Signs for Stinson Beach lead you out of town into the Marin Headlands and onto Highway 1, as it snakes along the bluffs. The views of the Pacific are unvarnished, but the switchbacks are vertiginous—so leave the gawking to your passengers until you reach the town of Stinson Beach itself.
The hilly peninsula known as the Marin Headlands boasts spectacular views of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge, but this part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area has so much more to see and do: You can watch for migrating brown pelicans, grebes, egrets, and blue herons at Rodeo Lagoon; take a hike on one of the park's many trails; or explore one of the six named beaches in the headlands. There's also plenty of history on hand, as well: The Point Bonita Lighthouse still shepherds ships safely through the Golden Gate, and it's open to visitors Thursdays through Mondays from 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Parkside Café is a cluster of small businesses that includes a bakery, a snack bar, and a cozy restaurant serving three meals a day. A fireplace flickers in the dining room, and hearty morning offerings range from a daily quiche special to benedicts. A footpath behind the cafe leads to Stinson Beach, a starkly beautiful stretch that is popular with surfers, swimmers, and sunbathers. It's also great for strolling, all the more so when you kick off your shoes, roll up your cuffs, and let the ocean foam around your feet.