When I was a kid, my parents would take us to Point Reyes Station for the day. There was a hardware store where you could get just about anything. But as kids, we were most impressed by the fact that there was absolutely nothing to do in the town — no park, no beach, no book store, nothing. How times change.
Today, more than 2.5 million people trek through this gateway each year, en route to the glories of Limantour Beach, Drakes Estero and Point Reyes National Seashore. Some are so smitten by seashore dreams that they spare only a glance for the Western Marin towns of Olema, Inverness and Point Reyes Station. The spectacular, bucolic landscapes are indeed grand, but these villages are beguiling all on their own.
In recent years, Point Reyes Station, an unincorporated village with a decidedly Western flavor, a laid-back post-hippie vibe and fewer than 1,000 inhabitants, has become a shopping and dining mecca with a stunningly diverse profusion of activities. You can explore the region’s foodie treasures with a West Marin Food and Farm Tour that includes tastes at Cowgirl Creamery, Brickmaiden Breads, Hog Island Oyster Company and more, or explore the national seashore, camera in hand, on a Point Reyes Safari. The tour company offers 5- and 10-hour customized tours that take patrons to view and photograph the park’s abundant wildlife, which includes migrating whales, birds and tule elk.
But there’s much to be said for simply wandering the streets of town, where bikers and cyclists vie for sitting space on curbs and wooden benches, chatting over coffee and blueberry-buttermilk scones from the Bovine Bakery, whose name evokes the region’s dairy ranching heritage. In addition to scones, the bakery also offers croissant sandwiches, raspberry-almond marzipan tarts and pizzas by the slice — and the community-supported, indie Point Reyes Books is right next door. Its new owners, who met and fell in love at San Francisco’s Green Apple Books, took over in January, with support from an Indiegogo campaign.
On this particular day, as every day, the main action in Point Reyes Station is the constant stream of foot traffic in and out of the restaurants, shops and galleries strung along the town’s main street. Like so many other California coastal communities, the main street is really a section of Highway One with a lowered speed limit. Bovine is not the only eatery, of course. Osteria Stellina, whose chef and owner, Christian Caiazzo hails from San Francisco’s former Postrio, and the venerable Station House Café bustle nearby and dozens of shops, including the year-old Leona’s gallery, Flower Power Home and Garden — which carries locally-made Blue Slide tiles, as well as other home decor items — and the Zuma boutique, beckon.
Don’t miss Cabaline at the north end, near the bakery, which at first glance seems like a fairly typical western-themed clothing store. But as you penetrate farther into its dark recesses, Cabaline becomes pure cowboy. First are the racks laden with western hats, belts and boots. But venture past them, and you become immersed in a world of saddles, bridles, spurs, horse blankets, buggy whips and all manner of equine grooming tools, salves, ointments, powders and other products. Like the Old Western Saloon down the street with its long bar, tables circling a wood-burning stove and pool room in the rear, Cabaline asserts that the frontier past is still very present in Point Reyes Station. The previous night’s entertainment at the saloon had been a Lucinda Williams tribute band called Attila Viola and the Bakersfield Boys.
Meanwhile, at the southern end of the street, Toby’s Feed Barn perfectly mixes the old and the new. Baskets of fresh organic produce share the front porch with bright red Victorian-style rocking chairs, often occupied by old duffers enjoying the parade. Inside, the shelves overflow with gourmet foods, souvenir T-shirts and hats, greeting cards, books and other gift items.
An art gallery at the rear of the store showcases contemporary local art, while bales of hay and huge sacks of animal feed and fertilizer line the sides of a spacious, open-air barn on one side of the store — which also houses the Yoga Toes Studio and a busy coffee bar and doubles as an event venue.
And if that isn’t enough for you, there’s always the seashore.
If You Go
Point Reyes National Seashore: This 65,000-acre national seashore includes beaches, trails, bluffs and a lighthouse. Find maps and visitor information at www.nps.gov.
West Marin Food & Farm Tours: Five-hour Flavors of West Marin tasting tours are offered Thursday-Sunday for $195 per person; foodandfarmtours.com.
Point Reyes Safaris: Photography safaris are available as half-day (5 hours, $395 for one person, $495 for two) and full-day (10 hours, $595/$695) tours that depart from Point Reyes Station; www.pointreyessafaris.com.
Bovine Bakery: This small, beloved and “espresso-free” bakery whips up from-scratch muffins, scones, pies and pizza daily, and brews strong fair-trade organic Thanksgiving coffee. 11315 Highway One,
Point Reyes Station; www.bovinebakeryptreyes.com.
Point Reyes Books: 11315 Highway One, Point Reyes Station; www.ptreyesbooks.com
Osteria Stellina: Italian inspiration meets local, organic bounty at this bistro, which is open daily for lunch and dinner at 11285 Highway One, Point Reyes Station; www.osteriastellina.com.
Cabaline: Open daily at 11313 Highway One, Point Reyes Station; www.cabaline.com
Toby’s Feed Barn: This general store — and feed barn and yoga studio and more — is open daily at 11250 Highway One, Point Reyes Station; www.tobysfeedbarn.com.
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