Best Winter Weekend Getaway at Point Reyes National Seashore

By Susan Brown

Best Winter Weekend Getaway at Point Reyes National Seashore

This wild stretch of windswept land is a 70,000-acre nature preserve that showcases the great diversity of coastal California. When you think coastal California, you may be imagining summer, but it’s during the winter that this destination transforms into a true oasis. Take a step out onto its towering bluffs, soaking in the sights of the rolling waves for as far as the eye can see. For the ultimate serenity, pay Point Reyes a visit during the colder months. Here’s how to make the most of your winter weekend getaway. 

Point Reyes National Seashore, Inverness, CA

Stand on a bluff overlooking the blue enormity of the Pacific Ocean and the barren allure of deserted beaches and you’ll feel the spirit of the 100 square-miles of coastal wilderness at this protected seashore, the only one on the West Coast. Located about 30 miles north of San Francisco, this undeveloped area has 80 miles of shoreline, historic working ranches, 150 miles or trails that meander over beaches, through wetlands, forests and meadows and provide access to historic landmarks, as well as unspoiled habitat that boasts a staggering diversity of flora and fauna. Plus, there’s a historic lighthouse that clings to the edge of this rugged world. Keep in mind that it may be closed due to a big renovation. The lighthouse area will be closed until January 31.  

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Olema Campground, Olema, CA

There are five backcountry hike-in or boat-in primitive campgrounds at Point Reyes—a vault toilet and water faucet are the only amenities. Not too far away, this campground provides a bit more comfort plus easy access to all the Seashore has to offer. There are tent and RV sites. Each has a fire ring and picnic table. Clean bathrooms and hot showers, a laundry area and kids playground make this a fun place to camp for a night or a week.

Tomales Point Trail

You could spend days exploring the 150 miles of trails here, but if you only have a day a hike along this remote trail through the Tule Elk Reserve provides a glimpse of wildlife, lush vegetation. It ends at a bluff overlooking spectacular views of Tomales and Bodega Bay and the Pacific Ocean. It’s a moderate 10 mile round-trip (or less if you choose a closer turn-around point) filled with the sights and sounds of bugling tule elk, bellowing elephant seals on the beaches below and a cacophony of shrieking birds.

Miller Boat Launch, Marshall, CA

Fishing is closely regulated in all waters of the National Seashore. Permits are required, fees must be paid and there are limits on the size and number of fish taken. Given all of that, this four-acre site on Tomales Bay has everything you need for a successful fishing adventure. Fish for and catch striped bass, perch, rock fish, halibut, and even salmon. If getting out on the water isn’t for you, there’s a small pier nearby where you don’t even have to get your feet wet to catch something.

Cowgirl Creamery, Point Reyes Station, CA

Dairy farms are found throughout the National Seashore. They are representative of the earliest days of industrial-scale dairying in the state and continue to thrive today. Some of the best local cheeses begin with milk from Point Reyes cows. The award-winning organic cheeses made by this creamery include cottage cheese, creme fraiche, fromage blanc and a variety of specialty blends. You can sample and buy some at Tomales Bay Foods in Point Reyes Station. Check out the Cowgirl Cantina too, a take-out deli with wines, sandwiches, salads and local breads. 

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Saltwater Oyster Depot, Inverness, CA

If you want to have a true taste of the area, eat some oysters. That’s been happening along this coastline for thousands of years. The earliest peoples knew what a treat they are. Now, oysters are locally farmed and show up in restaurants in a variety of ways from raw to barbecued to stuffed. Grad a seat at the oyster bar here and order a plate served on the half-shell, with a squeeze of lemon and a little dab or horseradish. They’re so fresh, you can taste the sea.

Black Mountain Cycles, Point Reyes Station, CA

There’s a number of off-road biking trails that traverse the beauty of the National Seashore, so be sure to take along a bike when visiting. Of course, there are rules of the trail. Pick up a map at the Visitor Center before heading out. Any bike issues, stop by this small shop for a tune-up. Mechanics are working on bikes everyday but Monday. You can pick up extra tires, water bottles and even a Black Mountain jersey, a memento for a memorable ride.

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Point Reyes Safaris, Point Reyes Station, CA

You can’t shoot anything in the park, except with a camera. You’ll see a lot through the viewfinder on a one of these safaris, guided by a certified California Naturalist. As you’re trekking, be on the lookout for bobcats, coyotes, badgers, grey fox, tule elk, elephant seals, raptors, owls, shorebirds and whales. Plus, the coastal landscape is just picture perfect. Safaris can be booked for half and full days for one to eight people. Lunch is included.

Whale watching

Winter at the Seashore brings with it the annual migration of the California gray whale. Each year, it begins its journey from the frigid, cold waters of Alaska, heading south to the warm lagoons of Baja California. The headlands of Point Reyes offer a prime viewing spot to see these beautiful behemoths cruise by. All you need to spot one is pair of binoculars. A shuttle bus system is in place to ferry visitors to the best vista points.

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