In Marin County, many types of outdoor activities revolve around area beaches. Hiking trails, biking trails and horseback riding trips can all have shoreline themes that allow participants to experience the coastal parks, coves and hidden getaway locations that are easy to reach from Sausalito. From our Golden Gate Bridge location, people can plan day trips that include fishing, kayaking or bird watching in beautiful nature-filled settings.
2012 Sausalito Visitor Notes:
Due to recent nationwide funding dilemmas, it is always wise to contact the park or beach of your choice before leaving home to reserve picnic locations, inquire about parking lot fees and to learn about any new restrictions in place that might not be on the Internet yet.
In the fall of 2011, California coastal locations were asked to use caution around unusual debris found on beaches for the next few years. Japanese disaster trash might not be safe.
China Camp State Park: (415) 456-0766
Golden Gate National Recreation Area: (415) 561-4700
Marin Headlands Visitor Center: (415) 331-1540
Paradise Beach Park: (415) 499-6387
Point Reyes National Seashore Beaches: (415) 464-5100 extension 2.
Tomales Bay State Park office: (415) 669-1140
Favorite Marin County Beaches:
Agate Beach Park: Agate Beach Park is located about 30-miles north of San Francisco , in the small town of Bolinas . To reach this beautiful setting, follow State Route 1 along the coastline. Bolinas is a close-knit community that includes about 700 families. The residents have earned fame over the years for constantly removing all street and highway signs that help visitors to find their town. Agate Beach Park borders the south end of Point Reyes National Seashore, nearby to the downtown section of Bolinas.
Attractions: Agate Beach County Park offers an extensive collection of pristine tide pools that are protected by the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. The town of Bolinas offers bird watching opportunities and the Marin-Bolinas Botanical Gardens.
Angel Island State Park: Angel Island State Park is located in the Bay, nearby to San Francisco, Alcatraz Island and the Golden Gate Bridge . The guests on Angel Island normally choose to arrive by boat during the morning hours and leave by boat near dusk.
This tiny island is used for wedding ceremonies, private parties or functions, and as a mini-retreat for business meetings and conferences. Angel Island offers a restaurant, live summertime music on weekends, and a variety of activities and tours for visitors to enjoy.
Attractions: Angel Island State Park offers secluded beaches, hiking opportunities, water-oriented sports, bicycle rentals, tram-line tours, Segway two-wheel people mover classes and tours, sponsored events, food and refreshments, museum tours and more. Electricity is available on Angel Island via an underwater cable hooked to the City of Sausalito.
Angel Island Ayala Cove Beach: Many of the beach locations on Angel Island offer a secluded setting for friends to enjoy. It is possible to rent mountain bikes on the island. Beach lovers often pedal along the easy-ride perimeter road that is about 5-miles long to explore the available beach options. Ayala Cove Beach is a favorite destination.
Angel Island Quarry Point Beach: The Angel Island Quarry Point Beach is located towards the east end of the island. As the name implies, the original rock quarries used to help build on Alcatraz Island, at San Quinton and in San Francisco are nearby. This section of secluded sandy beach offers interesting beachcombing opportunities.
China Camp State Park: China Camp State Park is located along the waterfront of San Pablo Bay . During the 1880s, this location was home to 500 people from Canton, China who made their living while participating in shrimp-fishing activities. Originally, this California ghost town site included general stores, a barber shop and living spaces.
Visitors to China Camp State Park in San Rafael, California use this scenic location for weddings, picnics and relaxation. This park offers picnic benches, grills and convenient toilet locations inside of the designated picnic areas. It is possible to reserve large picnic spaces for family reunions and special events in more than one location at this park.
Attractions: China Camp State Park has wooded areas, meadows and waterfront scenery, an educational museum and an abundance of plants, birds and wildlife to enjoy. For more information about wedding permits, picnic reservations, campground availability, daily hours or closures, contact the China Camp State Park personnel at: (415) 456-0766.
Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA): The GGNRA covers a vast amount of land and attractions nearby to the San Francisco Bay . It is possible for visitors to explore parks and sights at: Fort Mason, Alcatraz Island, Muir Woods, Presidio, Marin Headlands, Crissy Field, Fort Point, Sweeney Ridge, Milagria, Mont Point, and more.
Attractions: The Golden Gate National Recreation Area has popular beaches, secluded waterfront property, easy-access shorelines, tourist-oriented settings, honeymoon and wedding beaches, docks, piers, water sports locations, and places where the sand and water come together in a way that can be photographed or painted with stunning results. Contact the GGNRA information number for complete information: (415) 561-4700.
McNears Beach Park: McNears Regional Beach Park is located in San Rafael along the San Pablo Bay . This well-kept park offers mature landscaping, snack bar, summertime swimming pool, volleyball courts and excellent fishing locations. From the fishing pier it is possible to catch perch, halibut, stripped bass, shark and sturgeons. Due to the mature landscaping, McNears Beach Park is favored by people of all age levels.
Attractions: McNears Regional Beach Park offers fishing, kayak opportunities, picnic areas, swimming, volleyball, tennis, playgrounds and walking trails. This park can be reached by public transportation from some locations. In Marin County it is possible to dial 511 for information about alternative transportation services to or from locations. McNears Regional Beach Park in San Rafael is nearby to China Camp State Park.
Muir Beach & Muir Beach Overlook: Muir Beach is located about 16.5 miles northwest of downtown San Francisco, nearby to the popular Muir Woods National Monument that protects the Marin County-area old-growth redwood trees. The roadway entrance to Muir Beach and the Muir Beach Overlook is located about 2-miles away from the Muir Woods National Monument access road; public busses service this location.
Attractions: Muir beach is a course sand beach that includes a few boulders. The tiny community of Muir Beach holds about 300 residents on the northwest side of the beach.
This beach has a parking lot, an overlook opportunity that is accessed by walkways and trail access that can be used to reach the Muir Woods National Monument to visit the spectacular redwood trees, wildlife, bathrooms, Park Service exhibits and visitor center.
Paradise Beach Park: Paradise Beach is a small bayside setting that offers manicured lawns, carefully spaced picnic locations and extra-clean bathrooms. This beach is used for weddings, family reunions and the picnic grills can be reserved for special events and gatherings. At times, it is possible to have this picturesque park to yourselves due to the high parking fees that are charged to provide park maintenance.
This 19-acre beachside park is nestled into a residential Mill Valley neighborhood. There are wildflowers, poplar trees and opportunities to watch birds, butterflies and wildlife. Paradise Beach includes a nice fishing pier that is also used as an access point for kayaks, seal and sea lion watching and photography. Dogs are prohibited from entering this park
Attractions: The parking fees at Paradise Beach Park provide an extra clean environment and manicured lawns. There are picnic areas with grills, a long fishing pier, maintained bathrooms, kayaking access, canoeing opportunities, swimming options, a nice drinking fountain and play areas. Bring shade, kites, walking shoes and a jacket for late afternoon.
For reservations, parking questions, park hours and further information: (415) 499-6387.
Point Bonita Lighthouse Visitor Center : The Point Bonita Lighthouse operates in the San Francisco Bay near Sausalito , California . This working lighthouse attraction is a part of the large Golden Gate National Recreation Area; interesting maritime displays are available to the public inside of the Point Bonita Lighthouse Visitor Center. Under most circumstances, the Lighthouse Visitor Center is open to the public on weekends.
Attractions: The Point Bonita Lighthouse is reached by walking on a steep trail that runs for about one-half mile. This scenic trail offers visitors some light exercise, an up-close chance to study the seaside rocks in the area and bird watching opportunities. To find the lighthouse from Sausalito, take the second exit for Sausalito off of the Golden Gate Bridge and then stay right onto Alexander Avenue. Shortly, turn left onto Bunker Road. For more information, contact the Marin Headlands Visitor Center at: (415) 331-1540.
Point Reyes National Seashore: Point Reyes National Seashore extends over an area that includes about 80-miles of beaches. Some of this waterfront land is accessible through parking lots that are nearby to the water and others can only be reached by boat or through traversing over National Park Service wilderness hiking trails. Point Reyes National Seashore starts about 30-miles north of San Francisco, along winding Hwy. 1. For up-to-date information about any park in the Point Reyes system: (415) 464-5100 x2.
Abbotts Lagoon Beach: The Point Reyes Abbotts Lagoon Beach is hidden at the end of a 1.5 mile walk through scrub, across the bridge at the stream, past the two lagoons, gently over the bird nesting areas on the sand dunes and a quick tip-toe by the big seasonal peregrine falcons. The Abbotts Lagoon Beach attracts migrating birds in the fall, wintering ducks and the endangered snowy plover birds that lay hard-to-see eggs on the sand dunes between June and September each year. The birds love this beach.
Attractions: No amenities are provided. Bird watchers frequent this location.
Drakes Beach: The Point Reyes Drakes Beach is located at the bottom of tall sandstone cliffs. This popular location offers an attached parking lot, a visitor center and a small diner. Families frequent this beach for traditional waterside fun. Visitors often swim with wetsuits due to the water temperatures that rarely rise above 50F in this area.
Attractions: Parking lot, visitors center, restaurant facilities and bathrooms. Contact Point Reyes for information about wood fire permits, closures and parking regulations. There are no lifeguards at Drakes Beach.
Kehoe Beach: The Point Reyes Kehoe Beach is reached by a short walk beside a marsh and a quick trip over a sand dune. Once at the shore, there is a stream running into the ocean and some very interesting large rocks to explore. There are some unusual sandstone cliffs that are mixed with granite that are interesting backdrops for photos. The water temperature at this beach is very cold; however, leashed dogs enjoy getting wet.
Attractions: Bird watchers enjoy seeing endangered snow plovers, dogs enjoy being on their required six-foot leash north of the trailhead and people in wetsuits can enjoy the water at this quiet beachside location. No bathrooms. No lifeguard on duty.
Kelham Beach: The Point Reyes Kelham Beach is the beach that holds the Arch Rock that is often found in publicity photos of California beaches. To reach this secluded beach, users start at the Bear Valley trailhead and hike almost 5 miles before reaching the overlook point above the waterline. Arch Rock is at the south end of this stretch of beach. At the north end of the beach, there is an arch-shaped tunnel that leads towards the beach that is nicknamed: Real Secret Beach. See cautions below.
Attractions: Kelham Beach requires effort to access. This very scenic beach offers a secluded setting that is not often found in most California shoreline settings.
Warnings: The Coast Trail down to this beach has had severe washouts in the past. High tides can be dangerous when they cover most of the beach. Rip currents are possible. Sneaker waves can happen. No amenities are present. No lifeguards are on duty. Tell somebody where you are going. Bring: beach gear, camera, drinking water and jacket.
Limantour Beach: The Point Reyes Limantour Beach offers wildlife. This section of shoreline is nestled between the popular Drakes Beach location and an estuary setting that allows fresh water streams to flow into the ocean. It is possible for beachgoers to see harbor seals, female gray whales with their calves and a variety of birds. There are old freshwater stock ponds at this location that attract migrating birds and ducks.
Attractions: Nearby Drakes Beach offers a parking lot, visitor center, restaurant facilities and bathrooms. Limantour Beach offers bird watching, whale watching, harbor seals and opportunities for traditional shoreline pastimes. Dogs must be kept on a six-foot leash and kept away from the northwest section of this wildlife-oriented shoreline. No lifeguards.
McClures Beach: The Point Reyes McClures Beach is at the northern end of the National Seashore district. McClures Beach does not offer swimming or surfing due to the large population of sharks that frequent this location. This horseshoe shaped beach offers steep bluffs that have a narrow slot on one end that can allow people to visit the neighboring areas. However, as the tide rises, the access slot can become impassable and visitors are stranded until the ocean waters recede. This beach is not suitable for children.
The trailhead to McClures Beach is located near the trail to Tomales Point on Marin County hiking and biking maps. There is a parking lot at the trailhead. The hiking trail leads about one-half mile down a rugged ravine to the water. Comfortable hiking shoes and long pants are recommended. It is possible to meet wildlife on the trail and to see nearby great white sharks from the higher vista points. McClures Beach is a secluded place that is not often visited by more than one or two groups at a time. No lifeguards.
Attractions: Rock formations, views of Elephant Rock, crashing waves and tide pools at low tide. Dogs are not allowed on this beach. There are nearby hiking trails that lead to the popular Tomales Point. This is a secluded setting. Carry drinking water and a jacket.
Point Reyes Great Beach: The Great Beach at the National Seashore is a stretch of unimproved land that follows the waterline non-stop for eleven miles. There are opportunities for walking or jogging along the shore, water sports, fishing, tide pooling, clam digging, rock climbing, kite flying, boating, kayaking or canoeing, and more. The Great Beach district offers hiking trails, horseback riding trails, cycling trails, and nearby camp grounds. Contact: Point Reyes (415) 464-5100 x2 for current information.
Sculptured Beach: Point Reyes Sculptured Beach is a beautiful location with interesting rocks of all sizes that have been worked and molded by the sea. At low tide, there are excellent tide pools on the rocks and the underwater rock-clingers are revealed. Two nice fresh water streams feed into the sea at Sculptured Beach, and scanty swimwear is tolerated. Parking is not available; Sculptured Beach is accessed by a series of trails.
From Sausalito, take Hwy. 101 north to Sir Francis Drake exit. Follow Sir Francis Drake Ave. to the junction of Hwy. 1, go north. Stop at the ranger station in Olima to procure a helpful map. Follow Limantour Road to Limantour Beach where parking is available. Hike three miles south on the trail that is nearby to the Limantour Beach parking lot to reach Sculptured Beach; or, follow the seven-mile trail that starts at the ranger station.
Attractions: No amenities, few people, hiking opportunities, seasonal dolphin and whale watching opportunities, excellent tide pools, bird watching and a rugged environment.
Wildcat Beach: The Point Reyes Wildcat Beach is located at the southern end of the National Seashore expanse, and reached through a 5.5 mile hike. Bicycle riders can also access this awesome beach on a 6.7 mile trail. Wildcat Campground is nearby and the scenic Alamere Falls is located about 1 mile away from these popular Wildcat areas. For trail maps and current information contact Point Reyes at: (415) 464-5100 ex. 2.
Attractions: Hiking trails, bicycle trails, horseback riding trails, overnight camping opportunities w/ permit, tide pools, wildlife and marine animal views, bird watching, wood fires w/ permit, photo opportunities, water falls, campground picnic areas w/ grill and food storage lockers. Campsite reservations can be made up to 90-days in advance; minimum camper age is 18 unless accompanied by an adult. No dogs allowed.
Stinson Beach: Stinson Beach is located about 35-miles away from the Golden Gate Bridge on Hwy. 1. This popular beach offers a rare Bay-area soft sand shoreline for people to enjoy during all months of the year. Music fans of all ages pay quiet respect to Janis Joplin in this area after a portion of her cremation ashes were sprinkled over Stinson Beach sands during a private ceremony in 1970. This stunning Marin County recreational location is nearby to Muir Woods, Mount Tamalpais and other famous California sights.
The tiny town of Stinson Beach is well-known nationally for the bad publicity associated with great white shark attacks on people. Between 1952 and today, Marin County has experienced 13 attacks by sharks on people, with two occurring within sight of Stinson Beach lifeguard tower. This location is a part of the Red Triangle zone that experiences a higher number of shark sightings than most other locations within the United States. Area swimmers, surfers and frolickers pay attention to their surroundings while at this beach.
Attractions: The tiny town of Stinson Beach is involved with the famous Dipsea Race for runners, car shows, bicycle races and other types of annual community events. This spacious public beach offers opportunities for fishing, boating, hiking, nature sightings, beachcombing, picnics and fun in the sun. Visitors enjoy parking, bathrooms, hiking trails, biking trails, clean sand, photo opportunities, and merriments at Stinson Beach.
Tomales Bay State Park: The Tomales Bay Park holds three stunning beaches and a fourth beautiful beach that is well-known locally as being the favorite shoreline location for family outings, youth group fieldtrips and child-oriented birthday parties. The beaches at Tomales Bay State Park offer wave-free calm waters, a natural wind reducing ridge and access to all hiking trails and amenities that this State Park offers.
This State Park is working in agreement with the National Park Service in an attempt to keep this area available to the public after the 2011 funding upsets. This noteworthy park was established in 1952 as a protection zone for unique trees, wildlife and the long-time cultural history. The Tomales Bay State Park and beaches are located about 35 miles away from Sausalito; San Francisco Bay residents frequent these nature-filled settings.
For current information about day-use hours, closures, permits, wedding opportunities, parking fees, tours, boat access, boat-in camping, fires, facility reservations, and all other concerns, contact the friendly Tomales Bay State Park office at: (415) 669-1140.
Shell Beach, Pebble Beach & Indian Beach: The Tomales Bay Shell Beach, Pebble Beach and Indian Beach locations are reached through a fee-required parking lot and a scenic walk down nature-filled Jepson and Johnstone trails. At Indian Beach, an interpretive history display is available that includes a full-size example of a typical historic Indian village. Bathrooms and picnic locations are available at recreation sites.
Attractions: Forest, wildflower meadows, marshes, beaches, bathrooms, hiking trails, and picnic areas. No lifeguards on duty. No dogs allowed. Swimming, kayaking, shore walks, shell collecting, kite flying, photography, and secluded idyllic shoreline settings. Small boats come to shore in these areas to enjoy the park, beaches and bathroom facilities.
Note: This State Park is considers as ‘closed’ when paid parking lots are full on holidays and busy weekends. Unwelcome dogs should not be left inside of unattended vehicles without careful thought towards weather conditions and the related California State laws.
Hearts Desire Beach: Hearts Desire Beach is a family-oriented picnic location that is fun for children of all ages to enjoy. This section of the Tomales Bay State Park shoreline includes a cove setting that contains calm sun-warmed shallow water. During the summertime months, the park creates a roped swimming area is ringed with buoys. This make-shift swimming pool has a platform for children to climb on or jump from.
Parents enjoy the Hearts Desire Beach due the warmed ocean water and the amenities that the State Park provides. There are clean bathrooms, outdoor showers and nearby paid parking spaces that allow for an easy walk with gear. Carefully placed benches, grills and trashcans are provided for picnics and reservations are possible during the busy summer months. Lifeguards are not provided; however, State park employees are often nearby.
Attractions: Nearby paid parking, boat access, near hiking and biking trails, warm water swimming, room for kite flying, picnic areas w/ grills, bathrooms w/ showers, no dogs on beach, no lifeguards. Children enjoy the recreational options at this beach location.
Baker Beach & Marshall Beach: In San Francisco and Marin County, the LGBT community enjoys exercising on the sand, yoga routines, swimming, fishing, and sunning on sections of Baker and Marshall beaches in Presidio. Warning: Some nudists frequent these beaches. To reach Marshall Beach, go towards the shoreline in Presidio and follow the obvious newly-built path along the cliffs and down to the water. Steps are provided.
Attractions: LGBT activities. Swimming, fishing, sunning, friendly people, beach cannot be seen from the road, easy walking trail w/steps down from the cliff, stunning views of the Golden Gate Bridge. No lifeguards. No dogs. Not a child-friendly location.
Helpful Safety Notes:
- The beach can be a hazardous place when safety precautions are not followed. Ocean water can produce unexpected ‘sneaker waves’ that are stronger than all over waves that are happening. Always monitor children and never stand with your back facing the water.
- Rip tides are strong currents under the surface of the water. These currents can become violent and pull people towards the open sea. If caught, never fight the current; conserve energy and try to think clearly about the best routes to take to get away from the problem.
- Logs and debris in the water can shift and cause injuries or death to nearby people.
- Rock climbing along Marin County beaches is discouraged. Many of the cliffs in our area are unstable and not appropriate for climbing.
- Rocks beside the water can become submerged or slippery as tide levels rise and fall. It is never wise to explore neighboring beaches by climbing over rocks unless tide levels are carefully monitored. Lifeguards are not on duty in most beach locations.
- Fire permits are normally required for all wood fires.
- Endangered birds use sand dunes along the coastline to lay important eggs. Walk with care in all wilderness areas.
- Cell phones do not always work on all beaches and trails in Marin County. Alert others to travel plans before leaving home.