Need a deep breath in your busy life? A road trip to Tomales Bay is just the thing. The area indulges visitors with luscious cheese, migrating whales, moss-draped oaks, rolling green hills, salty-fresh oysters, and windswept seashore. Roughly 50 miles north of San Francisco, this slim, marshy inlet is surrounded by some of the most peaceful, stress-soothing scenery in Marin County—not to mention the whole of California.
Slow your pace in Point Reyes.
The de facto gateway to Tomales Bay, frontier town Point Reyes Station was once a major stop on the now-defunct North Pacific Railroad. Saturday mornings at 10 a.m. from late June through early November, guided historical walking tours start at the West Marin Chamber of Commerce kiosk (60 4th Street) and cover the town’s rail-boom years, from 1871 to 1933.
These days, Point Reyes is best known as the home of Cowgirl Creamery, which alone could warrant your trip. Sample a seasonal lineup of Cowgirl’s cheeses or make an appointment for a tour and tasting (Fridays at 11 a.m., $5 per person); see the making of the brine-washed Red Hawk, made with wild yeast native to the area.
Cowgirl Creamery is set inside the Tomales Bay Foods emporium, where you can shop for the picnic goods of your dreams, from fresh salads and local olives to still-warm loaves from neighboring Brickmaiden Breads. If you’re still not sated, stroll a block over to Toby’s Feed Barn, which sells yet more gourmet products, heirloom seeds, strong coffee to go, and even bales of hay.
Across the street from Toby’s, Cabaline Country Emporium & Saddlery (look for the horse’s head) is a general store where you’ll find everything from camping gear to an epic array of cowboy hats. For an even headier experience, browse the tomes at Point Reyes Books and appraise the local artwork, crafts, and jewelry at Leona’s.
To stretch your legs more than tiny downtown Point Reyes Station allows, head a mile north on Highway 1 to the Tomales Bay Trailhead. You’re likely to see Holstein cows and shorebirds—but dogs are discouraged—on this 2.5-mile loop, which leads to the marshy and often muddy Tomales Bay Ecological Reserve.
If you’re thirsty afterward, try a taste of the sparkling meads at nearby Heidrun Meadery, where you can also explore a buzzing bee garden (open every day but Tuesday). Back in town, tuck into the farm-to-table splendor of Osteria Stellina, or carb-fuel the next leg of your journey with a stop at Bovine Bakery for hearty pastries, calzones, and pizza.