Point Reyes juts way out into the Pacific, forming a bay named Drake Bay. This is a beautiful scenic area, full of tremendous vistas and wildlife. Keep a lookout for the Tule elk. These animals were hunted nearly to extinction in the 19th century. The few survivors were transported here, where they have thrived. Also, look and listen for sea lions and other marine mammals.
On Saturdays from 9 am until 1 (June through Nov.) there is a lively farmers market in Point Reyes Station. Here you'll will find local organic produce, products like honey and fruit preserves, homemade soaps, locally produced cheeses, as well as less common items like knitting yarn spun from local sheep. The mix of people here is interesting, with local workers mixing with artsy types, retirees and tourists. Everyone is friendly.
The morning we were here there was a local band playing fun bluegrass music. There was also a cooking demonstration.
The small town of Inverness is the last stopping point heading north into the national park. It is a place to get last minute food, a staging area for kayaking, and a good location to see more of Tomales Bay. This old fishing boat is a bit of a landmark and provides an interesting foreground for views of the bay.
There is no shortage of scenic hikes in this area. Point Reyes National Seashore has miles and miles of marked trails, and the Golden Gate National Recreation Area on the mainland also has a beautiful, and long, trail along the Bolinas Ridge. There are also two California State Parks close by, with Samuel Taylor State Park on the mainland with stands of magnificent redwood trees. The extensive beaches, of course, can keep you occupied for hours. The many trails range in difficulty from easy to moderate, and some more challenging. At the visitors center you can get specific information about the different trails.
Tomales Bay is the long, narrow stretch of water that separates the northern half of Point Reyes Peninsula from the mainland. It is famous for oysters, which you will find at many places in the area, recreational activities such as kayaking, and beautiful scenery. The three towns here are Marshall on the mainland, Point Reyes Station at the source of the bay, and Inverness on the peninsula. You'll find places to eat and shop at each town, but Point Reyes Station is the largest and has the most to offer if you are looking for a place to eat or go shopping. There's a nice, short trail, the Tomales Bay trail, near Point Reyes Station with some good views.
Point Reyes National Seashore has several extensive beaches. You could walk here for hours and find near complete solitude once you get away from the trailheads and parking lots. Point Reyes Beach faces the Pacific Ocean, and is rough and windy, and often foggy. Don't come here expecting to swim and explore tide pools. Here you will face the elements. The beaches at Drakes Bay, facing the south, are protected from the winds and currents and more comfortable for most visitors. The map you can get for free at the Visitors Center shows how to get to the beaches, where you can camp and which beaches allow dogs. Whichever access point you choose, however, you can easily get away from any crowds. These are huge beaches and stretch a long way.
Pt. Reyes peninsula has been a place of interest for geologists for generations. The shifting plate tectonics along the fault resulted in rocks on the coast that match those from several hundred miles away. Add in the strong winds that lead to erosion and you'll find some interesting things. The rocks in this photo, for example, are found in winding layers interspersed with small holes and curving walls. It looks just like the high cliffs on lonely, isolated beaches further south in San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties.
The winds at Point Reyes are said to be the strongest on the California coast. From the looks of some of the trees at the point, it may well be true. The big old trees are permanently arched in from the wind, creating odd shapes and a canopy for the walkway to the visitor center at the lighthouse. If you plan to do much walking or hiking in the area, be prepared with suitable clothing. Know that while it can be sunny and mild on the mainland, once you get out here the weather can be completely different.
At the tip of Point Reyes you'll find the lighthouse and a visitor center, one of the highlights of a visit to Pt. Reyes. The views from here are impressive, with a view north along the beach until the horizon ends, and open ocean to the west and south. Before reaching the lighthouse itself, there is a small visitor center and a viewing platform. Then there are 300 steps down to the lighthouse itself.
The weather here is often very windy, and fog is quite common. Be prepared.
In the beginning of the afternoon, the wind was light but around 5 PM, it began to grow stronger and stronger. Given that the weather remained fine end the sky blue, this had to be a strong sea breeze, which is not unusual on the coasts. Land heats faster than the sea and on a sunny day, after a few hours the air upon land is warm enough to climb upwards. It is replaced by colder air from above the sea, that gives this kind of wind that usually clam down after a while, at sunset.
On the photos, look at how the crest of the waves is blown by the strengthening wind! Though they were shot in the western part of the bay, the “sheltered” part (see previous tips), the water is not calm anymore and nobody is playing in the water anymore. Though, this is a nice weather…
Photo 1 shows the eastern part of Drakes bay with the mainland in the background.
Photo 2 shows the whole extent of Drakes bay from left (west) to east (right). Bolinas should be just outside the frame, on the right.
Photo 3 shows the direction of San Francisco, hidden by the distance haze.
Drakes bay is east to Point Reyes and is widely open to the south. The whole shore is part of Point Reyes National Seashore. It extends from Point Reyes to Bolinas, 25 miles north to San Francisco as the crow flies.
Photo 1 and 2 were taken in the westernmost part of Drakes bay. As it is sheltered by Point Reyes lighthouse promontory, the ocean is rather calm and allows swimming.
Photo 3 was taken a little further east and the rolls are taller.
Photos 4 and 5 were taken even further east, where Point Reyes lighthouse promontory does not give any shelter from the easterly winds and waves.
Point Reyes rock, several hundred feet below the lighthouse is a rookery for Marine birds. Their life, breeding, nesting, hatching, etc are monitored by Point Reyes Bird Observatory
There are thousands of black and white birds, roughly resembling penguins though they are related with puffins and not with penguins (see the second photo, a close up, sorry, not very sharp). This bird is an auk, the Common Murre or Common Guillemot or Thin-billed Murre ( Uria aalge). There are about 16,000 pairs of murres breeding just offshore on Lighthouse Rock.. For more, visit Point Reyes Bird Observatory
Since 1981, the Northern elephant seas (Mirounga angustirostris) breeds at Point Reyes after being absent for over 150 years. This is one of only eleven mainland breeding areas for the Northern elephant seal in the world.
Given that the rocky platform is 80 meters above the sea, there was no need to build a very tall lighthouse. It is 11 meters high and made of a concrete basement topped by a cast iron structure strongly bolted into the solid rock
The building on the right was the lodging for the lighthouse keepers and their family.
The lighthouse stands on a man made platform, 300 feet below the top of the cliff. When the lighthouse was built, there was no stairs and all the material needed for the building had to be brought on men’s back! The stairs has 308 steps and were built in 1939. It is easy to go down but if you suffer from vertigo, this is not for you. It is easy to go down but if you do not walk easily, you must remember that when you will come back, that will mean climbing the 308 steps! The sight is fantastic and worth the effort!