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Places

Where to stay and eat in Point Reyes

San Francisco has more than enough to keep the average traveler occupied, but if you’ve done the sights and want to head out of the city for a while, do like the locals and head for Point Reyes.

Just over the Golden Gate Bridge to the north, Marin County is a popular weekend destination for many people living in San Francisco. On the beautiful and, in places, barren coast full of oyster growers, small farms and delightful bakeries, pastel colored Victorian-style houses vie for space with classic Californian homes with facades clad in hundreds of small timber panels.

The flower power mentality still lives on here, even though times have changed, and the most famous resident is movie director George Lucas rather than singer Janis Joplin. Metallica front man James Hetfield recently moved away from the area as he felt that the diversity the area boasts of didn’t include him.

“Driving around with a deer in the trunk isn’t the done thing in Marin County. My idea of -organic food doesn’t chime with theirs,” said the musician who’s also a keen hunter. And that’s probably true. Guns and hunting clash with the local spiritualism.

Here, it’s all about living close to nature and enjoying its bounty. Just one hour from the city, the never-ending plains of Point Reyes National Park, wind-whipped trees and a breathtaking coastline have a humbling effect that bring you down to size. The nature here is as brutal as it is beautiful.

The vast majority of restaurants work exclusively with locally produced raw materials and their menus tend to follow the seasons. Berkeley, 20 minutes across the Bay Bridge from San Francisco, is home to one of the most famous restaurants in the US, Chez Panisse. In many respects, chef and owner Alice Waters shaped Californian cuisine. She laid the foundations for the entire farm-to-table concept, with simple dishes focused on fresh and locally grown produce.

“Eating is incredibly political. You must source from the right people and support farmers who care about the soil and what we eat,” she has said. This philosophy not only lives on in professional kitchens, but also in society in general. There’s a powerful patriotism among the people here, and this is especially discernible in the food.

The small Sir and Star Hotel in Olema bears this out. The owners previously ran Manka’s -Inverness Lodge, but when the associated restaurant burned down, they bought and renovated the old taverna that soon became the most popular dinner destination in the area, while the gastropub is often described as the best in California. And if you spend the night there, owner Margaret herself knocks on your door at 9am with a tray full of delicious, lovingly prepared breakfast dishes. She’ll encourage you to visit a little gallery in Bolinas and tell you where to find the best oysters and walking trails on Point Reyes. She speaks with genuine enthusiasm and after spending a couple of nights here, you’ll start fantasizing about moving here and starting an inn yourself with its own kitchen garden.

In addition to vegetables, they also cultivate fantastic oysters in West Marin. The bay between Point Reyes Reserve and the tiny community of Marshall has near-perfect conditions for cultivating this sought-after mollusk that’s supplied to California and many other parts of the US.

Everywhere along legendary Highway 1, you’ll find small fisheries and restaurants that serve fresh oysters and chilled white wine. On weekends, outdoor tables are packed with people ordering oysters by the bucket, shucked with special knives.

People come here to wind down. Stay in a cozy cabin, light a fire, go on beautiful walks around the lighthouse at Point Reyes, paddle in a kayak and eat good food. You don’t need to pack a jacket but do bring a warm top and a good book. Sneakers work everywhere. It’s rustic and basic, far removed from the glamping opulence at Big Sur down the coast – the locals will dismiss you in an instant if you step into a restaurant wearing high heels. And cell phone coverage is lousy, which adds to the feeling of really checking out when you check in here. The best way to relax!

Manka’s Inverness Lodge

Owner Margaret has run Manka’s for almost 20 years. The rustic cabins have open fires, bathtubs and outside showers, and breakfast is served in bed.

Manka’s Inverness Lodge

1000 Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, Olema

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Nick’s Cove

After enjoying a classic American meal in the restaurant, wander back to your cabin, toss a couple of logs into the wood-burning stove and drink a last glass on the timber decking.

Nick’s Cove

23240 Highway 1, Marshall

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Saltwater

Modern restaurant run by a fishing family. Californian cuisine focused on oysters and local cheeses.

Saltwater

12781 Sir Francis Drake Blvd

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Hog Island Oyster Company

A bucket of fresh-out-of-the water oysters served with a protective glove and knife. It’s the picnic by the water that counts.

Hog Island Oyster Company

18863 Shoreline Highway, Marshall

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Eleven

The menu is simple and sums up Californian food culture pretty well. Oysters, salad and pizza topped with local buffalo mozzarella.

Eleven

11 Wharf Rd, Bolinas

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