Located about an hour drive to the north of San Francisco, the Point Reyes National Seashore is one of the most underutilized and stunning choices for day or two away from the hustle and bustle of the Bay Area. Whether you’re into kayaking, hiking, backcountry camping, beautiful white sand beaches, eating fresh local oysters, or amazing landscape and wildlife photography... Point Reyes has a little something for everybody.
The kayaking in Tomales Bay is second to none in the Bay Area. It's easily my favorite location to guide year round. The most popular launch is located in a small “town” call Nick’s Cove. I call it a town, but it really only consists of a restaurant, a few cabin rentals, and the Miller Park Boat Launch. Parking at the boat launch costs $5 a day per vehicle. Launching from this location allows you to paddle directly across to Hog Island. On any given day you may see a dozen different bird species including pelicans, cormorants, herron, and I’ve even seen a bald eagle on the island. During pupping season in the summer months you may also see a countless number of seals on the beach at the base of the island. Keep your hands and feet inside the vehicle at all times because chances are they will come off the beach and get up close and personal. Paddle past the island over to the cliffs of the White Gulch area, crossing from the North American Plate to the Pacific Plate over the San Andreas Fault as you do. Keep your eyes peeled for the Tule Elk peppered throughout the hills on the west shoreline of the bay. The northern tip of the Point Reyes peninsula is a Tule Elk Preserve, and one of the few locations in the world where these magestic animals can be seen. From here you can either head north or south and choose one of the many white sand beaches to stop for a break or even set up camp at. You and up to 6 people can camp on any of the beaches for a $20 permit fee that you can acquire from the visitor’s center in the park. If you grab a boat and a camping spot from May-September on a moonless night, you can see amazing bioluminescence throughout the bay.
If kayaking is too much work, check out one of the many incredible white sand beaches located in the park. My personal favorite is Limantour Beach, a several mile-long sand bar near Drakes Bay. On any given day you may see everything from rare birds, to pods of dolphins, to large groups of harbor seals, and if you go during the spring time you may get a chance to see families of gray whale swimming along the coastline. No matter how packed the parking lot is there is plenty of space to hike down the beach a ways and have your own little private spot. Dogs are allowed from the parking lot to the southeast, but not to the northeast towards Drake’s Estero to protect the harbor seal and snowy plover habitats. Some other amazing beaches include McClure, North and South Beaches, and Kehoe.
It would be easy to write an entire book (and people have done it!) on places to explore in the Point Reyes National Seashore. It is a paddler, hiker, and photographer's paradise... but what is the fun in giving away all my secret spots? Get out there and explore this amazing location for yourself!