the views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco Skyline are simply fantastic from Marin County - leading the pack are the charming and exclusive towns of Sausalito + Tiburon - they are on top of our must see list - if you visit nothing else north of the city - make sure to at least visit the Marin Headlands and these 2 towns - both towns can also be reached by ferry from San Francisco
Marin County is located on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge. if you are not a city person then Marin County is heaven - this is where you would live - close to the city, but not in the city. what makes Marin so special is that there are several small towns within a 10 mile radius - all of them hip, charming and picturesque. Marin is a very cosmopolitan + international place - home to many europeans and famous actors. each town boasts an exquisite food scene. you will see Mount Tam in the background - with unlimited hiking + biking trails - this is the where mountain bikes were invented
if you want to know what living in the Bay Area is all about - spend a day exploring the towns of Marin and visit the charming towns of Sausalito, Tiburon, Mill Valley, Larkspur, Corte Madera, Ross, San Anselmo + Fairfax - then head to the Coast either via Hwy 1 or via Sir Francis Drake Blvd to Stinson + Bolinas or to Point Reyes. if you like fresh oysters include Tomales Bay.
Here are some of our favorite ideas for day trips north of the gate
the Marin Headlands
Just across the Golden Gate Bridge, the Marin Headlands offer shoreline views, crashing surf, and a surprising wildness. from here you will get the most breathtaking views of the Golden Gate Bridge - our promise is that you will get some of the best views of the city + the bridges - so have your camera ready !
directions: from San Francisco take Hwy 101 North and drive across the Golden Gate Bridge - take the very first exit after the bridge - Alexander Avenue. At the stop sign turn left, go under the Freeway and then head up the hill into the Marin Headlands - stay right and be careful that you don't drive back onto the bridge. then join the parade of cars winding up twisty Conzelman Road to Hawk Hill, but don’t stop there. Drive a bit farther to the beach parking area on your left, and you’ll see signs for the trail to Black Sands Beach. The 0.75-mile hike down (slightly rickety) steps is sure to put the rosy in your cheeks, and the narrow strip of beach is windy, wild, and stunning. Our secret? Instead of starting from the beach parking area, we like to drive past the Marin Headlands Visitor Center, turn right on Bunker Road, and start at the historic rifle range. It’s worth the extra 1.5 miles over the ridge for the views you’ll have all to yourself.
the Marin Headlands are a part of the Golden Gate National Recreational Area - from the mountain top of the headlands you will see the ocean on one side and the Golden Gate Bridge + San Francisco Bay on the other - this is what I call a Kodak moment with 360 degree view! If possible come here early in the morning for sunrise or at the end of the day - the sunsets and full moons are breathtaking - and sometimes less crowded
there are multiple look-outs as you go up the hill - stop at all of them - each offers a different perspective of the bridge. make sure to go to the top of the hill - park your car and walk up to the very top - it will only take you 5 minutes of walking - but the views are priceless + endless
on your way down from the headlands you can go on a little detour and stop at the Pt Bonita Lighthouse or visit Rodeo Beach. you will take the same route down the hill as you came up - turn left at the bottom of the hill - go under the freeway and stay on Alexander Avenue - it will take you into Sausalito - if you want another short detour and another breathtaking perspective of the Golden Gate Bridge - this time a close up + looking up at the bridge - go to Cavallo Point while you are on your way to Sausalito
Sausalito - you will have a wonderful time in this waterfront small town. everyone stops in downtown, but only the locals know about Caledonia Street and it's great restaurants. and then there is Schoonmaker Beach. this is a white sandy beach with stand up paddle boards and kayaks for rent - close by is Le Garage - a Bistro with great outdoor seating. if you want to see the famous Sausalito Houseboats - make sure to walk around Schoonmaker just follow the the bike path to the right side of the beach as you are facing the water. Another local favorite - just a few blocks down in another marina is a new restaurant called Fish.
Mill Valley - if you don't have time to go to Muir Woods, but want to see the giant sequoia redwood trees - go to Old Mill Park by the Mill Valley Library in Downtown and walk thru the neighborhood along the creek - there is only one street - this walk takes you 15 minutes but you will feel like you entered an enchanted world. time stopped here centuries ago. look for the stairs that go up the hill - they are somewhat hidden between houses they are part of the famous Dipsea Trail.
where to eat in Mill Valley: at Sunnyside (best breakfast) - Boo Koo or Angelino (lunch or dinner) - but the truth is there are so many amazing restaurants in this little town - look for El Paseo (dinner only) - it is next to Sunnyside - walk thru their courtyard - you think you arrived in italy + Romeo + Juliet's balcony
if you like to hike - head to the Tennessee Valley Trail—named after the SS Tennessee, which collided with the shore at this spot in 1853—which winds 2.2 miles (one way) past rolling hills toward a secluded beach awash with green and black basalt pebbles. Same parking lot - but different trail with breathtaking views of the bay is the Miwok trail - after a short, but steady up hill hike you will be rewarded of once in a lifetime views!
Tiburon - this is living on the water at it's best - as you drive into Tiburon make sure to go on a short 10 minute sightseeing detour - from Tiburon Blvd turn left on Gilmartin Street. head up to the top of the hill - shortly before the very top you will come to a trail / look out pasture that will provide you with another breathtaking view of the city - all three bridges ( Bay Bridge + GGB + Richmond Bridge) - Mount Tam and far beyond. Park your car and go on a 2 minute walk to the edge of the pasture - bring your camera! From here head down the hill back to Tiburon Blvd - turn left onto Tiburon Blvd. At the next traffic light turn right - San Rafael Ave - this will take you to Belvedere. Drive along San Rafael Ave, make a left at West Shore and then first right up the hill - just follow the road and let yourself be surprised! This road will take you eventually to Downtown Tiburon. Enjoy!
where to eat in Tiburon: Sam's is a classic, but every single restaurant in Tiburon is great including the Woodlands Supermarket + Rustic Bakery - you can't go wrong. Make sure to walk along the waterfront all the way to the far left side so that you get to see the Golden Gate Bridge - which you can't see from the ferry terminal. also explore Arch Row - with is small boutiques and wine bars. the very small town of Tiburon is best explored walking.
other great towns to visit in Marin: Larkspur, Ross, San Anselmo, Fairfax and if you like the ocean go to Stinson Beach and Bolinas.