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How to Spend a Sunny Weekend in Bolinas, California

Today I want to bring you my travel itinerary for spending a weekend in Bolinas, California. The oldest town in coastal Marin County, this surfer’s paradise has an artistic vibe, a sense of history, and a strong community spirit. Add to that a fantastic beach and great food, and it’s the perfect place to spend two days on the Northern California coast. I’m here now and I’m excited show you the highlights. I’ve included a map, too.

Weekend in Bolinas

Weekend in Bolinas

Situated on the Pacific Ocean, Bolinas is a 27-mile drive from San Francisco. It’s an easy day trip from the city, but it’s worth spending a weekend here to relax, soak up the sun, and take in the scenery.

Unlike neighboring Stinson Beach, Bolinas lays low when it comes to tourism. Local residents like to ensure the town flies under-the-radar, and they regularly remove road signs that alert drivers on Highway 1 to the town’s presence.

But those who know it’s here understand why it’s worth a special trip. From its sandy beach to its food scene and sense of history and community, it’s a great place to call home-away-from-home.

View of Bolinas Beach
Bolinas Beach

Places to Stay in Bolinas, CA

Speaking of which, local friends are putting me up during my weekend in town. There are lots of great places to stay in Bolinas if you don’t have a couch or guest room to crash in, though.

From hotels to house rentals, this place has it all. You can even base yourself in Stinson Beach. There are plenty of other good options in the local area, too. You can see a range of choices and find accommodation that fits your style here.

Bolinas Hotel
Smiley’s

Day 1

It’s an hour’s drive from San Francisco to Bolinas. My boyfriend, his dog, and I hop in the car, cross the Golden Gate Bridge, and drive out along the Pacific coast. On the way we enjoy spectacular views of the boulders and waves below the cliffs.

Eventually we cruise through Stinson Beach and along the Bolinas Lagoon. The latter is an 1,100-acre tidal estuary in West Marin where fat harbor seals sun themselves with their pups.

After passing the lagoon, we turn off Highway 1 and drive along country roads lined with historic houses and farm stands to get to Bolinas. We’re just in time for lunch.

Bolinas Restaurant
Eleven

Lunch

We meet our local friends for a picnic lunch of fresh salads, salted nuts, and pink salmon. They’ve picked it all up from the local grocery stores in Bolinas, and it goes down a treat in the California sunshine.

Bolinas Beach

After lunch we continue our weekend in Bolinas with a walk to Bolinas Beach. Right near the shops and directly across the narrow entrance to the lagoon from Stinson Beach, this stretch of sand is a popular place to surf and sunbathe.

It’s protected by a sand bar, too, so the waves are fairly subdued compared to the mighty ones that thunder down on other California beaches.

It’s also a leash-free beach for dogs, which brings oodles of joy to my boyfriend’s water-loving pup (and our friends’ pooch, too). We throw balls for the dogs as we watch the surfers and beach parties taking place on the sand. It’s a great introduction to this part of Marin County.

Surfer Bolinas Beach
Surfer on Bolinas Beach

Bolinas Village

When we reach the northern end of the beach, we walk up Wharf Road to get into the village. Houses adorned with colorful buoys give way to shops, restaurants, and galleries as we go.

We pass everything from the Bolinas Gallery to the Bolinas Museum and Bolinas Community Park as our friends point out their favorite places.

First there’s the historic bar at Smiley’s. It reputedly dates back to 1851, and it’s said to be the oldest continually operating saloon on the West Coast. It has a cantina restaurant and hotel rooms, too.

Bolinas Gallery
Bolinas Gallery

Our friends are also fans of the food at Coast Cafe and the pizzas and meatballs at Eleven. According to them, there are a lot of good places to eat in Bolinas.

As we continue our walk, we pop into some of the shops along Wharf Road. We also notice details like the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Lady of Bolinas Shrine and the art on the side of the supermarket. I love that there’s a library at the Bolinas Community Center, too.

Rounding the corner at Brighton Avenue, we pass the wooden frame of the 19th-century Calvary Presbyterian Church, then take in the colorful houses as we make our way back to Bolinas Beach.

Bolinas House
House in Bolinas

Dinner

When the sun dips near the Pacific Ocean, our weekend in Bolinas continues with dinner at Coast Cafe. This place is known for its local organic produce, fresh-caught seafood, and sustainable chicken, beef, and pork.

The outdoor areas are dog-friendly, so we settle in at a table in front of the restaurant. Lucky for us, there’s live music outside Smiley’s, and it’s right across the street.

We enjoy an al fresco dinner of grilled oysters, fried calamari, Caesar salads, and fresh local fish with corn succotash as the music floats through the night air. The meal is flavorful and delicious, and the service is excellent, too.

Fish Corn Succotash
Fish with Corn Succotash

For dessert we can’t help ordering the chocolate and vanilla Double 8 Dairy buffalo milk soft serve. We always get it at Palace Market in nearby Point Reyes Station, and we’re delighted to see it on the menu here. It’s rich and creamy, and it makes for a perfect end to our meal.

Day 2

Following a good night’s sleep, we wake up the next morning to continue our weekend in Bolinas with a walk on the beach. It’s a beautiful day, and we practically have the whole stretch of sand to ourselves.

The tide is out, and the long, narrow groin built to prevent erosion is fully exposed. We walk over to it, inspecting the mussels clinging to its wooden frame and admiring the big purple and orange starfish tucked into its end. There are spongy anemones lining the north side, too.

Starfish
Starfish

Coffee

After letting the pups run and swim at the beach, we walk down Wharf Road to pick up coffees from the to-go window at Coast Cafe. We stroll along the street with them, taking in the scenery in Bolinas Community Park as we go.

Breakfast

We pass the small gas station and arrive at BoVida cafe just as it’s opening. This place is known for offering health-conscious food made from a variety of local organic produce.

We order at the counter, then sit at an outdoor table to enjoy everything from colorful acai bowls to bagels with cream cheese.

Bolinas Cafe
BoVida

After breakfast we head to Bolinas People’s Store to pick up salads and produce for another picnic lunch. From there we head back to the beach to run the dogs before making our way to our friends’ house to pack our bags.

After lunch we hop in the car, wave good-bye, drive back down the Olema Bolinas Road, and start our journey back to San Francisco.

Weekend in Bolinas

It’s been a great weekend in Bolinas, and we’ve had a fun time discovering the highlights of this coastal surf town in Northern California. It was worth a special trip to discover the village, beach, food scene, and beyond.

Bolinas Beach House
Bolinas Beach

Bolinas Itinerary Map

If you want to follow my travel itinerary for a weekend in Bolinas, you can find an interactive Google map of all the places I mentioned here. I hope it helps you get a feel for the town so you can enjoy your time visiting.

Grand Hotel Bolinas
Grand Hotel Bolinas

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Weekend in Bolinas

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