Point Reyes National Seashore is one of the most beautiful and unknown places to visit in California. It’s a small area that, unfortunately, sometimes gets overlooked by tourists with the trendy wine country of Napa & Sonoma nearby. Though there are plenty of things to do in Point Reyes National Seashore. From the epic lighthouse to the picturesque cypress tree tunnel to the best hikes, they hold their own for outdoor adventurers. The downtown is quaint and features all the essentials of the more popular neighboring towns; shopping, dining, art galleries, etc.
Located 40 minutes north-west of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, there really is something for everyone here. So grab your camera, car keys and a sense of adventure, hit the road, and check Point Reyes off your bucket list!
The Best Things to Do in California’s Point Reyes National Seashore (Trail Hikes, An Epic Lighthouse, Tree Tunnel & More!)
1. Relax at One of the Many Beaches
Stretching over 80 miles along the Pacific shoreline, visiting a number of the diverse selection of its beaches is among the top things to do in Point Reyes National Seashore. Each beach has its own fun activities to offer; one may be perfect for admiring the high cliffs, another may offer you the best sunbathing opportunities.
- Drake’s Beach
Located towards the northern end of Point Reyes, right on Drake’s Bay, is this wide sandy beach, complete with majestic white sandstone cliffs. The beach is easily accessible and also quite safe for families with children as well, due to the waves not getting as big as they might on some other beaches in Point Reyes.
- Heart’s Desire Beach
Another particularly family-friendly beach in Point Reyes is Heart’s Desire Beach. Located within Tomales Bay State Park, here you can enjoy a sunny day swimming and kayaking in the water or by having a picnic on the sandy beach or the nearby grassy area. You can also go for a hike on one of the nearby trails.
- Limantour Beach
Limantour Beach, stretching across four long miles, is another beach great for families and for those looking for swimming spots where the waves stay controlled and small. There’s a hiking trail and a picnic area nearby to enjoy if you somehow happen to get tired of playing in the water or chilling on the beach.
2. Drink in Dive Bar: Old Western Saloon
After finishing with beach bumming for the day, is there anything better than heading to a dive bar that looks like it could be straight out of your favorite Western? The Old Western Saloon is located in Point Reyes Station, this vintage bar offers not only tasty drinks but fun times dancing to the tunes of the jukebox or live music.
3. Spot a Tule Elk at Tule Elk Preserve
This natural preserve exists to protect a small herd of tule elk, a species that once upon a time was under the threat of extinction. Today nearly 6,000 of these majestic-looking animals roam on the California grasslands, and you’ll be likely to spot them especially between late summer and early autumn.
4. Eat Local Cheese (Especially Point Reyes Blue!)
Quite possibly one of the most delicious things to do in Point Reyes is to sample all the local cheese. Point Reyes Blue is a top contender for cheese you’ve got to try, but the cheese producers in Point Reyes also have plenty of other delicious kinds..
- Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company
- Cowgirl Creamery
Also offering nearly a dozen different types of cheeses to sample from is Cowgirl Creamery, another cheese creamery founded by women. By visiting Cowgirl Creamery, you can see how their famed Red Hawk cheese is made on the spot!
- Toluma Farms
Toluma Farms offers a slightly smaller production, with eight seasonal cheeses produced, from sheep and goats. It is actually one of the few dairies you can find in the world that specializes in milking more than one kind of an animal.
5. Take in the View at the South Beach Overlook
If you want to catch some amazing views of Point Reyes Beach and relax watching the waves crash against the shore, head over to the South Beach Overlook. Not only is it a relaxing site to visit, if you’re in good luck, you may catch some sightings of gray whales! Even better, bring along your binoculars and you’ll get to admire the elephant seal colony on South Beach.
6. Go Bird Watching
At Point Reyes, you won’t run short of bird watching stops. There are nearly ten different locations around the park to catch sightings of different birds, with nearly 490 different species around for you to spot!
7. Do a Mead Tasting at Heidrun Meadery
Have you ever been mead tasting? It’s a fermented bubbly beverage made of honey, water, and yeast. At Heidrun Meadery you can do a tasting of various meads made with honey from different regions.
You can get a tasting flight, or a glass or a bottle of a specific mead. You can also bring along some local cheese and crackers to turn your tasting experience into a picnic.
8. Check Out the Ten Thousand Buddhas Mural
A mural like this may not be something you’d expect to find at Point Reyes, and yet right outside Point Reyes Yoga you can indeed discover a Ten Thousand Buddha mural, painted by a local artist Amanda Giacomini who vowed to paint 10,000 Buddhas around the globe.
9. Snap the Ultimate Instagram Photo at the Leaning Tree
A perfect place to stop by on your way to the Point Reyes Lighthouse is this Leaning Tree, which has been featured on many Instagram feeds—maybe yours next?
10. See the Earthquake Fence on the Earthquake Trail
Most of us are quite familiar with the 1906 earthquake that absolutely wrecked San Francisco, right? The area of Point Reyes, sitting right on San Andreas Fault, didn’t make it through the earthquake any more unscathed, and experienced dramatic tears and ruptures in its landscape during.
Today one of the most significant remnants of the major quake is a fence that sits on the Earthquake Trail. Although it was reconstructed in the 60s, it illuminates the way the earthquake in 1906 separated parts of the fence.
11. Shop & Stroll Point Reyes Station
Located at the center of Point Reyes, Point Reyes Station is a small downtown section that offers a lot of fun for visitors. On the weekends the sidewalks are bustling, bubbling, and lively. Here are a few top spots to stop at.
- Get a Pastry at Bovine Bakery
At Bovine Bakery, you can expect to be served top quality pastries and other baked goods, as the same bakery team has been operating from this location for more than 15 years now. Besides sweet and savory pastries, you can find muffins, scones, cookies, pies, and even pizza and quiche!
- Pick Up a Souvenir & a Coffee at Toby’s
Toby’s Feed Barn is a general store that is owned and operated as a family business. You can shop around for some souvenirs to bring back from Point Reyes, and pop by for coffee at Toby’s CoffeeBar before heading back out.
- Peruse Point Reyes Book
Yes, bookstores exist everywhere, but it’s never a bad time to visit an indie one like Point Reyes Books. You may not find every book in the world here, but you will find a carefully curated selection of new titles and old goodies.
12. Kayak Tomales Bay
One of the most amazing physical activities you could get up to in Point Reyes is kayaking, specifically in Tomales Bay. For the best experience, book a guided tour, which lasts 3 hours. During the day you’ll get to experience wildlife and stunning sceneries, whereas at night time you’ll not only get to stargaze from the kayak, but be marveled by the bioluminescent organisms.
13. Photograph The Point Reyes Shipwreck
This shipwreck of a cargo steamship from more than 100 years ago is located ashore in Inverness. It won’t take too long to check out, so it’s totally possible to go see even on a tighter schedule. Just like the leaning tree, the shipwreck offers possibilities for some awesome photographs.
14. Walk the 308 Stairs to the Iconic Point Reyes Lighthouse
Built in 1870, the Point Reyes Lighthouse offers a touch of history to its surroundings. It is no longer in operation, but can be visited for leisure. However, there are over 300 steps to descend to reach the lighthouse, although each of them is worth it to see this lovely looking lighthouse from up close.
15. Pop By a Visitor’s Center
While the first purpose of a Visitor’s Center is to arm tourists in the area with various information, other points of interest are often offered as well. In the case of Point Reyes, a few visitor centers have been established, each of them with their own reasons for being worth the visit.
- The Point Reyes National Seashore Visitor Center
Here you can learn more about the lighthouse’s history through exhibitions. In addition, there are additional exhibitions on maritime history and current marine life in the surrounding areas. There is even a small bookstore located here for you to explore.
- Bear Valley Visitor Center
This is the primary visitor center in the Point Reyes area. Here you can find information on the roads in the area, as well as the different trails you can go for hikes in. There’s also an indoor exhibition teaching visitors about the cultural heritage and ecosystems of the park.
- Kenneth C. Patrick Visitor Center
The third visitor center in Point Reyes is Kenneth C. Patrick Visitor Center, which you can find by Drakes Beach. Here, too, you can find an exhibit focused around marine life and maritime history, specifically from around the 1500s, even including marine fossils.
16. Tour Historic Pierce Point Ranch
What was a hundred years ago considered as the prime dairy ranch in all of California, is now only a memory of what it once was like. However, while no longer operational and its main house offering accommodation for the park employees, the Pierce Point Ranch makes for a nice stroll around, during which you can explore and understand what old Californian ranches were all about.
17. Find Your Favorite Hike
Point Reyes offers more opportunities for hikes than are possible to discover on one trip alone, or even a week!. The upside of that is that there’s a perfect Point Reyes hike out there for any type of a hiker! Pick your favorite from the list below:
While this hike is sadly far from an easy one (it’s about 13 miles!), it offers the incredible and dramatic scenery of a waterfall cascading right onto the beach. You’ll want to be very prepared for a full day before starting this hike, but you’ll be rewarded greatly for your efforts.
This hike takes you to two beaches within Tomales Bay Park. The toughness of the trail varies depending on which part of the hike you’re on, although it’s mostly deemed an easy and relaxing one, a good fit for the whole family.
Following an old ranch road on the top of an open ridge, this is not only a pleasant hike but one with pretty wonderful scenery, as well. You’ll get epic views of Tomales Bay, cross through the Tule Elk Reserve, and possibly walk amongst wildflowers.
This trail is especially popular among wildlife enthusiasts and flower lovers. It offers sightings of elephant seals, birds, and wildflowers, all within less than 3 kilometers round-trip. As an additional bonus, you’ll love the views of Drakes Bay it offers. Here is where the Elephant Seal Overlook is also located!
Another hike with stunning views, this time of Limantour, the Estero Trail takes you through cattle pastures and grasslands. You can find some great bird watching points on this trail, which finishes off at either Sunset Beach or Drakes Head, depending on which end trail you choose to follow.
Here’s a great option for a short hike. An easy route taking around 30 minutes to complete, the trail is serene and scenic all around the year. Here, too, you can birdwatch or, alternatively, find a spot on the beach to go fishing in.
Abbotts Lagoon is another easy hike, taking you near Pierce Point Ranch. In the springtime, it is exceptional for viewing spring flowers, and in fall and winter it’s a great location for birdwatchers. It only takes around one hour to complete.
18. Eat Oysters
When in Point Reyes, you may feel inclined to eat some oysters. You can have them raw, but you can also get them in the form of BBQ. And because that’s not enough variety, there are different sauces and spices for you to choose your oyster dish from!
First up is the most famous location for eating oysters in this area. You’ll get amazing oysters marinated in chipotle bourbon butter prior to barbecuing, which you’ll enjoy with stellar views of Tomales Bay. It’s expensive and touristy, but oh so delicious.
If you want to go with something easy that doesn’t ask a lot from you, at Marshall Store you can choose from six kinds of oysters and then enjoy them seated bayside. To complete your meal, you can also find other delicious items on the menu.
Here you can eat oysters picnic style. Each table comes with its own grill, similar to what you’d find in a park. A lot of planning and preparing is required from you ahead of time, and you’ll probably grill your oysters yourself, but it’s a fun and unique way to eat a meal in Point Reyes.
19. Walk The Cypress Tree Tunnel
One of the most incredible – and famous – things to do in Point Reyes is to walk under the gorgeous Cypress Tree Tunnel. And of course take a million photos while at it! It’s so beautiful you’ll probably find yourself lingering at the site long after finishing the short walk and the photo taking.
20. Go Horseback Riding
Point Reyes also offers opportunities to go horseback riding, at numerous locations. Five Brooks Ranch offers guided horse rides, and even pony rides for small children. It’s perhaps the best service to check out for horseback riding in the area.
21. Explore the Tiny Town of Bolinas
Bolinas is where the story of Point Reyes Bird Observatory got started from. It is in general the oldest town you can find on the coastline of West Marin. It’s sort of a tiny island, with only one road in, and can be quite pleasant to stroll around in.
22. Go Camping on the Coast
While there are all sorts of lodging opportunities offered around Point Reyes camping can be another great way to spend the night, and get a little closer with nature as you do so. Coast Campground and Wildcat Campground both offer easy access to the beach, as well as nearby hiking trails. Sky Campground is far from the beach but makes up for it with spectacular views of Drakes Bay. Additionally, at Tomales Bay you can camp in a boat. Visit Nps.gov to plan your visit.
23. Escape to the Boat House at Nick’s Cove
Nick’s Cove is not only a unique place to stay with its 1930’s-era bungalows, it is also a restaurant. On the patio of the restaurant there is a pretty pier that leads to the Boat Shack, a tiny one-room wooden cottage with great views. Grab some oysters and drink at the restaurant to enjoy this little nook.
24. Spend the Night in Unique Lodging
Nick’s Cove and the camping options are of course just a few among many unique lodging opportunities offered by Point Reyes National Seashore. Below are a couple more possible options for staying the night or the entire duration of your trip.
These cottages are not only gorgeous and come equipped with an outdoor hot tub, but they are also a fairly affordable option! The indoor design of each guest yurt is charming and romantic, combining modern and traditional cottage elements.
Located in Tomales, this huge farm house accommodates up to 10. Spacious, modern and charming, you can get a feel of what living in a farm house is like. Could be exceptional especially if you’ve lived in a city your whole life.
Accommodating up to 6 guests, this farm house is not joking when describing itself as luxurious. While it may not offer the same charm as the above farm house, you’ll quickly fall in love with the sleek and modern design of this one.
For those looking for the most affordable options specifically, this hostel offers itself as a charming option near to the Limantour Beach. It’s possible to lodge for the night at one of its dormitories or rent a private house with two to four bedrooms.
25. Go Wine Tasting
Besides doing a mead tasting, you can also go for a more traditional wine tasting while in Point Reyes. There are numerous different wineries to try out, including Wine Tour Drivers and Furthermore Wines, both of which are family operated. Additionally, Sonoma Coast Vineyards and Point Reyes Vineyards are some of the best rated ones in the area.
26. Try Spotting a Whale
If you’d like to try your luck at spotting a whale while in the area, plan your trip to Point Reyes around the winter months. Perhaps the best spots for seeing whales here are around the Lighthouse and the Chimney Rock.
27. Do Some Stand-Up Paddle Boarding
Lastly, you can also absolutely do some stand-up paddle boarding, SUP for short, whilst discovering Point Reyes National Seashore. You can rent a SUP board with Blue Waters Kayaking, for example, and explore Tomales Bay on the water while learning the ways of SUP boarding.
The next time you plan your trip to Northern California, on your way to wine tasting in Napa Valley or Sonoma, definitely schedule a pit stop at Point Reyes to immerse yourself in nature, wildlife and scenery.
Best Tips for Visiting Point Reyes National Seashore
Getting There: San Francisco International Airport is a major hub and most airlines will fly into it. You can easily check for the best fare deals at Skyscanner, which also has the option to choose ‘cheapest month’ as the departure to find the lowest priced dates to fly to your destination. From the airport to the city center, you can get there by bus, taxi, car, shuttle or towncar.
Where to Stay in Point Reyes National Seashore: It’s best to stay near the city center, public transportation or the area that you will be spending the most time in. HI Point Reyes Hostel is a great choice in the Point Reyes (California) district. For something on the less expensive side, try Metro Hotel located in Petaluma. For a hotel with a little more extravagance, book a room at the Nick’s Cove. Or search some great deals on hotels of your choice at Booking.com. If you’re looking for more of a home atmosphere (or are traveling with a group of people), head over to VRBO that has houses, apartments and even just a room for rent in every price range.
Getting Around: Driving in a new destination can be a bit of a challenge, but if you choose to rent a car, RentalCars.com has great deals. If you are not renting a car, there are plenty of other options. Taxis, Lyft, Uber are available all over the city. For a more budget friendly option, you can take the public bus.
- Cow Heaven: A Driving Audio Tour from Point Reyes Seashore to Tomales
- A Drive Through Time: A Ranching History of Point Reyes National Seashore
- Point Reyes Station: Food and Farm Tour with Lunch
Insurance: It’s always a good idea to travel fully insured so you are protected in case of trip cancellations or medical emergencies. You can check out pricing at Travelex Insurance.
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