Stinson Beach is about 17 miles, or a 35-minute drive, from the Golden Gate Bridge in northern California. It's a popular day trip for Bay-area locals, but also a top stop for visitors new to the area. Stinson Beach is officially part of Marin County, and is linked to Marin City by public transportation as well as a network of hiking trails around Mount Tamalpais. Tourists bring much of the traffic into the area—the local population of Stinson Beach is in the 600s. But on weekends and warm-weather days, people flock to the beach town for some fun in the sun.
Going to the beach is a must in Stinson. The three and a half mile stretch of sand leaves plenty of room for sunbathers, while the waves are perfect for swimmers and surfers. A 51-acre park adjacent to the beach has more than 100 tables for public use, with open access until sunset. The beach also serves as a starting point for hikers to Mount Tamalpais. Mt. Tam, as the locals call it, is part of the Mount Tamalpais State Park of Marin County. The Matt Davis Trail is popular, as well as the Steep Ravine and Dipsea Trails. The paths lead through loops of canyons, forests and waterfalls with views of the Pacific coastline and Stinson Beach. The mountain itself has over 60 miles of hiking trails, but the surrounding area including the State Park has over 200 miles. The park is mostly redwood and oak forests, with areas for camping and other outdoorsy activities. It’s also home to a natural-stone amphitheater where a spring play is produced each year and free astronomy programs are held in the summer. The Muir Woods National Monument is also a point of interest for tourists, where redwoods over 500 years old provide a breathtaking landscape.
Stinson Beach is a great base from which to explore the surrounding areas of Bolinas Bay, Tomales Bay and Point Reyes. Bolinas Bay and Tomales Bay are small and out of the way, but have a consistent stream of visitors. Bolinas is popular among surfers from the Bay area, while Tomales has a broader following of water sports enthusiasts. Point Reyes is a prominent cape nearby that is protected as an important nature preserve. It’s the windiest place on the Pacific Coast, and the second foggiest place on the North American continent, which is why the Point Reyes Lighthouse was such a valuable asset to the community for over one hundred years. The lighthouse was artfully preserved as a standing monument to the craftsmanship of the place as well as the hard work of lighthouse keepers and the lives saved. Stinson Beach is also not as far from the city as expected. It’s only 20 miles from San Francisco along the Pacific Coast Highway, and across the Golden Gate Bridge. Not only is the scenic drive worth the trip, but also the city of San Francisco will feel like a completely different world from Stinson Beach. Head into Chinatown for some dim sum and shopping or Fisherman’s Wharf to take selfies with the sea lions. Union Square will be busting with people, as will Ghirardelli Square and Lombard Street. If the Point Reyes Lighthouse happened to inspire you, Alcatraz Island, the infamous high-security prison, is also the site of the first lighthouse and US built fort on the West Coast.
Stinson Beach isn’t that big of a place, so most accommodations are scattered along the coast. There are entire beach cottages, for larger parties or families with children, but also quant B&Bs, inns, hotels, and rooms available for rent. Larger-scale lodgings along the Shoreline Highway include hotels, beach motels and inns. These accommodations “in town,” are near the local library, Stinson Beach Market, community center, and cafes. There are also cottages and “retreats” right on the waterfront. These rentals can range anywhere from 200-500 dollars per night. Most are furnished and within walking distance of the town’s restaurants and bars.
If you plan on getting into Stinson Beach, Marin Transit offers bus service into town seven days a week, excluding major holidays like Christmas and New Year’s. There’s also weekday service between Stinson Beach and Marin City via the West Marin Stagecoach, which also makes stops in Bolinas Downtown and Tamalpais. The Stagecoach’s weekend service runs all the way to Sausalito, where riders can transfer to Golden Gate Transit bus routes and ferries. Taxis are also available for hire in Stinson Beach, but the local area is great for walking.
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