What’s Best: A large lagoon, tide pools, surfer’s waves, and a meander through Marins quirky walk-around beach town. There is only one Bolinas.
Parking: From southern Marin: Take Hwy. 1-Stinson Beach exit from north of Sausalito and follow about 13 ml. to 3.5 ml. north of Stinson Beach. Turn left on Olema-Bolinas Rd. Continue 2 ml. and park in town. From central Marin: Take Sir Francis Drake Blvd.-San Anselmo exit and follow about 18 miles, through Fairfax to Hwy. 1 at Olema. Go south on Hwy. 1 for about 7.5 ml, and turn right on Olema-Bolinas Rd. Notes: People have been tearing down the highway sign pointing to Bolinas for years. Addtional directons follow below. Agency: Marin County Department of Parks.
The 1,077-acre Bolinas Lagoon is a major rest area for birds migrating along the Pacific Flyway. Parking: Look for a County Parks trailhead sign on the left, about a mile in on Olema-Bolinas Road just before the road makes a sharp right. Start out on the Bob Stewart Trail, beside a small creek under a leafy ceiling of alder, willows, and elms. You’ll reach a mile of open water below the Bolinas Ridge. Veer right, skirting the water and crossing a footbridge. To the south is a view of Kent Island, where the lagoon’s harbor seals haul out to rest, breed, and molt. In recent years, sedimentation has adversely affected the lagoon’s tidal flows, a problem being addressed by the Bolinas Lagoon Foundation. Mores Stuff: Take care not to disturb resting birds.
BOLINAS MAP SAN FRANCISCO Photo Gallery
Agate Beach is known for the tide pools of Duxbury Reef. Parking: Turn right on Brighton Avenue as you drop into Bolinas, and veer right on Park Avenue behind the tennis courts. Keep right on Terrace Avenue. As Terrace becomes Ocean Avenue on the mesa, turn right on Overlook Drive, and then immediately left on Elm Road. Follow Elm to its end, at Agate Beach parking. Offshore is the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. Walk the short road down to the seven-acre beach. Stroll the shell-and-rock beach, or, during low tides, head left out to the tide pools of the reef. A dozen or more ships have run aground here, including the Duxbury in 1849. Be Aware: Surging tide and waves present hazards, as does venturing too close to unstable cliffs. Do not remove or collect anything from this marine study area. Note: You can also get to Agate Beach, by turning right on Mesa Road, before Bolinas, and then turning left on Overlook Avenue.
Walk: Bolinas town and beach loop (1.75 ml.)
In 1850, two-thirds of Marin’s 325 residents lived in Bolinas, then a bawdy logging town that supplied lumber for booming San Francisco. Prior to that, this most southern tip of the Point Reyes Peninsula was part of Rancho las Baulenes, a cattle ranch granted to two brothers, former Mexican soldiers. In the late 1800s, the stagecoach brought summer home builders, followed by the first funky subdivisions in the early 1900s. In Bolinas, dogs sleep on sidewalks and sandy-footed people walk the middle of the street a bohemian Cannery Row where fishermen, surfers, New Age entrepreneurs, neo-Hippies, and tourists mingle amid breezes wafting espresso, salt air, and patchouli.
The Bolinas loop stroll is a winner. Begin at the corner of Brighton Avenue and head down Wharf Road which Bolinas Road becomes. You’ll pass a favorite watering hole on your left Smiley’s, formerly the Schooner Saloon built in 1852, the one remaining among nine former bars. Rounding the corner, you’ll see galleries, including the Bolinas Museum and several must-stops for those interested in surf stuff and artwork. Down from the museum is the College of Marin’s Marine Station, where for years biologist Gordy Chan was the Bolinas version of John Steinbeck’s Doc. Wharf Road narrows and ends at a concrete ramp, the start of a .5-mile beach walk that should not be attempted at high tide. To your left, across the mouth of the lagoon is the end of the sand spit at Stinson Beach, TH62. With cliffs and bulkheads to your right, walk the tide-washed sand until reaching Brighton, where you walk another concrete ramp up between houses. You’ll pass Bolinas Park on your left, and several old Victorians made into boutiques, blogshops, and antique stores.
Bike: Get a feeling of the local character by taking a ride on the seriously potholed, unpaved alleyways on the Bolinas Mesa; head up there via the directions to Agate Beach. The streets on the mesa are laid out in a grid, so it’s hard to get too lost. Then head down Overlook and turn left to ride the pavement of scenic Mesa Road to Palomarin trailhead parking. You go through open dairylands with ocean views.
Bolinas Beach, Smiley’s For a country ride of about 15 miles round-trip pedal to Five Brooks, TH66, via the Olema Valley Trail. Head out of town on Olema-Bolinas Road and stay left past the school on Horseshoe Hill Road. This road will take you to the highway and the trailhead on your left opposite a trailhead for the McCurdy Trail. You then ride the bumpy, pastoral Olema Valley Trail for about 5.5 miles to Five Brooks.