Tomales Bay is a wonder—geologic, gastronomic and hydrologic. The slot-shaped body of water in western Marin County is gouged out by the infamous San Andreas Fault. And the grinding of the plates on either side isn't done yet. The rugged land mass on the western side, home to Point Reyes National Seashore, tule elk and dairy cows that produce the region’s famous milk and cheese, is moving northwest at the rate of one or two inches a year. The eastern shore, dotted with restaurants, oyster farms and more than a few bed and breakfasts, is staying put. Take the region as a whole, earth-shaking fissure and all, and you’ve got a destination of singular beauty that’s home to dairy farms, great restaurants, winding roads that are a cyclist’s dream and all the aforementioned oysters you can eat.
"Take the region as a whole, earth-shaking fissure and all, and you’ve got a destination of singular beauty.."
The mouth of the bay opens to the raw power of the Pacific Ocean and welcomes the occasional mother and calf gray whale, tired and looking for a respite on their Alaska-to-Mexico migration. Just outside the bay is the Shark Pit, an expert-only surf spot named after one of the area’s other denizens. Traveling south on Highway 1 with the bay on your right reveals a series of must-stops and must-eats. In the namesake town of Tomales, the tiny–but-mighty K&A Takeaway (try the duck meatball sando) and William Tell House, a nearly 150-year-old tavern that has a resident ghost, welcomes tourists and locals alike.
"Traveling south on Highway 1 with the bay on your right reveals a series of must-stops and must-eats."
Next is your soon-to-be-favorite bar with a water view: Nick’s Cove. Further down the way is Marshall, home to the always delicious (and always crowded) Hog Island Oyster Co. Slightly less crowded is The Marshall Store, another equally piquant oyster outpost.
Last stop at the marshy meeting of Lagunitas Creek and Tomales Bay is Point Reyes Station, capital city of West Marin and home to one the most beloved cheese shops and food emporium in America: Cowgirl Creamery. Don’t miss Bovine Bakery for some killer baked goods, or Toby’s Feed Barn, where you can pick up an outstanding cup of cappuccino and a bale of hay.
In between the little towns and oyster farms are secret beaches and bay-bound trails that invite picnicking, kayaking, wandering—and return visits.