The Marin County Coast from Muir Beach to Stinson Beach

There are hidden treasures just minutes from the Golden Gate Bridge Photo: Muir Beach/Alison Reynolds Photo

WASHINGTON D.C., May 13, 2013 — The Marin County coast beckons with a simplicity and beauty all its own, somehow unscathed by the modern age, and captured forever in the mind from the moment you experience it. In a journey through the isolated hamlet of Muir Beach and the sweeping vistas of Stinson Beach.  Explore this most majestic of retreats, the stunning perfection of the Marin County coast.

Marin County Coast/Alison Reynolds Photo

Continue one exit on Highway 101 across from the Golden Gate and take Rt. 1 towards Stinson Beach. The next 9 miles deliver a visual experience incomparable to anything except the wildest reaches of Big Sur. 

Nestled along the twisting and turning road as it rises to the coast is Green Gulch Farm Zen Center. This serene Soto Zen meditation practice center is also a working organic farm run by the San Francisco Zen Center, providing produce to organic restaurants throughout the Bay Area.

The Center also holds retreats and seminars and welcomes overnight guests. Founded in 1972, Green Gulch Farm sits on 115 glorious acres in a distinct canyon of sublime isolation.

The next stop is Muir Beach, where the Grateful Dead held one of their early infamous acid tests in 1965. It remains a remote and mystical outpost, a gray beach of coarse sand about 1000 feet long wedged between two cliffs, which stand like bookended sentinels at either side of a sandy expanse.

A small community of about 150 homes sits on the bluffs above the west side of Muir Beach. This is as removed a hamlet of fortunate souls as you are likely to find, a place unto itself, surrounded by paradise.

The Pelican Inn/Alison Reynolds Photo

Next to Muir Beach, under the local community and sitting by the road with majestic English swagger is the legendary Pelican Inn. This roadside pub has impeccable atmosphere, hearty food, good beer, and a glimpse into the past that has remained unchanged for decades.

It is also a hotel with seven lovely rooms, complete with canopy beds and a Snug Room with a library and fireplace. With authentic food and a proper British pub to match, including darkened corner tables under thick wooden beams, The Pelican Inn patio area is the perfect location to while away the afternoon hours with a pint or two. It is always worth the stop.

The view to the north/Alison Reynolds Photo

At this point the coast line becomes a rugged collection of jagged peaks and pounding waves crashing against a craggy shore of rocks and cliffs. Lookout points situated along the road provide breathtaking vistas. Stand in thrall at the thundering brilliance in all directions.

In the distance looking south, lies the Golden Gate Bridge, Muir Beach and the windswept reaches of the Pacific Ocean set against a sheer wall of crumbling rock cliffs. To the north, the line of rugged coast seems to stretch forever to the distant shores of Stinson Beach, a slice of untrammeled heaven, beckoning with the force of a million years of nature’s glory.

The next section of the twisting ocean side road, made famous in the film Basic Instinct, leads to the lookout over Stinson Beach. Stinson Beach is a tiny community set against the backdrop of Mt. Tamalpais, with a glorious white sand beach ringed by quaint, but very expensive homes along its shoreline, a rivulet of lovely cottages rising into the hills above it and a legendary and continuing presence as a gathering place for free spirits.

Stinson Beach/Alison Reynolds Photo


It was here that Jerry Garcia lived for many years, as did many of the veterans of the Summer of Love when it came time to find simpler lives in the unspoiled countryside just minutes from San Francisco, but a world away. 

While those days may have long passed, the beauty and the majesty of Stinson Beach and the Marin County Coast remain unchanged, as captivating today as they were in 1969, largely unspoiled, and meant to be kept that way.

A hidden wonder in plain sight, it is completely accessible, rarely crowded, and yours for the price of a gallon of gas. From Green Gulch Farm to Muir and Stinson Beach, this middle passage in our journey up the Marin County coast is a large slice of what makes this a magical destination where California dreaming is not just a song, it is a reality.


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Joel Berliner

Joel Berliner is a travel writer based in Los Angeles who has written for The Washington Times, Dallas Morning News, New York Newsday, Chicago Tribune, Honolulu Advertiser, El Paso Times, and the Minneapolis Star Tribune, among many other publications.  He is excited to be back where his travel writing career began, at The Washington Times, where along with his wife, photographer extraordinaire Alison Reynolds, they will travel the globe in order to bring you The Good Life.

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