made ice cream sandwiches”) to walking farm tours, visitors leave with a full belly and an appreciation of the region’s dairy roots.

19. Book a Farm Tour for Foodies

If you prefer to sit back, relax, and let someone else worry about the logistical details, book a tour with Food & Farm Tours. Popular public tours like Flavors of Point Reyes, Oyster Lover’s Tour, and Cheese Lover’s Tour make it easy to learn about the region’s approach to sustainable agriculture while enjoying some of its finest products.

Custom tours are possible, as is a farm harvest cooking class and a mixology experience.

20. Snap a Photo by the SS Point Reyes

Famous view of the Point Reyes Shipwreck
The Point Reyes Shipwreck (Photo Credit: pabradyphoto from Getty Images via Canva)

Many recommended things to do in the Point Reyes area involve snapping photos in front of local landmarks that are strange, interesting, or both. One such location is the famous Point Reyes Shipwreck.

According to Atlas Obscura, “This abandoned boat was left in place thanks to its rotting beauty.” When the land beneath it was purchased by a wetlands restoration organization, the plan was to remove the boat at last. It’s still here because it was saved by an uproar from local photographers and visitors, and it remains a popular Point Reyes-area site today.

And thus, the SS Point Reyes started as a fixer-upper, was never fixed, and evolved into an iconic local landmark.

Where to Eat Near Point Reyes

You have plenty of good restaurant options in this farm-to-table paradise. I’ve listed a selection of favorites below.

The Point Reyes Oyster Scene

Scenes from the Tomales Bay Oyster Co at Sunset, Point Reyes
A Tomales Bay Oyster Company run at sunset. We arrived unprepared and had to buy a bucket and knife to go with them!

If you enjoy oysters, this is your place! Another of the top things to do in Point Reyes is to sample them fresh from Tomales Bay. Oysters are a big deal around Point Reyes, and you’re sure to find a spot that suits your style.

Tomales Bay Oyster Company

If you’re looking for a no-frills place to stop for fresh oysters by the side of the road, pull over at the Tomales Bay Oyster Company in Marshall. Expect to BYO pretty much everything but the oysters! We arrived unprepared, and poor John ended up eating his birthday oysters out of the bucket purchased onsite. Luckily we were able to buy ice!

Take a lesson from us: arrive early or late to grab one of the picnic tables along the water. They are first come, first served. Bring along a cooler, ice, a shucking knife, gloves, hot sauce, lemons, and whatever toppings or sides you’d like. And beer. If you come prepared, you’re sure to have a great time.

The Marshall Store

Those looking for a little service with their oysters should head to The Marshall Store. You can enjoy those same delicious Tomales Bay Oyster Company oysters without all the work. Relax at a table looking over the Bay while being served any of their six types of prepared oysters. They serve other dishes too (ceviche, clam chowder, baked brie…oh my!), but you can make a meal out of just the oysters if you are so inclined.

Hog Island Oyster Farm

Last, but not least, is the popular Hog Island Oyster Farm. Here you can enjoy views of Tomales Bay with a side of grilled oysters with Chipotle Bourbon Butter (or maybe it’s the other way around). In addition to oysters, guests snack on a charcuterie tray and other small plates while sipping on some local beer and wine options. The Boat Oyster Bar is perfect for light bites whereas nearby Tony’s Seafood, part of the Hog Island family, is a better bet for a full meal.

Bovine Bakery

Point Reyes Station’s Bovine Bakery is a delicious choice for scones, morning buns, and even a breakfast pizza. Get there early for the most options as lines form fast and favorites sell out. If you happen to get there when the line is already snaking around the corner, grab some coffee from nearby Toby’s Feed Barn to enjoy while you wait.

Cafe Reyes

Pizza and beer on the patio at Cafe Reyes, Point Reyes Station
You can’t go wrong with wood-fired pizza and beer after a day of adventuring.

We like good food, but we’re not foodies. And we’re pretty casual, even without the kids. So, for us, Cafe Reyes’ delicious wood-fired pizza served alongside some good local beers on a cheerful patio is perfection. I highly recommend it after a day of exploring.

Where to Stay Near Point Reyes

We’ve stayed at a couple of Airbnbs in the area, but none that I love enough to recommend here. So instead I’m sharing the places that are top of my list for our next visit:

Nick’s Cove

An iconic stop in the West Marin region, Nick’s Cove features 12 luxury cottages, five of which are located right on the water. With gorgeous views and cozy wood-burning stoves, this is an ideal place to get away and unwind. Bandit’s Bungalow, with its waterfront deck and deep soaking tub, is at the top of my list for a future escape.

Point Reyes Country Inn

Just north of Point Reyes Station, Point Reyes Country Inn has long been on my list of places to stay in the area. Unfortunately, at the time of writing, they have put reservations for the onsite Bed and Breakfast on hold through the end of the year. However, accommodations are still offered at the Groom’s Quarters, which sleeps seven above the stables, and two fully equipped waterfront cottages with french doors leading out to decks that overlook Tomales Bay. I can’t imagine a more perfect setting to relax after exploring Point Reyes Station and the best of West Marin.

HI Point Reyes Hostel

The only non-camping lodging option in Point Reyes National Seashore, HI Point Reyes offers private vacation rentals in a secluded valley 2 miles from Limantour Beach. You won’t get cell service or wifi here, but if you’re looking to get away from it all and immerse yourself in nature, this could be the perfect fit for you.

Point Reyes FAQs

Starting out a Northern California weekend surrounded by fog
Northbound out of San Francisco

Spring in Point Reyes offers the best chance of clear skies and wildflowers, while fall has the warmest temps and the lowest fog levels.

That being said, Point Reyes weather is fickle all year round. Like many California coastal areas, what you might expect in summer and winter are pretty much flipped. Coastal summers are known for cold and fog that might burn off in the afternoon, whereas winters are known to be clearer. That said, winter can also be stormy and not necessarily warmer.

The best approach is to come prepared for the worst weather, just in case. Bring layers, including a jacket that can keep you warm in the wind and keep the dampness and rain at bay. When possible, keep your plans flexible so that you can pick the best weather for your beach or hiking days.

Visitors should know that during the gray whale migration, roughly January through April, the park has a shuttle bus that runs from the Drakes Beach parking lot to the Lighthouse and Chimney Rock. During this time, there is no private vehicle access to these destinations.

Your best chance of viewing gray whales is from December through May. From December to February, they migrate south, and from February to May they return north. Gray whales are known to swim closer to the shore, but Humpback whales and other marine animals can be observed feeding off the coastline in the summer and fall.

Elephant seals sure love the California Coast! Though you might encounter them at Point Reyes year-round, the greatest number of elephant seals are found on beaches from December through March for birthing and mating season, and during the spring when adult females and juveniles are molting. 

The best places to observe elephant seals at Point Reyes are:

  • The Elephant Seal Overlook near Chimney Rock: By early February, you might find around 600 elephant seals here!
  • Drakes Beach near Kenneth C. Patrick Visitor Center: This beach entrance is closed to the public when elephant seal colonies are active here. The beach usually reopens in late April when weaned pups vacate the area. 
  • South Beach Overlook near the Point Reyes Lighthouse parking lot.

Things to keep in mind when viewing elephant seals: 

  • Always observe elephant seals from a distance. You should stay at least 25 feet (8 meters) away from them. Use binoculars for a better view. 
  • Never put yourself between a cow and pup, a bull and cows, or two bulls who are challenging each other. If you observe stressed behavior, move away cautiously. This actually happened to me once … those bulls move faster than you’d think!
  • Use quiet voices and move slowly. 
  • Don't touch or swim with wild marine mammals, even if they approach you first. 
  • Heed pet signs, beach closures, and posted restrictions. 

Unlike other popular National Parks, Point Reyes National Seashore does not charge an entrance fee. Woohoo!

Some of the nearby State Parks, like Tomales Bay and Samuel P. Taylor charge a parking fee of $8 per vehicle. If you want to avoid paying this parking fee, check out a California State Park Pass at your local library before you go.

Point Reyes 3-Day Itinerary

Map provided by Wanderlog, a travel planner on iOS and Android

Day 1: Getaway Mode

Hit the road and take your time making your way to West Marin. Stop when you see an interesting local coffee shop or anything else that strikes your fancy along the way.

When you get to your destination, get ready to unwind. Make your way to the Palace Market to get all the ingredients you need for a hearty picnic lunch the following day. While you’re there, pick up some delicious ingredients for a cheese and charcuterie board to go. Bring it to the nearby Heidrun Meadery and enjoy tasting some local favorites.

Day 2: Seaside Adventures

Early birds get the best baked goods! Get an early start and a good spot in line at local favorite Bovine Bakery before hopping in the car and heading into Point Reyes National Seashore.

In the park, meet up with Blue Water Kayaking for a half-day tour of Drake’s Estero to catch a glimpse of the local seabirds, including osprey, geese, pelicans, loons, grebes, shorebirds, and hawks. Following the tour, bring your picnic lunch to the Drakes Beach Overlook. Picnic tables are located between the beach and the Visitor Center.

If you’re up for more activity, the parking lot for the Point Reyes Lighthouse is just 20 minutes away. Soak in the views from this famous landmark and tackle the 313 steps that lead down to the lighthouse (and back up!).

Stop by the Cypress Tree tunnel on your way back out of the park to snap some photos beneath the uniquely shaped trees. If you time it right, your photos might capture light streaming through from a setting sun.

Celebrate your day of adventure with a wood-fired pizza and good local brews on the patio at Cafe Reyes.

Day 3: Savor Your Last Day in Marin

After your big day in the park, relax and sleep in on your final day in town. Take a wander, grab some coffee, and pick up a souvenir at Toby’s Feed Barn.

Grab one last lunch with a view at The Marshall Store and savor the region’s famous oysters.

Last, but not least, make sure to snap a photo with the SS Point Reyes before leaving town!

Point Reyes Day Trips from San Francisco

If you want to explore Point Reyes but don’t have the luxury of a weekend (or a car), book a guided day trip from San Francisco.

Golden Horizon Tours offers private custom day trips from San Francisco to Point Reyes National Seashore and the Muir Woods National Monument. The latter is known for its redwood forest, making this an ideal adventure for photographers and nature lovers.

Popular Alcatraz Tours offers a private guided tour that takes you from San Francisco to Point Reyes National Seashore with additional stops to see coastal redwoods in Nicasio Valley and Samuel P. Taylor State Park. By choosing Samuel Taylor instead of Muir Woods, you get a bit more time in Point Reyes and a less crowded redwood experience than a visit to Muir Woods.

Thinking about renting a car for your visit instead of a tour? Start your search with Discover Cars. This service compares car rental deals from several companies and shows you the best price for your trip. All fees and taxes are included in the quote, so there are no surprises when you pick up your car.

Road Trip Planning Basics

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Compare car rental deals to find the best price with Discover Cars. All fees and taxes are included in your quote.

Book Your Stay ↗ is our first – and often last – stop for finding great deals throughout the Golden State.

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Have a wonderful time in West Marin! If you liked this post, you might be interested in more of our favorite California escapes:

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