The long blue finger of Tomales Bay points seaward, straight along the San Andreas fault from the north end of the Olema Valley out to the Pacific. One of the best ways to visit this sheltered 12-mile-long estuary is by canoe, kayak, or sailboat. Put in at Heart’s Desire Beach and watch for the resident birds—blue herons, cormorants, osprey, egrets, sandpipers, and gulls—as well as wintering waterfowl such as scoters and Brant geese.
Tomales Bay State Park affords waterfront access on both sides of the bay. To the north lies Millerton Point and Alan P. Sieroty Beach, a day-use area eight miles northwest of Point Reyes Station on Highway 1. On the southwest side of the bay, Heart’s Desire Beach is a nice spot for picnicking, camping, and warm-water swimming.
The Tomales Bay Ecological Reserve is a marshy, tidal wildlife sanctuary, home of many shorebirds, wading birds, and waterfowl. You can gain access to this California Department of Fish and Game reserve from a big turnout on Highway 1 north of Point Reyes Station.
- A public boat launch is located at Miller Park, north of Marshall on Highway 1.
- Stop at an eatery in Inverness, Point Reyes Station, or at locations along Highway 1 to sample the locally grown oysters.
- Although many of the ranch sites in Point Reyes and Olema Valley are in public ownership, agricultural activity continues under permit with the National Park Service, and public access facilities have yet to be developed. Before visiting, please call the Bear Valley Visitor Center at Point Reyes National Seashore for current access information.
Tidal Wetland Comeback
The grassy lowlands at Tomales Bay’s southern tip were used as cow pastures just a few short years ago. Today, the amazing transformation of these pastures into a restored mosaic of tidal marshes is nearly complete.
Here on the 563-acre Waldo Giacomini ranch, the National Park Service took on a tremendous tidal wetland restoration effort. The project was part of an increasing National Park Service priority on restoring natural ecosystems and watershed processes. For an overlook of this newly restored wetland, take the Tomales Bay Trail on the nearby Martinelli Ranch out to the point and look south.
Down among the exposed roots on the banks of Lagunitas Creek lives the endangered California freshwater shrimp, the only native species of freshwater shrimp found in the state today. The state’s entire California freshwater shrimp population inhabits fewer than 10 streams—including Lagunitas Creek—in the area encompassed by Napa, Sonoma, and Marin counties.
Hamlet on the Bay
The old Jensen oyster farm at the north end of Tomales Bay was once the site of a railroad station identified on historic maps as Hamlet. The dairy rancher at nearby Pierce Point Ranch loaded his butter onto the railroad at Hamlet for transport to Sausalito and on to San Francisco by ferry. The National Park Service recently acquired this 40-acre parcel, which offers direct access to the shoreline and views of the bay’s outlet into the Pacific.