Marin County Beaches

Escape the Urban Jungle at Marin County Beaches

Marin County beaches offer a little bit of wilderness close to the big city. You'll find grassy ridges, redwood forests, long stretches of sandy beach, and tiny hidden coves. Head north of San Francisco, across the Golden Gate Bridge, and you'll feel like you're a world away from the urban landscape. There are places to surf, hike, horseback ride and bicycle. You'll find campsites right along the coast, or nestled in redwood groves.

There are Marin county beaches that can be reached only by hiking, and family-friendly beaches where the little tykes can wade and splash in (relatively) warm, shallow waters.

Be aware that the ocean in this area is cold, and often treacherous.

Marin County Beaches at Point Reyes

You'll have plenty to keep you busy at Point Reyes, located only 35 miles north of San Francisco. There are over 147 miles of hiking trails, backcountry campgrounds, and numerous  beaches. You can enjoy kayaking, biking, hiking, beachcombing, and wildlife viewing.

There are estuaries, windswept beaches, coastal scrub grasslands, marshes, and coniferous forests. At Tomales Bay, you'll find protected beaches where the water is shallow and calm enough for wading and swimming.

Located just an hour's drive from the San Francisco Bay area, Point Reyes is a great escape from a busy city life. If camping isn't your style, try the Point Reyes Hostel, or stay outside the park in nearby Inverness.

For more information see Point Reyes Beaches

Marin County Beaches in the 
Golden Gate National Recreation Area

This is one big park! Actually, it's more like a collection of parks, all loosely tied together. We're talking 75,398 acres of land and water, with 59 miles of bay and ocean shoreline. Many (if not most) Marin County beaches and parks are part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA). Stinson Beach, Muir Woods National Monument, Muir Beach, Marin Headlands, Point Bonita Lighthouse, and Kirby Cove are all part of the GGNRA.

You'll find detailed information plus maps and brochures at the National Park Service web site for the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

Stinson Beach

This is a popular broad, sandy Bay Area beach, stretching out for nearly a mile. It's open all year, but lifeguards are on duty only from May to September.

The water here is cold, staying at 60 degrees year round. Sneaker waves, rip currents and the occasional shark are hazards at this beach. Be sure to check the safety information in the park brochure. Day use only.

Facilities include parking, wheelchair-accessible restrooms, showers, picnic areas, and barbecue grills. A beach wheelchair is available. A snack bar is open during summer months. Dogs are allowed on leash in specified areas.

The beach is easily accessible from Highway 1, and it's a short walk from the parking area.

Muir Woods National Monument

This is the closest redwood forest to San Francsco. It's surrounded by Mount Tamalpais State Park. A very popular area, it can get crowded, especially on weekends. A system of trails connects it to Mt. Tamalpais and to several Marin County beaches.

Muir Beach

This popular Marin County beach lies in a sheltered inlet at the truly small town of Muir Beach. Fishing, hiking and swimming are popular here. During the winter, look for Monarch butterflies resting in pine trees near the beach.

There's a protected swimming area, picnic tables, barbecues, paved parking and wheelchair-accessible restrooms. The parking lot is small and can fill up quickly on weekends. Day use only.

There are numerous hiking trails, where you can enjoy outstanding views. Or head 1 mile north on Highway 1 to Muir Beach Overlook, where the views are simply spectacular. You'll find picnic tables, wheelchair-accessible restrooms and paved parking, so you can enjoy the view in comfort.

Marin Headlands

This is an area of rolling hills and quiet Marin County beaches. You'll find vantage points with spectacular views of the coast and bays. There are extensive trails, for hiking, horseback riding and bicycling. You can stay at the Golden Gate Hostel, or one of several camping areas (permits required). You'll find books, exhibits, maps and information at the Visitor Center on Field Road.

There are several outstanding beaches and vista points at Marin Headlands:

Tennessee Cove

Getting to this Marin County beach is half the fun. The 1.3 mile Tennessee Valley Trail begins at the end of Tennessee Valley Road. It's relatively flat with only a few gentle undulations, and you'll enjoy some lovely views along the way. The trail is suitable for hikers, bicyclists and equestrians.

Rodeo Beach

This sand and pebble Marin County beach is located adjacent to Rodeo Lagoon, a habitat for birds, including the endangered California brown pelican. The beach is popular with surfers, but it's too windy and the surf too rough for swimming. However, the pebbly beach is great for beachcombing, and numerous hiking trails connect to other points in the Marin Headlands, including Point Bonita Lighthouse, Tennessee Cove and Muir Beach.

There's ample parking, a picnic area and wheelchair-accessible restrooms.

Point Bonita Lighthouse

For the most dramatic views in the bay area, head out to Point Bonita Lighthouse. On a clear day, you can see most of the Marin County coastline, the Golden Gate Bridge, and down the San Francisco coastline to Pacifica.

To get there, park at the end of Conzelman Road and take the half mile trail through a tunnel and over a suspension bridge that's a sort of mini-model of the Golden Gate Bridge.

The lighthouse is open Saturday, Sunday and Monday from 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monthly full-moon walks and occasional sunset walks are available by reservation only. Call the Marin Headlands Visitor Center at (415) 331-1540.

For more information see Point Bonita Lighthouse and Point Bonita Light.

Virtual Parks provides a panoramic view of Point Bonita Lighthouse.

Kirby Cove

This is a popular Marin County beach for picnicking and camping. You can enjoy spectacular views of San Francisco and the Golden Gate. There are picnic facilities among the trees, firepits, and wheelchair accessible restrooms. There's also a wheelchair accessible bridge to the beach.

There are 4 sites available for overnight camping. Reservations required. For information call the Marin Headlands Visitor at (415) 331-1540.

Beaches of Mount Tamalpais State Park

Enjoy spectacular views from the 2571 ft. peak of Mt. Tamalpais. There are three main trails to several Marin County beaches within the park, including:

  • Red Rock Beach:  A steep trail takes you down to this small clothing optional beach. There are no restrooms. Park along Highway 1 at the dirt pull-outs.
  • Steep Ravine Beach:  You'll find parking, restrooms and the Steep Ravine Environmental Camp at this Marin County beach. The camp includes 10 rustic cabins, 7 environmental campsites and 1 handicapped-accessible site. Facilities include portable toilets, picnic tables, fire rings, food lockers and water spigots. Reservations are required for camping. For day use, park at one of the dirt pull-outs along Highway 1.

For more information see Mount Tamalpais State Park.

Angel Island State Park

You'll need to take a ferry or a private boat to get to the park, located in the middle of the San Francisco Bay. You'll find sandy, protected Marin Countybeaches at Ayala Cove and Quarry Point.

For spectacular views of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge, Perle's Beach is your best bet. There are hazardous currents at all these beaches, so swimming is not a good idea. But you can enjoy the views, do a little beachcombing and soak up some sun (weather permitting).

There are 12 miles of biking and hiking trails. Rent a bicycle, or take a guided kayak tour or a tram tour.

Picnic areas include tables, running water and barbecues. There are several environmental campsites, which include picnic tables, food lockers, pit toilets, and barbecues. You'll have to hike in to reach the campsites. Boat slips are available on a first come first served basis.

At Ayala Cove, you'll find the dock area, a vistor center, snack bar (open summer and weekends), and wheelchair accessible restrooms.

For more information and to download a map and brochure see Angel Island State Park.

Virtual Guidebooks provides panoramic views of Marin County Beaches and the Bay Area.