Explore Family Friendly Limantour Beach in Point Reyes

August 13, 2015

Limantour BeachDuring the summer, one surefire way to cool off in Marin is to head out to the beach. One family favorite in Marin is Limantour Beach at the Point Reyes National Seashore. Limantour boasts gentle surf, stunning views, and miles of sandy beach and is a great place to visit at any time of year.

Named after a French merchant shipwrecked here in the 1840s, Limantour Beach is located along Drake's Bay, and is close to Point Reyes Station and the Point Reyes National Seashore park headquarters on Bear Valley Road. As you drive over Inverness Ridge, you'll see evidence of the devastating 1995 Mt. Vision fire that swept through this area in the form of the young fir and pine trees that line the roadway.

Fun, Sun, and Sand at San Francisco's Crissy Field

June 19, 2015

Crissy FieldThe San Francisco Presidio's Crissy Field has undergone many changes in its lifetime, from tidal marsh to military airfield to one of the Bay Area's premier recreation areas. Crissy Field is a great place to spend the day with the family, and has a wonderful mix of outdoor attractons, amenities, and local businesses, as well as spectacular views of San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge.

Crissy Field is a fantastic destination for walking, bicycling, kite flying, or playing at the beach. It offers a waterfront promenade and trails that are popular with dog walkers, runners, and cyclists (and parents, judging from the number of strollers we usually see there), as well as a clean stretch of sand along San Francisco Bay.

The water here is perfect for wading and playing in the gently lapping waves. Lawn areas and picnic tables, some with charcoal grills, are available, too, so bring a picnic and your beach blanket and umbrella and spend the day. Torpedo Wharf, a pier on the north end of the field, is a popular spot for fishing and crabbing.

Shhh… Don't Tell Anyone About Chicken Ranch Beach

February 1, 2015

Chicken Ranch Beach in Inverness

When the weather warms up (even if it's in the middle of winter!), it's time to take advantage of it and head to the beach. Good, safe swimming beaches with warm weather can be hard to come by in Marin County and the Bay Area, but they're there if you know where to look. Some of them are hidden gems known only to locals and other insiders. Chicken Ranch Beach, located on Tomales Bay just outside the West Marin town of Inverness, is one of those well kept secrets. (So do us a favor and don't tell anyone about it, OK?)

Beach to Boardwalk: A Family Getaway to Santa Cruz

April 8, 2014

Santa Cruz panorama from the Dream InnOne of the great things about living in Northern California is the fact that there's no shortage of fantastic places to visit that are only a short drive away. A destination we love to visit for its beaches, stunning views, laid-back attitude, and world-famous Boardwalk is the seaside town of Santa Cruz.

The quintessential California beachside town, Santa Cruz is an ideal place for a family getaway for a long weekend, with plenty for everyone to do, from swimming and surfing to playing at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. We also love the fact that Santa Cruz is only about two hours away by car—a road trip distance that everyone can manage without getting too cranky or rambunctious.

There's so much to do there that we can't possibly cover everything in one short article, so here are a few of our favorite highlights for a family visit on summer vacation, spring break, or any other time of year.

Explore the Beauty of Paradise Beach Park in Tiburon

January 3, 2014

Paradise Beach ParkSince the weather's been so nice in Marin this winter, and since Marin County Parks is waiving parking fees through January 5, 2014, we thought we'd check out Paradise Beach Park. Located along the shores of San Francisco Bay in Tiburon, the 19-acre Paradise Beach Park offers a beach, plenty of lawns and picnic areas, a redwood grove, and an iconic fishing pier for the anglers among us. The views from this bayside gem of a park are amazing, too, with sweeping vistas of Marin and the East Bay. If you haven't been to Paradise Beach Park, it's worth a visit.

I haven't been to Paradise Park for years, so this was a great excuse to revisit it, but with my kids this time. They had a blast exploring the beach, running and playing on the grass, and watching fish jumping and harbor seals swimming by from the fishing pier.

Wright’s Beach: An Ideal Family Weekend

September 14, 2013

Wright's BeachMarin mom, food writer, recipe developer, and frequent Marin Mommies contributor Nicole Cibellis-Andrews shares her family's experiences at Wright's Beach, a fun and easy camping destination on the Sonoma Coast.

Wright’s Beach, on the Sonoma Coast—just an hour-and-a-half north of Marin County—has been one of my family’s favorite camping trips for years. With miles of beautiful beaches, campsites on the beach, and the lull of ocean waves to fall asleep to, this campground provides an ideal location for a long weekend of relaxation and recreation. Which comes in handy, since it’s one of the only Northern California campsites open year-around.

We make this trip annually with another family who enjoy this trek as much as we do. We do find that camping with another family who has kids around the same age as ours always makes camping more enjoyable.

To start our journey, we travel from Marin to Highway 12 west out of Santa Rosa. On our way, we love to stop in Freestone, home of the famous Osmosis Spa (another favorite of ours, but it’s for adults only so, that‘s for another trip). In Freestone, we hit up the equally famous Wild Four Bread Bakery, a favorite of locals and cyclists alike. They have a beautiful garden to walk the kids through, so that they can see all the yummy ingredients that the bakery adds to their outrageously edible breads.

Birds, Beaches, and Boats in Bodega Bay

August 27, 2013

Birds at Salmon Creek BeachWhen I was a kid, I thought that Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds was one of the scariest movies ever. Not only was the idea of thousands of birds randomly attacking people frightening, but the fact that it all took place in the small Sonoma County coastal town of Bodega Bay, just north of Marin County, made it hit pretty close to home.

Of course now I know that Bodega Bay is great place to visit (and that a mass bird attack is really pretty unlikely). Since it's the 50th anniversary of The Birds, it's a great time to visit to check out locations from the movies and to have some family fun, too. It's one of our favorite places to visit.

Unlike the relatively unspoiled wilderness of Point Reyes National Seashore, Bodega Bay and its surrounding areas are more developed and commercialized, and have much more of that "classic beach town" atmosphere. You'll find kite shops, salt water taffy and ice cream stands, and restaurants in abundance, and many of the restaurants in Bodega Bay get their seafood from the fishing boats that tie up right alongside them.

Bodega Bay Beaches

You'll find several stretches of beach in Bodega Bay. When we're there, we like to visit Salmon Creek Beach. Part of the Sonoma Coast State Park, it's located about five minutes north of town. (Look for the sign and the parking area.) Located where Salmon Creek spills into the Pacific Ocean, this broad expanse of beach is popular with families. It's also a great place to look for shells and sand dollars, especially at low tide. Salmon Creek Beach can get really busy on weekends, so be prepared to scamble for a parking spot.

Fun in the Sun at Heart’s Desire Beach

May 28, 2011

Heart's Desire BeachWhen the temperature rises this summer and you need to get away from the inland heat, heading out to the beach is always a popular idea. Unfortunately, the beach experience in Northern California, even on a nice day, can be something of a challenge, and usually involves donning multiple layers of clothing to stave off the cold ocean wind. Swimming at beaches here often involves putting your life at risk, too, with icy water temperatures, pounding surf, and deadly rip currents posing a hazard to even the strongest swimmers.

Let's face it: most Marin beaches are beautiful and dramatic, but you're pretty much limited to walking and playing in the sand.

Fortunately, there are some great local alternatives, if you know where to look. One of our favorite places to hang out at on a sunny day is Heart's Desire Beach at Tomales Bay State Park. On the opposite side of Inverness Ridge from the chillier ocean beaches of Point Reyes, Heart’s Desire is a white stretch of sand running along a calm, sheltered stretch of Tomales Bay. There’s no surf to speak of, and the shallow water is warm and perfect for wading, swimming, and just having fun. The swimming area is surrounded by buoys to keep boat traffic away (except for kayaks and canoes; it's a popular launching and put-in place for those), and there's often an anchored raft to swim out to.

Day Out at Drakes Beach

January 16, 2011

Drakes Beach panoramaWhile much of the nation digs itself out from snowdrifts and bundles up against the elements, we in Northern California can enjoy some delightful mid-winter weather, especially out at the coast, where it's often warmer than it is inland at this time of year. One favorite coastal destination for families is Drakes Beach at Point Reyes National Seashore. Drakes beach's popularity has much to do with its sheltered location, amenities, convenient location, and beautiful scenery. Drakes Beach can also serve as a jumping off point for further exploration of Point Reyes, especially during the winter and spring when the winter shuttle bus program is in place.

Drakes Beach—named after Elizabethan seafarer Sir Francis Drake, who in all likelihood paid a visit to the area with his ship The Golden Hinde in 1579—is situated on the shores of Drakes Bay at the southern end of the Point Reyes Peninsula. Backed by dramatic white sandstone cliffs, Drakes Beach is sheltered from the weather by Point Reyes itself, so when it's windy and foggy and inhospitable at the lighthouse or North Beach, it will often be warm and sunny at Drakes.

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