If you’re waiting for a sign that it’s time to visit Bolinas, you’re not going to find one. This famously reclusive yet undeniably alluring community of surfers, artists, and fishermen on the southern edge of the Point Reyes peninsula saunters to the beat of a different bongo. Years of creative activism (including tearing down road signs directing visitors to town) have successfully staved off busloads of tourists and major development, preserving a pristine lagoon and magnificent beaches perfect for beginner surfers, intrepid tide-poolers, and the sun-bathers who take care of them.
Take Highway 1 north of Stinson Beach and the Bolinas Lagoon. Take your first left after passing the lagoon onto Bolinas Fairfax Road (unsigned) and then left again onto Olema Bolinas Road. If you miss the turn from Highway 1, take the very next left onto Olema Bolinas Road (also unsigned). If you pass the “Olema Valley” sign, you’ve gone too far. Continue down Olema Bolinas Road until you arrive at a stop sign. Turn left at the stop sign and then mosey into town.
What to do
Before getting into town, pull off into one of the dirt parking areas along Highway 1 and marvel at the harbor seals sun bathing on the sand bars of Bolinas Lagoon. Admire pelicans, herons, egrets, or puffins at this stunning wetland of international importance.
Once in town, pop into the Bolinas Museum (free) and enjoy the work of coastal Marin artists, fascinating history and a cool 3-D map of Marin that the kids will love.
Stroll past the museum along Wharf Road to access the beach that many regard as the Bay Area’s safest surfing beach. The beach’s south-facing orientation protects it from wind and large swells, resulting in super mellow, rolling and regular waves. For beginner lessons or summer surf camp for kids, check out Big Dog Surf Camp (ages 5 and up) or 2 Mile Surf Shop (as young as 6, if they are strong swimmers).
Go tide-pooling at Agate Beach, a short drive from the town center. To get there, head back the way you came in on Olema Bolinas Road, then turn left on Mesa Road. Take Mesa Road to Overlook Drive, then turn left. Take Overlook Drive to Elm Road and turn right. Take Elm Road all the way down to the coast and the parking area for Agate Beach will be on your left.
Head down the short trail to the right of the parking area to this natural wonderland, best enjoyed at low tide, for up close and personal encounters with anemones, hermit crabs, sea stars, rock crabs and tide pool sculpin.
Where to eat
“Downtown” Bolinas stretches a whopping 500-ish feet along Wharf Road and has everything you need to fill those hungry bellies. If it’s a picnic you’re after, stock up at the Bolinas People’s Store with organic fruits and vegetables, baked goods and deli salads. Coast Cafe, the only sit-down restaurant in Bolinas, has a kids menu ($4-$5), Lagunitas I.P.A. on tap and a patio that’s perfection on a sunny day. Bobolicious Smoothie Lounge has an extensive selection of healthy and delicious smoothies ($4.50-$6.75), baked treats, root beer floats and a sweet collection of kids books to peruse while you wait.
What to bring
Layers, towels, change of clothes, waterproof footwear, binoculars, water, snacks, and a healthy appetite for adventure.
Have you been to this scenic hideaway? What did you love most about it?
written and photographed by Neil Chhabra