A Quick Guide to Tomales Bay

Tomales Bay Foods cheeses

When you’re in the mood to disconnect from modern life and reconnect with nature and yourself, there’s possibly no better place to spend a night or three than HI Point Reyes hostel. This tech-free zone makes it easy to lose some hours getting up close and personal with plants and wildlife, the expansive Pacific Ocean, and some of the best eating this side of the Golden Gate Bridge. While there’s plenty to explore within the Point Reyes National Seashore, you should also try make some time for an adventure around Tomales Bay.

The bay is on the eastern border of the national park, and is a great for those who want to experience local life in rural Northern California. You’ll find that there are mainly activities for two kinds of people – those who love being active outdoors, and those who love eating outdoors. Which category do you fall under?

For the active

Tomales Bay State Park is a little underrated gem with several beaches with waters gentle enough to swim in, extensive hiking trails through forests, fields, marshes, and meadows, and diverse wildlife. The water attracts land and sea birds, from owls to pelicans, and on any given day you might be lucky enough to spot deer, bobcats, badgers or foxes.

At the center of it all is Heart’s Desire, where you’ll find the park ranger station, a little beach, and trails leading out to a few sweet spots. You can also do some boating in the bay, and between June and November, if you go out in the evenings you’ll get to experience magic bioluminescent creatures glowing in the dark waters. Pack a picnic (we’ll discuss why oysters are pretty much a mandatory item around these parts later) and spend some time in the fresh air scented with sea salt and wildflowers in the spring.

Point Reyes boat Copyright Lacey Bediz

For the hungry

If you know one thing about Tomales Bay, it should be that this is an area abundant with plump, sweet oysters that thrive in ideal local conditions. Around these parts, the two go-to spots for your bivalve fix are Hog Island Oyster Co. and The Marshall Store, and whichever you choose depends largely on what kind of eating experience you’re in the mood for.

Hog Island is perfect if you want to pick up super fresh oysters to take on the go for your picnic somewhere pretty, but you can also stick around to shuck and slurp on site. You can reserve a spot, which comes with a charcoal grill and some essentials like tabasco sauce and lemons, and spend an idyllic afternoon on the edge of the bay.

Marshall Store oysters

On the other hand, The Marshall Store is great if you’re not up for doing any shucking for yourself. The seafood shack sits along the water with a long bench running along the edge of the dock so you can eat your oysters – raw, smoked, or topped with other delicious things – while taking in the sweet views. There’s also a general store on site where you can pick up some essentials, and if oysters aren’t really your thing, there are more delicious food options to choose from (come back during crab season too!).

No matter whether you’re visiting for the adventure or for the eating, it’s hard to beat a day spent in this cute corner of Marin County. You’ll find yourself leaving feeling refreshed and rejuvenated, and probably already thinking of the next time you’ll be able to escape back to this magical place.


HI USA Tip: Make the most of your stay in the national park and take a look at this Point Reyes safari checklist with all the creatures big and small you can encounter during your stay.

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