Pack your bags! In honor of life’s most delicious highways, we give you Hit the Road, Snack, our travel guide of things to eat, see, and do this summer, from coast to coast.
Before I moved to San Francisco, I espoused the typical notion of what my getaways would involve: sun-soaked weekends in Wine Country and visits to Half Moon Bay. Arguably, that’s what most of us food obsessives have read and heard about when it comes to vacations in the Bay Area.
But there are many other interesting and exciting spots to explore outside the city. One of these local gems, tucked away by the coastline, is Tomales Bay, a region famous for its delicious oysters, for which I have a particular fondness. Growing up on the coast of India, I ate more fish than meat, including fried oysters and scallops and shrimp pickled with chiles and turmeric. When I came to the United States, I was exposed to a new world of raw oysters, crudo, and gravlax, all of which I've grown to love eating.
I could spend an entire weekend in Tomales Bay, shucking oysters with my husband, exploring the different parts of the coast. I love its proximity to both SF and Oakland, and that within a short period of time (traffic depending), you can be right next to the water. The mountains are right there, too, which makes Tomales Bay a wonderful place to relax and get away. In fact, when I need a break from writing about food and cooking, I like to go up there for a day—just one day—and unwind. I can free my mind, take in the scenery, and enjoy the many scenic views that this part of northern California has to offer.
If you're interested, pack a bag; I'll take you there:
Even though the drive is only an hour and a half from San Francisco, it’s a good idea to start your trip early to avoid traffic. And, because a picture is worth a thousand and one words, there are several compelling spots you might pass by, including views of the Pacific that you'll want to capture in a photograph.
As you head north toward Tomales Bay on State Route 1, you'll pass through the Point Reyes National Seashore—I highly recommend spending some time here as you start your trip. Take the walk up to the historic Point Reyes Lighthouse, which was built in 1870 to help warn and guide seafarers away from the dangerous headlands that have the potential to wreck ships and boats (!!). You’ll also get a glimpse of the breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean coastline up there.
Things to look out for: the tule elk which you may spy grazing, and the sea lions, which you can view at Sea Lion Overlook (bring a pair of binoculars!). Don’t forget to check your car for gas; the closest gas station is 20 miles away. 1 Point Reyes-Petaluma Road, Inverness, CA 94937.
Built during the 1850s, Nick’s Cove represents one of the few remaining settlements in Tomales Bay where fishermen and farmers operated. The property is surrounded by a rich history reflected in the architecture of the cabins whose style has been preserved but updated with modern amenities. 23240 California 1, Marshall, CA 94940.
This is another piece of Point Reyes history that’s been converted to a lodge for tourists. The property was built in 1879 and served as a school for the local children. The original structure fell off its foundations during the 1906 Earthquake and was then pulled back by horses, later repaired and updated to its present glory. 11559 California 1, Point Reyes Station, CA 94956.
Living in San Francisco, I of course live and breathe and think in bread, and can never resist a good bakery. Make an early stop at Tomales Bakery to sample the creative pastries, like the chocolate devil and the marzipan croissant, among the other more proper “breads.” Oh, and plan well because they sell out fast! 27000 California 1, Tomales, CA 94971.
If you’re visiting Tomales Bay, you should take a moment to drive to the edge of the water to watch the oysters sorted and harvested from the water. It’s fascinating. The company has taken active steps to ensure the sustainability of oysters production on the coast. Pro tip: Bring a shucking knife or two to crack open the shells, so you can taste the sweet flavor of the fresh oysters that come straight out of the bay. 15479 California 1, Marshall, CA 94940.
A short distance further up from the Tomales Bay Oyster Company is the Marshall Store, which is famous for its smoked oysters and meats. The oysters are served on crostini with pickled onions and a bit of cheese, and are great with a cold bottle of beer. Equally delicious are their pulled pork sandwiches. 19225 California 1, Marshall, CA 94940.
A gorgeous historic restaurant with tall ceilings, this was a popular spot for grub during the days of the North Pacific Coast Railroad. For breakfast, you should definitely try “The Hangtown Fry,” an omelet made with fried Pacific oysters and bacon. 11180 California 1, Point Reyes Station, CA 94956.
For wine lovers: Not only can you make a trip to Point Reyes Vineyard to sample the wines, but you can also book a room and stay on location at this vineyard. As my husband says, "It defines relaxed Bay Area living, the ability to get away." 12700 Shoreline Highway, Point Reyes Station, CA 94956.
For green thumbs: This quirky little local nursery specializes in selling native plants suited for growing in the Bay Area of northern California. 54 B Street, Unit D, Point Reyes Station, CA 94956.
For horse whisperers: I wish I were a horseback rider, but alas, I am not. But if you possess the dexterity and balance, there are several options to choose from: Point Reyes Arabian Adventures (11925 California 1, Point Reyes Station, CA 94956) and Five Brooks Stables (8001 California 1, Olema, CA 94950) provide various guided trails for people of all ages and skill levels to ride through and take in the area's gorgeous wildlife.
For thrill seekers: There are several fun options when it comes to kayaking in the waters of Tomales Bay, with guided tours of the region provided by Point Reyes Outdoors. One option includes bioluminescent camping, which involves wading through the waters, brightly lit by plankton. 11401 California 1, Point Reyes Station, California 94956.
For farm tours: This region is also home to numerous farms including the Straus Family Creamery, which was one of the first organic dairies to be established 75 years ago in the West. Visits to the Straus Home Ranch (at a different location than the creamery) are organized and run via the Marin Agricultural Land Trust (MALT) by the Straus siblings, Vivien, Miriam and/or Michael. The tours last about two hours and begin at 2:30 p.m. on Sundays (visit their website for additional details). 22888 Shoreline Highway, Marshall, CA 94940.
What's your favorite West Coast getaway? Let us know in the comments below.