With more than 80 miles of Pacific shoreline, the Point Reyes peninsula features a diverse array of beaches for beachcombing, sunbathing, kayaking, kite flying, and bird-watching. Want to drive right up and plop down in the sand? Then head to Drakes Beach. Backed by tall cliffs, this sheltered cove provides refuge from Point Reyes’ blustery winds and safe swimming in the relatively calm waters of Drakes Bay. Look for the small memorial to Sir Francis Drake, who may have harbored his ship the Golden Hind here in 1579 while exploring the New World. A small visitor center and bookstore are open on weekends.
Nearby is Point Reyes Beach (also known as The Great Beach or Ten Mile Beach), which spans 11 captivating miles of sand and surf. You never know what you’ll find on a long walk here, but count on brayed-tan sand, wild waves, and unforgettable sunsets. (Access is at the parking lots for North Beach and South Beach.) Another great drive-up beach is Limantour, located about 20 minutes’ drive from Bear Valley Visitor Center. The mile-long beach is backed by low, grassy dunes, so it’s ideal for picnicking, even on windy days. There’s plenty of space for everybody, including Rover and Lassie—dogs are permitted on its southeast end.
If you’re willing to walk a bit, you’ll find seclusion at Point Reyes’ hike-in beaches, including dog-friendly Kehoe Beach on the peninsula’s northern tip. An easy, nearly level trail skirts alongside Kehoe Marsh, where songbirds flit, and pink and yellow mustard grows waist-high in the spring. Near the ocean, the marshy terrain morphs into giant sand dunes and sandstone cliffs. Farther north, near Pierce Point Ranch, is photogenic McClures Beach, set in a cove bookended by rugged cliffs. During low tides, head south to explore rocky tidepools teeming with sea life. At minus tides, a narrow passageway is revealed. Pass through this rock-lined gap to gain access to a secluded cove, connected to McClures by a narrow shelf of rock.