Bolinas is a quintessential northern California town with its own unique ambiance that only a small number towns and cities such as Mendocino, Carmel, Laguna Beach and North Lake Tahoe possess. Bolinas preserved the spirit of the 1960’s and 1970’s when environmental activists saved the area from commercial developments such as a four lane freeway and a luxury marina. Activists removed road signs along Route 1 pointing to Bolinas, had a county ordinance passed prohibiting new signs and purposely kept the town accessible by unmarked roads. A sign at the entrance to Bolinas reads, “Entering a socially acknowledged nature-loving town”.
Most of the buildings in downtown Bolinas were built between 1850 and 1920. After the 1971 San Francisco Bay oil spill occurred, Bolinas residents and other environmental activists responded with a dramatic rescue operation to save the sea birds. Many of the activists stayed in Bolinas, bought homes and became permanent members of the community. In 1965 the Point Reyes Bird Observatory was established and it’s known to be a bird watcher’s paradise. The downtown Bolinas area also contains a public park and two public beaches. Agate Beach features beautiful tide pools that are protected as part of the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. Surfer-friendly and dog-friendly Bolinas Beach features painted seawalls and huge cliffs.
Located on the opposite side of the Bolinas Lagoon at 4900 Shoreline Highway, the Audubon Canyon Ranch has spectacular views of the lagoon and the ocean. It’s a 5-gallery museum featuring local artists whose work expresses the traditional spirit of Bolinas and it shows visitors why Bolinas is such a unique community. Other natural attractions worth visiting include Alamere Falls, a rare type of waterfall that flows directly into the ocean. It’s at Alamere Creek Beach, which is accessible by following the Coast Trail from the Palomarin Trailhead at the end of Mesa Road out of Bolinas. About one mile west of Bolinas, the Duxbury Reef State Marine Conservation Area is an underwater park where people can observe protected marine wildlife and enjoy activities such as diving, snorkeling, swimming and kayaking.
Another charming aspect of Bolinas is the many local shops that feature local artwork, surfing rentals and gifts. Bolinas also contains intimate restaurants that feature fresh local foods and homemade desserts. Surfing lessons and summer surf camps are available and Bolinas has the only gas station that’s located between Mill Valley and Point Reyes. Bolinas is 29.5 miles from San Francisco but it takes about an hour and 10 minutes to get there by car via Route 101 North and then by driving along CA-1 North. There’s no leash law in Bolinas because it’s a dog-friendly town where local dogs are allowed to run free without any leashes but camping and fires are not allowed.
Peter Cross is an accomplished article writer and creative writer who has produced hundreds of articles for many different clients since 2006 when he retired from his consulting business.