There are so many reasons to add Bolinas to your itinerary if you’re planning a visit to Point Reyes. Each of our coastal villages has a very distinct culture and charm. Bolinas has an offbeat, independent spirit.
It’s about 14 miles up the coast from San Francisco 7.5 miles south of Point Reyes Station. The drive on Hwy 1 is incredibly scenic in either direction.
If you’re driving up from the city, you’ll be rewarded with dramatic, panoramic cliff views of the Pacific. The view is spectacular, and there are many pullouts where you can park and properly take it in. You’ll definitely want to keep your eyes exclusively on the road while you’re driving though — this stretch is full of tight switchbacks and is just one lane in either direction.
Make sure you have cash on hand to buy fresh seasonal fruit from roadside vendors selling farm fresh boxes of strawberries, cherries and peaches, depending on the time of year.
The drive down from Point Reyes Station is easier, and takes you through peaceful countryside and a shady stand of tall, fragrant eucalyptus trees. Absolutely gorgeous, and perfect on a motorcycle or with the top down on a convertible.
One of the things you’ll love most about Bolinas is the beaches. There’s something special about the quiet, secluded stretches of sand here. Head out to Agate Beach and take in a stunning sunset, you’ll find sea stars, anemones, and crabs in tidepools at Agate and Brighton.
Bolinas is known for its excellent surf conditions. One of the best-known spots is the famous “Patch,” where you can catch some of the best waves in Northern California. There are surf schools and rental shops in the area.
The ocean isn’t the only place to enjoy the water — Bolinas Lagoon is a calm and sheltered body of water that is perfect for kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding. You can rent equipment and explore the lagoon on your own, or take a guided tour to learn more about the area’s wildlife and natural history.
One of the unique aspects of Bolinas is its reputation for being reclusive and self-contained. In the past, the town has taken down its road signs from Hwy 1 in an attempt to discourage visitors, and residents are protective of their community’s privacy and tranquility.
Despite this reputation, Bolinas is a popular destination for people who appreciate its natural beauty, artistic community, and somewhat quirky small-town vibe.
Should I stop in Bolinas to eat?
Despite being a postage stamp-sized village, you definitely won’t go hungry in Bolinas.
You’ll find everything from gumbo to oysters to seasonal dungeness crab to fresh berry pie at Coast Cafe. Smiley’s Schooner Saloon is another must-visit spot for a classic burger and fries. Grab a few loaves to take home from Bolinas Bay Bakery. Gorgeous pizzas and wine at eleven wharf (that’s the name of the wine bar, and also, its address).
Bolinas is known for its smoked fish, which is caught and smoked locally. Smoked salmon, tuna, and trout can be found at local markets and restaurants.
You’ll want to make sure to visit Gospel Flat Farmstand on your way out — their eggs, flowers, honey, and picked-that-day produce can all be found on the roadside farmstand. It runs on the honor system.
Events in Bolinas
You’ll either want to plan to be in Bolinas for these annual events or plan to avoid Bolinas during these times — because of the parking and traffic issues. Bolinas is tiny, has very limited parking and no traffic lights. It doesn’t take much for the area to become very congested, and the backup can stretch all the way to Hwy 1.
Bolinas Fourth of July Parade + Tug Of War
All the things we love in a small town Fourth of July parade: floats, marching bands, creative costumes, and it wraps up with a community picnic in the park.
There is a tug of war event that takes place in Bolinas every 4th of July after the parade. The Bolinas-Stinson Beach Tug of War has been a tradition in the area since 1977 and is part of the good natured rivalry between these two villages.
The epic tug of war takes place across the Bolinas Channel, which separates Bolinas and Stinson Beach. Teams of 20 people compete, with each team trying to pull the other across the channel and into their own town.
It is hard to find parking, but you’ll likely feel it’s worth it for the festive atmosphere, live music, food and drink vendors, and a parade leading up to the competition. Plus, watching forty adults trying to pull each other across a body of water is not something you see every day. It’s a great way to experience the local culture and meet new people while enjoying the beautiful coastal scenery of the area.
Bolinas-Stinson Beach DocFest
The Bolinas-Stinson Beach DocFest is an annual film festival that takes place in Bolinas and Stinson Beach. The festival showcases documentary films that cover a range of topics, from environmental issues to social justice.
Bolinas Winter Faire
The Bolinas Winter Faire takes place in December, and features local craftspeople and artists selling handmade goods, as well as live music and food.
Coastal Cleanup Day
Coastal Cleanup Day happens in September. Volunteers gather to clean up litter and debris from beaches and waterways in the Bolinas area.
Arts in Bolinas
Beyond the beach, Bolinas is home to a thriving arts community, with galleries and studios showcasing the work of local artists. The Bolinas Gallery features a rotating collection of contemporary and traditional art, as well as jewelry and crafts.
Bolinas Museum is a great place to learn more about the town’s history. The museum’s collection focuses on contemporary California art and includes works by many local artists.
The Bolinas Community Center is another important venue for the town’s artistic community, hosting concerts, poetry readings, and other events throughout the year.
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