Spend some time in Marin County, at the “other” end of the Golden Gate Bridge, and it doesn’t take long to figure out that the redwood-shaded, coastal hill country north of San Francisco has a ridiculous number of things to do. Miles of coastal wilderness and redwood forests to explore by foot or by bike, farm-to-table restaurants and artisan food-makers, charming towns, theaters and clubs where locals like Robin Williams, Carlos Santana, and George Lucas might be on stage or in the crowd—what’s not to love about Marin?
Somehow this diminutive county remains under the radar—a secret, perfect hideaway. Even better, it’s straddled by two of Northern California’s top destinations—San Francisco to the south and the Napa/Sonoma Wine Country to the northeast—yet it doesn’t have the hassle or crush of those vacation hotspots.
Sure, you can visit them, but then get out of craziness and retreat to comfortable lodgings dotting Marin such the beautiful Cavallo Point overlooking San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge. This amazing hotel epitomizes the kind of ultimate base camp that a Marin County lodging can provide: easy access to San Francisco and beyond, but incredible beauty and plenty to do if you don’t want to stray too far.
Need more coaxing? Here are my top five secret itineraries for memorable adventures in Marin.
From Mill Valley, drive up Marin’s signature peak, 2,571-ft. Mt. Tamalpais via Panoramic Highway and park at the Pantoll area (day-use parking fee). Then cross the highway to walk down the Bootjack Trail, through redwoods and along creeks, to access Muir Woods from its peaceful north end. You have to hike back up to your car (about 4 miles round trip), but it’s worth it. Hotel Deals Near Muir Woods
Locavore Day Trip
Tap into the local harvest at Cowgirl Creamery, producers of award-winning farmstead cheeses. (The triple-cream Red Hawk on a hunk of fresh bread from Bovine Bakery around the corner is pretty close to perfection.) Also worth a visit: Toby’s Feedbarn—part farmers’ market, part gallery, part yoga studio and theater space. Just down the road, stop in at Marin Sun Farms Butcher Shop and order a grass-fed burger topped with local cheddar. Work it all off with a hike at Pt. Reyes National Seashore. Point Reyes Hotel Deals
Marin Headlands Adventure
One easy access point from Mill Valley is Tennessee Valley Road, which leads to a network of well-marked trails. Try the 3½-mile round-trip Tennessee Valley Trail, an easy, mostly flat amble that heads west through a gentle valley to a wild stretch of coastal beach.
Or, from U.S. 101 near Sausalito, follow Bunker Rd. through a spooky tunnel to Fort Cronkhite, a former military base, and Rodeo Beach. Stop in at the Marine Mammal Center in its glistening hillside facility, where specialists treat sick or injured seals, sea lions, and other wild marine mammals. Hotel Deals Near Marin Headlands
Golden Gate Bike Cruise
Highlights include the new Disney Family Museum, Crissy Field’s restored wetlands and bay-front walk, and a chance to peek at the Letterman Digital Arts Center, part of George Lucas’s filmmaking empire. Grab a bite is the Warming Hut, a cozy eatery on the way to fascinating Fort Point, a Civil War-era brick fortress at the mouth of San Francisco Bay. San Francisco Hotel Deals
Beach Town Fun
First is Muir Beach, really not a town but a collection of homes—some funky, some breathtaking—seemingly pasted onto coastal bluffs at the southern end of Marin. Continue north to Stinson Beach, where scruffy-fun surf shops and relaxed outdoor cafes line the route. The star here is the beach, a wide sandy crescent that’s a favorite local hangout, even when it’s foggy (especially in summer). FYI, Stinson’s north end is dog-friendly. Stinson Beach Hotel Deals
Finally, continue north to tiny Marshall, where chef Pat Kuleto has created an almost perfect place to watch the sunset at Nick’s Cove. Order a platter of fresh oysters harvested from the adjacent Tomales Bay Oyster Company, add a glass of crisp chardonnay, and toast your slice of Marin heaven.
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