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Your guide to Stinson Beach
Welcome to Stinson Beach
Of the many wonders tucked along California’s shockingly pretty and serpentine Highway 1, Stinson Beach is undoubtedly one of the most charming. A classic Northern California beach town, this enclave is made up of a collection of wind-sanded wooden buildings clustered on either side of the highway that supply what you need, including surf rentals, decadent bowls of clam chowder, and piping hot coffee.
A short walk from the town center leads to the big sandy beach, where a cute snack shack dishes out twirly soft serve and salty fries. On hot days, the beach is a magnet for sun worshippers. On the frequent foggy days, it’s a dramatically scenic spot best suited for restorative walks or wave-gazing from the warmth of a blanket. While you could easily spend a whole vacation tucked away in Stinson Beach, the town is an ideal base for exploring beautiful Marin County, including the Point Reyes National Seashore and Tomales Bay, and for sampling supremely fresh fare produced by the many local farms.
The best time to stay in a vacation rental in Stinson Beach
Aim for summer or the beginning of fall if you want to maximize your chances of warm beach days. On truly hot days, the town and beach come alive with people taking advantage of the weather. Stinson Beach is subject to the Bay Area’s famous microclimates, which means you may be in for fog or wind any time of year. Fall and winter are cool and cloudy, but the landscape is still dreamy and the local towns just as picturesque, so plan on jacketed hikes followed by browsing in the shops and sampling the local food.
Top things to do in Stinson Beach
The Dipsea Trail
You can hop on the trailhead right in town for this popular hike. Stretching from Stinson Beach to Mill Valley in the east, it slices through two major parks — Mt. Tamalpais State Park and Muir Woods National Monument. You can choose your own adventure, opting for a many-miles hike or a short out-and-back. Either way, you’ll be treated to a combination of coastal views and inland portions shaded by towering trees, some navigated via rustic wooden staircases.
A day trip to this quirky town is worth the trouble, especially for surfing enthusiasts. Once you see the secluded beach and wander around the small but characterful town center — home to a saloon that is reportedly the oldest continually operating one on the West Coast — you’ll understand why residents have long preferred to keep it a secret.
Audubon Canyon Ranch
A former dairy farm, this 5,000-acre wilderness encompasses four distinct preserves that are home to sandy beaches, mudflats, pine forests, grassland, and many other landscapes. Its bird and animal residents include gray foxes, bobcats, golden eagles, ospreys, and harbor seals. Join a nature hike to learn more about the local ecosystems, or just hop on one of the trails and revel in Marin’s coastal beauty.