San Francisco Day Trip : Bolinas!
BEAUTIFUL BOLINAS, CALIFORNIA.
Bolinas is a small Northern California town, nestled in the hills where the Bolinas Lagoon meets the Pacific Ocean. It’s only 30 miles from San Francisco and yet it feels far removed. Still, it pulls in its fair share of fashionable city folk and tourists. I recently spotted a group of gorgeous young Italians sipping cold beer in pretty glassware on the patio at Coast Cafe. Clearly they, like everyone, wanted to check out Bolinas.
To do so, they would have had to journey along the coast and wind their way blindly off the 101 into the town. There is no road sign. There is no road sign because the locals have spent years foiling attempts by the state highway department to identify the town. They tear the road signs down because they don’t want to be found.
Ever since a wave of individualistic and idealist youth migrated to the town in the 1960s, Bolinas has been known as a hippie enclave. Over the years the anti-establishment position has held; they have tried to “protect ” the town from the onslaught of change, which for some includes seeing new faces around town (tourists). Conversations about Bolinas almost always include references to unwelcoming locals; I sort of imagined counter culture poets scowling and mumbling “scram.” This seems at odds with the town’s bucolic atmosphere, buffered on all sides by a pristine natural landscape which leads to an intimate half moon beach speckled with dogs, surfers, children and people like me, enjoying a day off. The vibe is more Alice Waters (a current resident) than Jefferson Airplane (past residents), but still, you’re likely to pass the occasional nudist or marijuana plant.
Bolinas is a perfect day trip, even half a day is enough to dip into the cold water surf, hit the stand at Gospel Flat Farm and pass a little time on Wharf Road. We often end up in Bolinas after a trip to Stinson or Point Reyes. We love to run around nearby Martin Griffin Preserve- Audubon Ranch, where winding trails lead up to well designed bird lookouts with gorgeous views of the Bolinas Lagoon. Down in the wetlands an enthusiastic docent teaches kids about skinks (a kind of lizard), which are gently lifted from the water and surveyed with nets and buckets. When everyone starts to get hungry we drive into Bolinas for a plate of fresh fish and chips.
I’ve heard many stories from Bay Area friends whose hippie parents lived here “back in the day” when they chose to opt out of modern American society. They spent childhood weekends playing tag in gardens full of kale with other families whose parents enjoyed a steady stream of live music and mind altering drugs. I imagine “that Bolinas” is almost gone, tempered by a new wave of visionaries who are more likely to be venture capitalists and Hollywood filmmakers.
Locals will say that outsiders like me don’t know the real Bolinas. To understand the real Bolinas I would have to stay awhile, which isn’t likely to happen (at least not anytime soon). Never mind; I like my sunny weekend Bolinas – the one with the cute organic restaurant and the perfect beginner waves. I just wink at the beached sea lions, blow by the torn down highway marker and roll over the eucalyptus lined hills, with a smile. In Bolinas, it’s hard not to smile.
Posted on April 28, 2014. All photos by Map and Muse.