Stinson beach.

Stinson Beach

Stinson Beach is a fantastic choice for a day trip or an overnight getaway. If you’re coming from the city, it’s only a 20 mile drive, yet it feels like a totally different world — starting with the drive itself, which is a memorable part of the trip.

You’ll drive through lush redwood forest until you get to East Peak — the perfect lookout point to stop and take in the panoramas of the Bay Area, Marin Headlands and the Farallon Islands. On a clear day, you may even see as far as the Sierra Nevadas.

The drive down the mountain to Stinson Beach is one of the most beautiful in Northern California. You’ll want to pull out on one of the many viewpoints to enjoy the stunning ocean vista. 

The crescent shaped beach at Stinson stretches for nearly three miles and offers a wide expanse of soft sand, perfect for sunbathing, playing volleyball, or taking a long beach walk. The water is cold, but the surf is generally tame, making it great for swimming, boogie boarding, and kayaking.

In addition to the beach, Stinson also offers numerous hiking trails in the surrounding hills and mountains. 

Summers are great here, you’ll love the beachy summer holiday vibe. It’s packed and lively — boogie boarding, volleyball on the beach, grabbing a soft serve in bare, sandy feet, and cocktails in one of the lovely outdoor restaurant terraces in the evening. 

Winters are quiet, things settle down and Stinson feels more like a seaside retreat for poets and dreamers. 

What to Eat in Stinson Beach

It’s a small village, so there aren’t a lot of options, but the food you’ll find in Stinson is really good. Here are some highlights:

Do you love seafood? You’re in luck. You can find plenty of salmon, crab cakes, fish tacos, oysters and clam chowder at local restaurants.

Local restaurants offer classic American dishes like burgers, sandwiches, and fries. There are a couple very cute breakfast spots with delicious brunch options.

There are a few ice cream shops in Stinson Beach that offer homemade ice cream and other treats. You’ll definitely want to get a cone at the Parkside Snack Bar — a summertime classic! 

Artisan bakery: Parkside Bakery is a much loved local favorite for fresh bread. 

Check out the Stinson Bolinas dining guide here.

Things to Do in Stinson Beach

Besides hiking and hanging out at the beach, here are our favorite events that take place in Stinson:

Stinson Beach Chili Cook-Off

What better way to warm up a bracing February afternoon than a chili cookoff! Chefs compete with their best chili recipes, and you’ll also enjoy live music and a silent auction. Proceeds go to support the Stinson Beach Volunteer Firefighters Association — good fun for a great cause.

Stinson Beach Easter Egg Hunt

This egg hunt for kids happens the Saturday before Easter and includes games, crafts, and other activities.

Stinson Beach Arts and Crafts Fair

This annual fair takes place over Memorial Day weekend and features local artists and craftspeople selling their handmade goods.

Stinson Beach Fourth of July Parade + Tug of War

This annual tradition features a lively parade with floats, classic cars, and local organizations. The parade is followed by a community picnic, live music and other activities — including the Bolinas-Stinson Beach Tug of War.

The tug of war competition 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. 

Stinson Beach Documentary Film Festival

The festival takes place in early November and features documentary films from around the world. 

People on Stinson Beach.

Local Wildlife

Keep an eye out to spot these animals, frequently seen in Stinson.

Harbor seals: Stinson Beach is home to a colony of harbor seals that can often be seen lounging on the beach or swimming in the nearby waters.

When leaving Stinson on the drive north to Point Reyes, be sure to take a close look at the sandbars — what first appears to be a bunch of logs (suspiciously all facing the same direction) is in fact a colony of harbor seals, hauled up and enjoying a nap in the sun.

Sea birds: It’s a popular spot for birdwatching, with several species of sea birds such as gulls, pelicans, and cormorants nesting or roosting in the area.

Whales and dolphins: During certain times of the year, whales and dolphins can be seen swimming off the coast of Stinson Beach. Humpback whales, gray whales, and blue whales migrate twice a year through the area — to and from their hunting grounds in the cold northern waters and their warm water birthing grounds near Baja. 

Coyotes: Coyotes are common in the area and can sometimes be seen wandering through town or in the nearby hills.

People sitting on the sand at Stinson Beach.

Area History

Stinson Beach has a rich history dating back thousands of years when the area was inhabited by Coast Miwok Native Americans. In the mid-1800s, European settlers arrived in the area and established ranches and farms.

Before the Golden Gate Bridge was built, you could only get to Stinson Beach by boat or horseback. After the bridge, Stinson Beach became a popular destination for San Franciscans who wanted a break from the city. 

In the 60s and 70s, Stinson became a hub of the counterculture movement, attracting hippies, artists, and musicians. The town continues to have a laid-back, bohemian vibe today.

Despite its popularity as a destination for Bay Area day trippers, Stinson Beach remains a small, tight-knit community with a strong commitment to preserving the natural beauty of the area.

Views of ocean from Highway One.

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