With excellent beaches on a calm bay backed by a ridge that blocks the wind, Tomales Bay State Park might be the best spot in the region for water-based activities (the exception is surfing because there are no waves). This location is ideal for getting in the water to kayak, canoe, stand-up paddleboard, or even swim if you can handle the agua fria. It’s a popular park with families who want to sit back and watch their kids play in the water without the fear of sneaker waves and rip currents.
The park is also popular with hikers. Three of the four beaches here can only be reached by hiking or by boat. The hikes to the beach are short, but there are more trails in the park if an extended day-hike is desired. Unfortunately the trails are not open to bikes.
Heart’s Desire Beach is the main beach here. It’s located at the end of the long winding road that descends into the park. The large parking lot is right behind the beach. Picnic tables and restrooms are provided and many folks don’t venture any farther than this comfy beach.
Indian Beach, Pebble Beach, and Shell Beach are for those seeking more solitude and a little bit of adventure. Each is a half-mile trail walk or less to reach. Crude toilets are provided at these satellite beaches.
Another little-known area of the park on the eastern shore of Tomales Bay is called Millerton Point. Here visitors will find a loop trail with excellent birding opportunities and a great place where dogs are allowed. The beach at Millerton Point is known as Alan Sieroty Beach.
About Tomales Bay State Park:
- Directions: Drive Highway 1 to the town of Point Reyes Station then head west on Sir Francis Drake Blvd. Continue through Inverness then turn right onto Pierce Point Road. The park is clearly signed from here. The Shell Beach lot is at the end of Camino Del Mar in Inverness.
- Fees: Day use fees are required for parking at Heart’s Desire Beach. Parking is free at the Shell Beach lot. Note that the main lot fills early on sunny weekends so get here early or consider parking at the Jepson Trailhead at the top of Shallow Beach Road and walking 1.5 miles into the park.
- Dogs: Dogs are not allowed in the park except at Millerton Point.
- Camping: There is no campground here and camping is prohibited.
- Fires: Beach bonfires are not allowed.
- Picnicking: Picnic tables are provided at Heart’s Desire Beach and a larger group picnic area is provided on the bluff at Vista Point a short walk down the Johnstone Trail south from Hearts Desire.
- Food and Lodging: Restaurants, small stores, B&B’s, cabins, cottages, and inns can be found nearby in Inverness and Point Reyes Station.
- Weather: This area can be quit cool and breezy at times so bring layers even if the weather forecast looks good.
- History: The Coastal Miwok Native Americans settled here long ago. Two Miwok structures have been recreated from long strips of bark at Indian Beach so visitors can see what it might have looked like before Sir Francis Drake arrived in 1579.
- Nearby Beaches: Chicken Ranch Beach, Marshall Beach, and Point Reyes National Seashore.
- More Park Info: State Park Website