We had planned to travel to Mendocino in California for Memorial Day weekend. We were hoping to stay a couple nights on the coast and visit some beaches. By the time we were ready to make the reservations, there was nothing left for accomodation. Nothing! So I guess other people had the same plan and they were smart enough to book their rooms on time.
Eventually we decided to make a day trip to Point Reyes, about 30 miles north of San Francisco. The area is so signifigant that it is part of the national parks system, and called Point Reyes National Seashore. The nature there is protected which is good. There are so many great hiking trails in this area as well as beaches and beautiful views. And the park is pretty big so you should plan ahead what you want to see because you can't see it all in one day.
We arrived at Point Reyes in the middle of the park from the east. Our first stop was at Point Reyes Station village where we got some deli sandwiches for our cooler. Point Reyes Station is a nice little village where you can stroll around or sit down for a glass of wine if you can ever find parking. There is also a visitor center in town. A little blue house that looks like a play house. You can forget the indoor restrooms or free maps, they will not offer either even though the lady working there was very friendly. I suggest stopping at the national parks visitor center instead, it is right outside the town. You can check out the exhibit or bookstore, get some tips from the rangers and buy some souvenirs. It is also so much easier to go around with a proper map since there is no cell service in the park. There are also multiple hiking and riding trails leaving from the visitor center parking lot.
The most popular sight in Point Reyes is the lighthouse built in 1870. To visit the lighthouse you will have to climb 300 steps down so consider your daily workout done if you decide to do this. Once you are down to the lighthouse, you will see the beautiful Pacific Ocean and view of the coastline. With a little luck, you might see some whales passing by or some sea lions resting on the beach near by. The lighthouse is partly open so you can escape high winds if you need to, and then it is time to climb those 300 steps back up. Every once and in a while you might have to stop to catch your breath and you will also pass people who have stopped to do the same. A visit to the lighthouse is worth it though.
Last time we were at Point Reyes we drove past this area and hiked to the end of park. Tomales Point is located between the ocean and Tomales Bay. The views on this hike are spectacular and you might see some Tule elk on your way. At some point they were thought to be extirpated but the species recovered and can be found in a few places in California. We also saw many birds and many beaches down below the hiking trail. Some were not accessible, and some can trap you at high tide. But they certainly looked beautiful. We didn't go down to the beaches because we wanted to reach the end point of the Tomales hike.
On that trip we also stopped at San Augustine to get something to eat. We bought some sandwiches from Inverness Market deli and walked to the tables behind the building. That was when I noticed something I had always seen in pictures. A famous Point Reyes ship wreck right by the waterline of Tomales Bay. Of course it is not the only ship wreck or sunken ship on these waters but it must be the most photgraphed one. I'm glad we saw it because in February I learned that it had been vandalized and burned. I'm not quite sure if the remains of the ship are still there or if they got moved somewhere. So sad!
On our visit to Point Reyes we decided to spend some time at the beach. After stopping at the visitor center we drove up to Drakes Bay and to Limantour Beach. The beach line there seems to be never ending and despite the waves some people where swimming. We on the other hand settled for playing in the sand and searching for clam shelves. Our little girl had so much fun.
There are still many places in Point Reyes that we haven't seen so we will be returning back someday. There are multiple little towns in the area where you can find services, motels and three visitor centers for the National Parks system. If you get tired of city life in San Francisco, just hop in your car and drive north thru the redwood forest to Point Reyes. This is a drive you will never forget!