Tomales is a beautiful town of approximately 200 residents
who reside near the winding Shoreline Highway 1 a few miles east of Tomales
Bay that overlooks Point Reyes National Seashore. Though located only 60 miles
north of San Francisco, the coastal trek on two lane roads from the city to
Tomales usually takes about
2 hours. Scenic beauty awaits those who drive the Shoreline Highway; the fog,
rain and twists may require keeping your eyes trained on the road, however.
For faster access, take US 101 north from San Francisco, exit Washington
Street and follow its changes as Bodega Avenue and then Valley Ford Road. Turn
left on Tomales Road and travel approximately eight miles.
nature lovers, there are hikes, kayaking in the bay and Dillon Beach nearby.
Visitors can dine in wonderful restaurants and cafes, tour the community with
its Victorian architecture and Queen Anne cottages, visit the Tomales Regional
History Center and shop.
Once known as a bustling port for exports of farm produce
such as potatoes during the mid-1800's, it is believed that approx. 2000
people who lived there left with the demise of farming and resultant decrease
in shipping. Poor farming practices that caused erosion, destructive
fires and migration to the city all contributed to the population shift toward
Originally occupied by Coast Miwok
Indians, evidence exists that European explorers such as Englishman Sir
Francis Drake visited the bay of Farallones or Tomales bay in 1578.
Visiting for a month, he charted the region and named it New
Albion. Not long after Drake's visit, a Chinese vessel named San Agustin sank in the bay in
1595. Wreckage of the San Agustin was discovered in the port of San
Francisco (the Golden Gate) and Yerba Buena 200 years later.
Earliest modern-day settlers to Tomales were farmers who tended herds of
dairy cattle, grew vegetables, grains and potatoes. 60 miles south, San
Francisco was becoming one of the fastest growing cities in the nation after news
of the 1848 - 1849 gold discoveries spread rapidly around the world.
Thriving ports along the California coast and even smaller bays such as Tomales shipped products and
produce to San Francisco and Sacramento. A network of railroads further
connected the small port towns to larger cities. North Pacific
Coast Railroad extended its narrow gauge line in 1871 from Sausalito to Tomales Bay.
The Gold Rush was short lived but left an imprint on the Golden State.
California would grow to become the most populated state in the
U.S. but without the Gold Rush, development and infrastructure would not
have occurred so rapidly.
Many Central Coast and Northern
California towns such as Tomales dwindled in population as the U.S. entered a 20th
Century economic depression and fought two world wars. Some piers and
structures such as the railroad line to Tomales were abandoned; some have
been saved and renovated and many have simply disappeared.
While the entire state has
experienced tremendous growth during the past 50 years, large portions of
coastline in Northern California are owned by governmental agencies and
adhere to 20th Century regulations prohibiting certain types of building and
usage. The coastal region near Tomales in Tomales Bay is part of the
National Park Service (NPS) Point Reyes National Seashore. It is open to the public for recreational enjoyment and
cannot be used for commercial development.
Tomales Bay, a 15-mile long, 6780-acre
tidal water body located in rural west Marin County, is the most popular
area for kayaking at Point Reyes National Seashore. It is the largest
unspoiled coastal embayment on the coast of California. Bounded on the west
by the Point Reyes National Seashore, adjacent communities include Tomales,
Pt. Reyes Station, Inverness, Marshall, and Dillon Beach in the north
where Tomales Bay meets Bodega Bay.
Recreational use of Tomales Bay has
grown in recent years and the National Park Service at Point Reyes has
created regulations about recreational use, especially for camping and
boating. Kayaking in Drakes Estero and Limantour Estero is prohibited each
year from from July through February to protect harbor seals during the most
crucial part of the pupping season. Hog Island in the northern section of
Tomales Bay across from Whites Gulch on the west side and Nicks Cove on the
east side is a favorite haul-out for seals and roosting place for brown
pelicans. This important wildlife habitat, is open on the west side only for
day use. Personal water craft (PWC) such as a Jetski or Waverunner are never
permitted on Tomales Bay.
There are four areas for launching on
Tomales Bay (information about these launch locations is supplied by the
National Park Service www.nps.gov)
Miller County Park (415) 499-6387
Also known as Nick's Cove, Miller County Park is located on the east side of
Tomales Bay off Highway 1, north of the town of Marshall. This Marin County
park has a public boat launch with cement grade into the water, restrooms,
and a pier. There is a day use fee and overnight use fee. Overnight parking
is in the upper lot, to the right as you pull in.
Tomales Bay State Park - (415) 669-1140
The state park provides two access areas to Tomales Bay, Millerton Point and
Hearts Desire Beach. Millerton Point is on the east side of Tomales Bay,
three miles north of Point Reyes Station. No overnight parking is permitted.
There is a pit toilet and you must carry your boat along a short trail
approximately 100 yards to the water. It is very shallow and is best used at
high tides. Hearts Desire Beach is on the west side of Tomales Bay off
Pierce Point Road. It is a day-use area (no overnight parking) and there is
a day-use fee. You must carry your boat approximately 100 yards across a
sandy beach. Water and restrooms are available at the beach. Orange floats
are placed in the water in summer to indicate the swimming area. Boaters may
land to the south of the orange floats. Motorized vessels are prohibited
within 100' of the swim area markers.
Golden Hinde Inn & Marina - (415) 669-1389
The inn and marina are located on the west side of the bay. It is off Sir
Francis Drake Boulevard three miles north of Inverness. There is a boat
launch fee and if you pay the launch fee, you may leave your car overnight.
No dump station.
Lawson's Landing - (707) 878-2443
The campground and boat launch are located in Dillon Beach with direct
access to Tomales Bay. There is gas, dump station, and boat rentals.
Restrooms and water available. There is a day-use and overnight fee charged.
If you plan to have a beach fire on national seashore beaches, stop by
national park visitor centers for a free required permit. No beach fires are
permitted on state park beaches. Some beaches you may enjoy on a visit to
Hearts Desire Beach features a swimming area during the summer. Boaters may
pull up on the southern edge of the beach to access the restrooms and
drinking water. No overnight use or beach fires. Indian Beach north of
Hearts Desire has a redwood kotca, a traditional Coast Miwok sleeping
shelter on it. There is no overnight use or beach fires.
There is a fee and permit system for overnight camping on the west side
beaches of Tomales Bay (within Point Reyes National Seashore). Overnight
beach camping is not permitted anywhere else on Tomales Bay or within Point
Reyes National Seashore. Contact the National Seashore reservation office at
(415) 663-8054 for reservations and to place your name on the mailing list
for information. Some Tomales Bay beaches that are open for overnight
camping to those who have a current and valid permit are (listed from south
to north): Kilkenny Beach; Marshall Beach on the west side of Tomales Bay
across from the town of Marshall; Tomales Beach; Fruit Tree Beach; Blue Gum
Beach which experiences seasonal closures to protect harbor seal pupping;
Avalis Beach which sometimes has high tides and strong currents.
Tomales can seem distant and removed from the
city, due to its small size and rural atmosphere. You'll be hard pressed to
find a McDonald's restaurant, and that's part of its incredible charm.
Locals actually eat better, enjoying a plethora of natural resources both at
the Point Reyes National Seashore and nearby. In close proximity, there's
production, delicious seafood served in local restaurants and great chefs
who find this part of California a desirable location for intimate, upscale meal
preparations in small, boutique restaurants.
Lending to the ambiance are 100-year
old buildings representing a variety of architectural styles from Queen Anne
Queen Anne to Craftsman and Spanish Colonial Revival. Stop in Tomales to
shop, dine and even visit the Tomales Regional History Center located at
26701 Highway 1. Though the Center which is housed in a 1921 High School
gymnasium is usually open Friday through Sunday, you should call before
going: (707) 878-9443.
Tomales is located in Marin County in northern
California. Major destinations not far from Tomales include the San
Francisco Bay area and Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino wine country. Distances to
major destinations with a variety of hotel accommodations include:
28 miles - 37 minutes
Santa Rosa Hotels
16 miles - 25 minutes
Tomales is located near the Pacific
Ocean in Marin County, California. It's distance to other cities is:
28 miles - 37 minutes
Santa Rosa Hotels
16 miles - 25 minutes Petaluma
15 miles - 27 minutes Bodgea Bay
30 miles - 37 minutes Novato
17 miles - 27 minutes Cotati
30 miles - 45 minutes Sonoma
42 miles - 60 minutes Napa
58 miles - 72 minutes San Francisco
|Tomales, California Photos and Information