West Marin, California
Oyster Hopping & Other Adventures:
24 Hours in West Marin
Illustration by @rachelryle
West Marin, just over an hour north of downtown San Francisco, is a gem in the bay area for anyone into food, nature, and long drives through stunning landscapes. Our 24-hour guide takes you oyster farm hopping, cheese tasting, to secluded lodging, and more.
Set your navigation to 23240 California 1, the northern most point on the itinerary. The drive from San Francisco to West Marin on Highway 1 takes many turns, but it’s breathtaking. Put together a great playlist and head out of the city in the late AM, against the traffic.
Start the day
A classic spot in the area that’s long-loved for dining, drinking, and its cabins on the water. Nick’s Bloody Mary, made with a secret spice blend and pickled bean, is famous in these parts.
How to Shuck an Oyster
Make sure to take extra care with your knife when shucking, with the blade facing away from you. Also make sure your oysters are scrubbed clean (most of the oyster farms do this for you).
Using a clean towel or glove, hold the oyster down with one hand with the opening facing away from you. Stick your oyster knife through the back of the oyster (the hinge) with the blade angled down. Twist the knife upward to pop the hinge.
Slide the knife along the length of the shell at the opening and twist the knife again at the opposite side to remove the top shell.
Starting on the left, sweep the knife underneath the oyster to loosen the meat from the shell. Check for any pieces of broken shell and remove, being careful not to lose too much of the liquid. Serve on ice with horseradish, mignonette, and/or cocktail sauce.
Oyster Hop Along Highway 1
Begin at one of the most famous farms in the area. You’ll usually have to book ahead to shuck-your-own at the picnic tables, and a reservation includes a grill and all the oyster apparatus you may need. On the weekends, they open up their oyster bar called The Boat, where they serve shucked oysters, wine, beer, and local cheese.
The Marshall Store
Grab a stool outside overlooking the bay and try their specialty, the grilled oysters. Since it’s a store, not a farm, they source their oysters from the other farms, just minutes away and serve them up along with other lunch fare and provisions.
Perhaps the most bare-bones spot on the agenda, this oyster farm also offers clams and mussels from its namesake bay. Buy oysters from the counter by the dozen (or 50) and shuck them yourself on picnic tables at the water’s edge.
Take a Hike
Tomales Bay Trail
Drive just a few miles South on Highway 1 until you reach the Tomales Bay Trailhead to walk off lunch in this beautiful state park. We recommend the westbound path, which leads you to the edge of Tomales Bay and the Ecological Reserve.
Photos: Alexis Swanson Traina
Time to stretch your legs and relax before going back out for the evening. Check-in to this magical lodge in the woods, surrounded by pine and redwood trees on the edge of the Tomales Bay. This is a true retreat. The themed, private cabins are the creation of the unique Bay area tastemaker, Margaret Gradé and her partner Daniel DeLong, and feature bedside fireplaces, claw-foot tubs, carefully-selected antiques, in-room massages, and locally-sourced breakfast.
Sir + Star at The Olema
Even if you don’t do our full 24 hours, come here. The same owners as Manka’s Inverness Lodge (you’ll tell immediately by the beautifully haunting aesthetic running through each place), Margaret and Daniel re-opened their restaurant in this new location after a fire shut down the original. The menu (we recommend the ‘O Yes’ chef’s tasting) is full of decadent, locally-sourced dishes.
Breakfast on the Beach
Get an early start and take your breakfast to go to enjoy it under the sun at Chicken Ranch Beach, less than a mile away (drive north on Sir Francis Drake Boulevard—once you pass Pine Hill Drive on your left, you’ll see the beach on your right). Hidden behind a small bridge, if you come at the right time, it feels like your own private beach.
Have a few more oysters at…
Red flower sprouting amongst the grey brush. #nofilter
Time may be running out to visit this third-generation oyster farm due to a lease dispute, which the community is banding together to oppose. This is a truly special place. Get your oysters shucked for you or DIY for half the price in a location that feels like the end of the earth, in the best possible way. #savedrakesbay
Heading back south towards the city, stop at…
Point Reyes Station
This almost surreally quaint and charming town center summons a simpler time. Check out Toby’s Feed Barn, which has been family-owned and operated since 1942 and includes an art gallery, coffee bar, yoga studio, and really great farmer’s market. Other highlights include independent bookshop, Point Reyes Books, Cowgirl Creamery, and a wonderful place for lunch…
This Italian restaurant features house wines on tap and a locally-sourced menu of elegant, rustic dishes (think conserved tuna in salads and slow-roasted tomatoes on pizzas). And they also have pretty epic oyster pizza: Drake’s Bay oysters, local Straus cream braised leeks, lemon thyme, and parsley.
Save the cheese plate for…
Photos courtesy of Owen Bettinger.
Just steps away, Sue Conley and Peggy Smith founded Cowgirl Creamery in this renovated hay barn back in the ’90s. It’s a wonderful place to stop for regional artisan products and, of course, to build your cheese plate. Don’t miss their famous Mt. Tam triple cream cheese, made with nearby Straus Family dairy.