Containing the Point Reyes National Seashore and the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, almost all of West Marin is protected. With the exception of Inverness, which is on the Point Reyes Peninsula, the coastal towns, from southernmost Muir Beach, going north through Stinson Beach, Bolinas, Olema, Point Reyes Station, Marshall and Tomales, dot Highway One all the way up to the Marin/Sonoma County border.
The small inland hamlets of Nicasio, Woodacre, Forest Knolls, San Geronimo and Lagunitas are all unique and remarkably beautiful in their various settings that range from redwood forests to open grasslands and rolling hills.
STINSON BEACH, the most often visited of the coastal towns, is home to a lovely, three-mile-long beach which is well-kept, clean and accessible. Swimming, surfing and sunbathing are the favorite activities here, but Stinson is also the finish line for the famous Dipsea Race. Right next to the beach is a wonderful park area with trees, lawns, picnic tables and barbecues available for day use.
BOLINAS, located just past the Audubon Canyon Ranch north of Stinson Beach, is a small town of about 1,100 residents; some of whom do their best to keep Bolinas a well-guarded secret by continually removing the directional road signs to the town. Bolinas is also home to Smiley’s Schooner Saloon, the oldest, continuously operated saloon (this bar was even open during Prohibition) in California.
OLEMA, holding the distinction of being the epicenter of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and currently the gateway to the Point Reyes National Seashore, was once a roaring pioneering town with seven bars, a racetrack, and a stagecoach that brought visitors from San Rafael on the weekends. Some of the old buildings remain, including the Olema Inn, founded in 1876.
NICASIO is a very small town located between Highway 101 and the San Geronimo Valley. George Lucas, famous producer of “Star Wars”, built Skywalker Ranch nearby as his headquarters for his film operations. Also to be found in the area a variety of estate homes on many ranches. The rural beauty of Lucas Valley makes for a pleasant drive for the patrons of popular Rancho Nicasio, who come from all over Marin to enjoy country dining and dancing.
POINT PEYES STATION had its beginnings as a railroad town when the first train came through on its way to Tomales in 1875. The railroad disappeared in 1933,and although Point Reyes Station is now the largest town in West Marin, it is still only three blocks long and a couple blocks deep. Within this quiet little town, coffee houses, galleries, bookstores, antique shops and restaurants lend a cosmopolitan flavor.
MARSHALL, TOMALES and DILLON BEACH are popular tourist stops en route up the coast to Sonoma County. Marshall, which grew up as a resort for hunters and fishermen, today is well-known for its oyster companies. Leaving the coast from Marshall and following the path of the long-gone trains, the roads winds into Tomales. With many restored old homes and the steep-roofed Lady of Assumption church, built in 1860, the Victorian charm of Tomales beckons. Driving north on Highway One, Dillon Beach is the last town before the Sonoma County border. The community was named after George Dillon; arriving in the 1880s, he was the first settler of the area. Today, Dillon Beach is popular for its wonderful beach, sport fishing, crabbing and clam digging.