Marin County, California
Hike, hike and hike some more. Did we mention hike? There are a million trails to explore in Marin County. You could live here and hike a different hike every day for years.
- More about your oliver guide: Courtney Leary
- Trip type: Family, Beach, Mountains
- Activity level: moderate
- Ideal length of trip: An easy day trip from San Francisco or 2-3 days exploring Marin.
to & from
Fly into SFO or Oakland. Oakland is slightly closer, but almost always has traffic delays and SFO allows you to cross the Golden Gate bridge which is fun. Since Marin is comprised of several small towns, you will need a car to get around. Uber is available, but will be exhausting to use constantly.
Where to Stay
- Cavallo Point: The most luxurious place to stay in Marin. Best for couples-- nice spa, good food and beautiful setting. Not walking distance to any town, Sausalito is closest.
- Waters Edge Hotel, Tiburon: For the view and convenience. Walking distance to shops and restaurants in downtown Tiburon as well as the ferry.
- The Lodge at Tiburon: For convenience not luxury. Very basic rooms but offers a pool, dining and walking distance to downtown Tiburon and ferry.
Where to Eat and Drink
- FISH (Sausalito): Bring cash (no credit cards) and enjoy fresh, delicious seafood on decks next to the bay. Hit it on a sunny day and you'll never want to leave. Also a great spot for an early dinner. Slightly pricey for the casual atmosphere, but worth it.
- Luna Blu (Tiburon): Another one of the (surprisingly) few good places in Marin to sit on a deck, take in the views while enjoying good food and drink. The owners are lovely and make some of the best gourmet tomato soup we have every tasted! The Italian/seafood menu is perfect for a ladies lunch or an adult dinner and well behaved children are even appropriate for the deck. It's small and cozy so call ahead for reservations.
- Shoreline Cafe (Mill Valley): This secret hole-in-the-wall is surprisingly one of the best breakfast, brunch, lunch spots in the county. Fresh, organic ingredients with a Mexican twist served up in a "very-much-a-diner-everyone-knows-your-name" atmosphere. Extremely casual, and perfect for after a hike or the morning after a late night.
- Parkside Cafe and Siren Canteen (Stinson Beach): Great baked goods, salads and smoothies at Parkside, or delicious tacos (and other Mexican) literally beachside at the Siren Canteen. Plan on a wait if the sun is out, but the views are so good you won't mind! Fun to hike here from Mill Valley (7-8 miles/one way).
- Michael's Sourdough (San Rafael): The world's best deli sandwich-- at least we think so.
- Rustic Bakery (Kale Caesar is a fav.), Blue Barn (the tostada salad is the best) & Comforts (order the Chinese Chicken Salad) are the best, "quick" lunch spots in Marin.
- Urban Remedy, with locations in Mill Valley, Larkspur and San Rafael, is the best spot for the uber-healthy to grab soups, salads, juices and bars to-go.
- Picco (Larkspur): Picco is a Marin County institution. Located in Cynthia's hometown of Larkspur, Picco never disappoints. The mainstays of tuna tartar and avocado bruschetta are the perfect starts to a delicious and lively dinner. The place is always packed, so make a reservation. AND if the wait is too long you can try to grab a table at Pizzeria Picco next door where you can also order the tartar and bruschetta and complete the meal with a yummy pizza. Their Straus soft serve is the only way to finish off your meal!
- Village Sake (Fairfax): If you ask (almost) anyone in Marin where to get sushi 9/10 times they will say Sushi Ran. We love Sushi Ran but prefer Village Sake since it feels a little more underground. Located in downtown Fairfax (known for a hippy vibe) you feel like you are a million miles from SF. Everything is good, including the sake.
- Farley Bar at Cavallo Point: Get here early to snag a spot outside on the deck--there's no better place at sunset to enjoy truffle fries and glass of wine. The food and atmosphere at Farley Bar is much preferred to the fancier Murray Circle next door.
- Buckeye: (Mill Valley): Traditional upscale dining in cozy setting. Think big fireplace and great Holiday decorations. Great bar. Best for a date night but also offers a kid friendly brunch.
- Terrapin Crossroads (San Rafael): If you are a Deadhead or live music fan, this will be your home away from home. Phil Lesh's restaurant/music venue is a great spot to hear music, day or night. Large protected lawn & play structure for kids to play while you sit outside on Adirondacks.
- Playa (Mill Valley): Upscale Mexican food in the heart of downtown Mill Valley. Order the steak and a pitcher of margaritas.
- Perry's (Larkspur): Perfect, casual dinner for families. Wednesday night is half off bottles of wine.
- Marin Joes (Larkspur): VERY old school Marin restaurant.This is where you will find the (older) natives. Order a martini at the bar and a caesar salad (they make it table-side).
- Beerworks (Mill Valley): Don't be confused by the name, some of our favorite meals have been had at this snug Mill Valley spot! And, of course, the beer is pretty good too.
- Cucina (San Anselmo): Quaint warm atmosphere, great for a date night, authentic Italian food.
- Pizzalina (San Anselmo): Great pick for pizza with the kids-- with a frozen yogurt spot next door makes for a perfect, easy family night.
- Avatars Indian (Sausalito, Mill Valley and Larkspur): Local family owned restaurants serving incredible, authentic Indian food.
- Farm Shop (Marin Country Mart): Great place for group dinners and drinks-- order a few pizzas and a lot of small plates to share. Also a pretty long bar invites a catch up with a friend over a glass of wine.
What to Do
- Hike! There are seemingly millions of trails to explore in Marin County. One of our favorites is Baldy Mountain starting at Phoenix Lake in Ross which takes about 1 1/2 hours round trip. Add on a stop in downtown San Anselmo to explore shops and pick-up an infamous Chinese Chicken Salad from Comforts. The hike is exposed, so bring a hat on a sunny day.
- Tennessee Valley: Another favorite spot to hike-- go any direction from the Tennessee Valley parking lot and you'll be blown away by views of the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco. For a real treat, hike from here to Pelican Inn for a beer.
- Climb the Dipsea stairs in Mill Valley. These stairs rise up and out of downtown Mill Valley and lead you to an amazing network of trails on Mount Tam. You can stop at the top and be done or you can keep on going all the way to Stinson. The annual Dipsea Race (the oldest trail race in America) at the beginning of June is an amazing experience-- but mail in your entry form early as it's a lottery and known to be difficult to get into.
- Run, walk or bike the Tiburon bike path starting at Blackies pasture and heading toward downtown Tiburon. There is a park along the way and Caffe Acri with coffee and pastries at the end (in Tiburon) to keep everyone motivated.
- Sea Trek (Sausalito): Rent SUPs (stand up paddle boards) or kayaks and explore the Bay on your own or sign up for a trip. The moonlight kayak is especially fun and easy.
- Yoga: As in power at Now Power Yoga
- Spin: Soulcycle at Marin Country Mart
- Seaplane Ride: Truly no better way to sea all the beauty of Marin. Perfect for a special occasion.
- Marin Country Mart: Super cool, anti-mall, outdoor shopping destination. Highlights include old harvest trees that make up the play "structure" for kids, book store, clothing and home boutiques (Roberta Roller Rabbit, Hudson Grace, Intermix), yummy food, a Saturday Farmer's Market with faceprinting for the kids, and George - THE place to get your four-legged pal a treat. There really is something for everyone at Marin Country Mart.
- Shop: In addition to the Marin Country Mart , downtown Mill Valley (Carolina, Summer House, Guideboat and Bloomingayle's at the Mill Valley Lumber Yard, 7 on Locust, Stick & Ball (great polo inspired goods) and Poet and the Bench are favorites) and downtown Larkspur (We love Haven!) are great places to pick up some "treats." Check out the latest addition to Marin shopping, The Edit, in the Mill Valley Lumberyard. Cute tops, jeans, dresses and girlfriend gifts.
- Day trip to Stinson. Drive or hike the 8 miles out (and cab back). Pack a picnic or go early and start the day with breakfast at Parkside. The Siren Canteen on the beach offers surprisingly good Mexican food.
- Ferry ride into the city from downtown Tiburon for dinner or lunch at the Ferry Building or just for a round trip activity with the kids. Wine, beer and snacks served on board!
- Explore Angel Island. Take the Angel Island Ferry from downtown Tiburon and hike or bike around the island or just picnic on the big green lawn. On Friday & Saturday nights in the summer, enjoy the Angel Island Ferry Sunset Cruise. Really fun to pack a picnic (& wine) and cruise around the Bay.
- Bay Area Discovery Museum: World-class hands-on children's museum with a view of the SF and the Golden Gate Bridge.
- Spa: International Orange or Cavallo Point
- Take in a concert at Sweetwater: Amazing music venue in downtown Mill Valley - look close, you may spot Phil Lesh in the audience.
- Pick up a copy of Edible Marin. It will keep you in the know on where to eat and drink, not to mention some color on the local faces of this colorful county!
- Traffic in and out of all towns is bad around 3pm when school gets out on weekdays.
- No matter the season, you will likely need your puffy coat. Pack layers.
- Marin is very casual. Jeans are almost always appropriate.