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Tomales Bay

Browsing Shops, Hiking Bluffs, and Cozying up by the Fire

The Bay Area is full of good days. One of the mellowest and most rewarding is to be found 1.5 hours north, in the small towns that ring Tomales Bay, the shallow, cigar-shaped body of water that peacefully straddles the San Andreas Fault just east of Point Reyes National Seashore.

Point Reyes Station
Grab a good, strong coffee at the Bovine Bakery in Point Reyes Station to start; Highway One runs right through this little West Marin town, so you can't miss it. Then stroll over to the Point Reyes Bookstore to beef up your atlas collection or browse some new fiction. Pick up a new collar for your pet -- or a hemp tote for yourself -- while you daydream about living the equestrian lifestyle at Cabaline Country Emporium & Saddlery, just a few doors down.

Cross the street to Toby's Feed Barn, and you'll find those heirloom tomato seeds you've been meaning to plant on your porch. Saturdays, Toby's hosts a fantastic farmers market from 9am to 1pm, where you can enjoy mingling with West Marin's rural intelligentsia before popping into the Station House Café for giant buttermilk pancakes ($6.75 for 3), BBQ pulled pork sandwiches ($10), or Cobb salads with roasted Rocky chicken and Point Reyes Farmstead Blue Cheese ($11). If you're really feeling the dairy thing, tour the well-loved Cowgirl Creamery nearby.

Head on through the quaint bayside town of Inverness, and make a mental note to stay and dine sometime at the posh, Arts & Crafts-style Manka's Inverness Lodge ($285-$715). If it's a hot summer day, ask a local how to find Shell Beach one and Shell Beach two for a quick dip in one of the few warm-water swimming spots on the northern California coast.

Point Reyes
Keep zooming, and suddenly you're in a vast, grassy landscape of dairy ranches that abut the crashing Pacific. Say hi to the cows, and maybe they'll tell you where to find some Tule Elk grazing nearby. Follow a flock of soaring turkey vultures to the blustery cliffs by the Point Reyes Lighthouse, and spend the afternoon clambering about on the park's rocky headlands, spying deer nestled in their bluffside burrows and spotting sea lions darting through the enormous waves thundering below. Point Reyes has it all, from sandy beach to lush forest; the lighthouse area is just the beginning.

Double back and head up the other side of Tomales Bay for the grand finale: dinner and a night by the bay at the high-buzz restaurant/B&B, Nick's Cove and Cottages, an old Marshall institution renovated in 2007 by Pat Kuleto. While you can shuck your own at many of the bayfront oyster farms on the way, it's pretty delightful to belly up to the nostalgic, dark wood bar at maritime-themed, waterfront Nick's Cove, and let the kind servers bring you a dozen exhilarating, pre-shucked Preston Points ($20) and a crisp, inexpensive bottle of Manifesto! Sauvignon Blanc ($30).

While you might expect the great food and top-notch lodging at Nick's to be overpriced, the fee for entrees like a lusty, pan-seared sustainable white sea bass with currant-arugula bread salad ($24) -- as well as the rates for the cozy, old-timey waterfront and waterview cottages ($165-$595) -- are actually pretty reasonable considering today's market.

Each cottage comes with a super-comfy bed (with high thread-count sheets), eco-friendly wood burning stove (slightly smoky), heated bathroom floors, a fair amount of vintage kitsch, and cute amenities beyond the plush spa robes and slippers. You'll find a welcome plate of cheese and fruit, binoculars, high-quality EO bath products, hidden flat-panel TVs w/XM radio, tall, unmarked glass bottles of drinking water, and a superb complimentary breakfast delivered by the gentle, local staff. You won't want to leave -- until you remember that home is one of the coolest, most beautiful metropolitan areas in the world.

The Bovine Bakery
11315 Highway One
Point Reyes Station, CA 94956

Cabaline Country Emporium & Saddlery
11313 Highway One
Point Reyes Station, CA 94956

Toby's Feed Barn
11250 Highway One
Point Reyes Station, CA 94956

Point Reyes Books
11315 Highway One
P.O. Box 1542
Point Reyes, CA 94956

Station House Cafe
11180 Highway One
Point Reyes Station, CA 94956

Cowgirl Creamery at Tomales Bay Foods
80 4th Street
Point Reyes Station, CA 94956

Manka's Inverness Lodge
30 Callendar Way
Inverness, CA 94937

Nick's Cove and Cottages
23240 Highway One
Marshall, CA 94940
415.663.1033 or 866.63.NICKS