The town of Dillon Beach is about 45 miles northwest of San Francisco in Marin County on the beautiful California coast. Dillon Beach’s pristine sandy coastline and proximity to natural beauty makes it a popular destination for family vacations. You can swim, hike, fish, play water sports, and sight-see. Book a stay at one of many unforgettable Dillon Beach vacation rentals today. Here are the top 12 kid-friendly things to do in and around Dillon Beach.

1. Enjoy the Beach

The town faces a mile of wide soft sandy beach that is perfect for swimming, sunbathing, beachcombing, and building sand castles. Enjoy throwing a Frisbee or playing beach volleyball. With a weaker undertow than you find on much of the California coast, the water is safer for children. If you enjoy thrilling water sports, try sail boarding, kite boarding, and windsurfing.

2. Surf the Waves

With the right conditions of swell, tides, and wind, large offshore waves make Dillon Beach a popular destination for surfers. If you are inexperienced, rent equipment and take lessons from local experts while the little ones enjoy boogie boarding along the shoreline. Be sure to wear wet suits, because the water is chilly.

3. Paddle Along the Shoreline

Kayaking and canoeing offer exciting ways to explore the nearby waterways and observe wildlife. Bring your own watercraft or rent some from local shops. Head out to Tomales Point, into Tomales Bay, south along the Point Reyes National Seashore, or north to Bodega Bay. If you are unfamiliar with the area, join a tour with leaders who guide you to hidden coves and beaches and special landmarks.

4. Explore the Tide Pools

At low tide, enjoy the fascinating, family-friendly experience of observing marine life in the tide pools in and around Dillon Beach. The local tide pools are just a short walk from your vacation rental. Farther afield, the tide pools at Sculptured Beach and Palomarin Beach at Point Reyes National Seashore yield close-up looks at sand crabs, limpets, purple sea urchins, and other marine creatures. Be sure to visit the Bodega Marine Laboratory at Bodega Bay, which is run by the University of California at Davis. Volunteers take you on a tour of aquarium displays and allow the children to touch tide pool specimens.

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5. Dig for Clams

At low tide, a sandbar forms in the middle of Tomales Bay, which is just south of Dillon Beach. You can rent a motor boat or kayak and go clamming. Be sure to bring shovels, a container for the clams, and a clam tube that prevents the sides of the hole from caving in while you’re digging. Clam digging is messy but lots of fun. Watch for the necks of clams sticking out of the sand, then dig around them without alerting them, so they don’t withdraw their necks and disappear.

6. Go Fishing

Fishing near Dillon Beach is a great family activity, and it’s easy to surf fish for striped bass right at the shoreline. The fishing pier at Lawson’s Landing provides a safe place for younger children to fish. If you rent a boat, the offshore waters yield salmon, halibut, and thresher sharks. For some experienced help and a thrilling experience, charter a boat at Bodega Bay and take the family out on the open ocean to fish for rock cod, ling cod, albacore, giant squid, and other species.

7. Watch for Whales

Gray whales and blue whales migrate along the Pacific Coast, and one of the best vantage points to observe them is Bodega Head at Bodega Bay, which is just a few minutes away from your Dillon Beach vacation rental. If you want to get closer to these majestic creatures, join a tour and go out on the open ocean. There’s nothing more thrilling than to be near a massive whale when it breaches.

8. Visit the Lighthouse

A visit to Point Reyes Lighthouse at the edge of a cliff at Point Reyes National Seashore is a fascinating study in marine history. First, go to the Lighthouse Visitor Center, which offers a look at the lighthouse and local maritime history, and then move on to the attached Ocean Exploration Center, which features displays on ocean environments and ecosystems. The centers feature an observation deck dedicated to bird watching and whale watching. Over 300 steps lead down to the isolated lighthouse, where you’re encouraged to explore galleries that offer further insight into lighthouse history and operations.

9. Have Fun at the Amusement Park

Scandia Fun Land at Rohnert Park is only 20 minutes east of your Dillon Beach vacation rental. The rides include bumper cars, a mini-racetrack, and pirate-themed Blaster Boats with water guns to attack passengers of other boats. There are also two elaborate mini-golf courses. The immense arcade has over 100 thrilling games to choose from.

10. Hike the Trails

Nearby Tomales Bay State Park has numerous hiking trails that reward you with discoveries of beaches, meadows, marshes, forest groves, and other beautiful locations. In the park area known as Heart’s Desire, the trails lead you to Pebble Beach, Shell Beach, and Indian Beach. Another short mile-long trail takes you to a rare virgin grove of Bishop pine called Jepson Memorial Grove. Along the way, watch for birds such as pelicans, great blue herons, spotted owls, woodpeckers, and meadowlarks.

11. Observe Wildlife

The best place in the area to observe an abundance of wildlife is Point Reyes National Seashore. Its open grasslands and coastal scrub are home to a large herd of majestic tule elk. Other animals you can spot in the forests and meadows include black-tailed deer, coyotes, bobcats, and jackrabbits. In the winter it’s possible to observe a breeding colony of elephant seals from an overlook near Chimney Rock, and all year long, your family can watch sea lions from an overlook near the Point Reyes Lighthouse parking lot.

12. Marvel at the Waterfall

On the coast of Drake’s Bay at Point Reyes National Seashore is an awe-inspiring waterfall called Alamere Falls. To reach it, hike from Palomarin Trailhead, Bear Valley Trailhead, or Five Brooks Trailhead to Wildcat Beach, and then walk a mile south along the beach during a low tide. The long hike is worth it, as the falls make a spectacular plunge of about 30 feet from the top of a cliff down to the beach for an unforgettable view.

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