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Stinson Beach, California





Stinson Beach is a long crescent of white sand with a small main street and a few weekend houses. It’s a favorite Bay Area weekend getaway for families and surfers and if you grow up in Marin County, it might be one of the best reasons ever to cut class. I also have friends who love Stinson Beach when they’re alone; sometimes they hike down from Pantoll Station, arriving through Steep Ravine or they get up early and walk the length of the beach, ending up on the boulders at the southern end.

There are lifeguards present in the high season, volleyball games, and sand castles dotting the landscape. Our boys talk up boogie boarding all morning but enter the water with quivering knees, having heard too many tales of shark attacks. It’s true that the Red Triangle lies just off the break yet the last human attack occurred back in 2002. The beach is closed when sharks are sighted trailing sea lions and seals within the surf line. There are plenty of people risking great whites to splash around in all that glimmering, sunlit water. If you have a lively imagination or just can’t get over the shark thing, put your kids on a skim board and let them master the art of skimming across the first few inches of the water’s edge.

In the off season, the beach can be quiet and feel all yours, like a well kept secret. We drove over the hills on a January Sunday, craving a meal at Parkside Cafe with a cozy after lunch beach nap. To our delight it was 70* and we swam.

The magical feeling experienced at Stinson Beach, the same one that pulls you into the too cold water, lulls you to sleep on the beach and gets you to stay too long, has lots to do with how you get here. Just across the Golden Gate Bridge, you veer onto Highway 1 and within minutes you are drenched in eucalyptus, winding through forest (near Muir Woods) and rolling fields, and whisked across the Marin highlands to the ocean side bluffs facing the Pacific Ocean. You can transfer yourself from the busy streets of San Francisco to the water’s edge in less than an hour.



Stinson Beach Market has sparkling wine and water, beer, sunscreen and all kind of delicious snacks. It’s hard to miss, on the corner near the main entrance to the beach. (101 Calle Del Mar, Stinson Beach, Ca ; 415-868-1923)

In a garden setting (there isn’t an ocean view) yet as close to the beach as you can get, Parkside Cafe has rustic outdoor seating and good food. (43 Arenal Avenue, Stinson Beach, Ca ; 415-868-1272)

Parkside Snack Bar is our go to spot. We settle into the sand and someone makes a run to “the shack” for burgers + shakes. (43 Arenal Avenue, Stinson Beach, Ca ; 415-868-1272)

Sand Dollar Restaurant is a classic beach patio, full of weekend revelers drinking cocktails at tables piled with baskets of clams + fries. (3458 California 1, Stinson Beach, Ca ; 415-868-0434)

Stop in at the Pelican Inn on your way to or from Stinson Beach. In the off season, you can enjoy a warm meal or drink in a cozy Tudor style room; on a warm day take it out to the grassy yard and let the kids run. (10 Pacific Way, Muir Beach, Ca ; 415-383-6000)

If you are wiped out and in the mood for gourmet treatment half way back to the city, veer into the Buckeye Roadhouse just before hitting the 101. This is one of Marin’s favorite restaurants; reservations recommended. (15 Shoreline Hwy, Mill Valley, Ca ; 415-331-2600)



Live Water Surf Shop, on the main drag as you roll into town, has everything you need for a day on the beach. Flip flops, bathing suits, wet suits, board rentals and lessons. (3448 Shoreline Hwy, Stinson Beach, Ca ; 415-868-0333)



If you would like to stay for the week or the weekend, rent a charming beach, lagoon or hillside cottage through Highway One Properties or Seadrift Realty.



Get on the road early to avoid traffic in the high season. Many mornings throughout the year Stinson Beach experiences a blanket of fog cover, which burns off over the course of the morning. Because of this, traffic seems to build around 11:00 am. We drive up around 9:00 am and have breakfast in town while the fog recedes. Same thinking going home: avoid the crowds by leaving a little earlier or a little later than others.











(Photos from Top to Bottom:  1. Playing in the Stinson Beach surf  2. At Live Water Surf Shop ; Map + Muse is wearing a dress by Vanessa Virginia  3. Stinson Beach Motel  4. Sandy crescent as seen from above  5. Children running in the grasslands near Sea Drift  6. The road back to San Francisco.)


Posted on March 18, 2014. All photos by Map and Muse.