Bolinas in West Marin County

The 2,500 or so residents of Bolinas, California, are famously protective of the unique flavor and feel of this unique coastal community. Some residents have been known to steal or alter road signs leading to this town in an effort to prevent city dwellers, tourists and other outsiders from finding the place. One cantankerous resident named Vic Amoroso is quoted as saying, "There is no reason to come to Bolinas. The beaches are dirty, the Fire Department is terrible, the natives are hostile and have a tendency towards cannibalism."

While Mr. Amoroso may or may not have said this tongue-in-cheek, he was deliberately misleading on a number of his assertions. For one, the beaches are simply stunning. Located on the tip of a peninsula around 35 miles north of San Francisco, Bolinas may as well be a world away from the dissonance and big-city hustle of the Bay Area. To the south lies Bolinas Bay. Just east of the town is Bolinas Lagoon, a lush and ecologically important wetland estuary for countless species of fishes, invertebrates and waterfowl. To the west, just past Agate Beach County Park is the Pacific Ocean, where visitors can catch the occasional glimpse of migrating whales. To the north is Point Reyes National Seashore, with its endless beaches, hiking trails and campgrounds.

Keeping with its live-and-let-live vibe (except for outsiders,) Bolinas has no mayor or city hall. What is does have is a dedicated group of residents who fiercely protect this unique place from developers, who prize this nearly-pristine slice of west Marin County not for its natural beauty, but for its profit potential.

Depending on your point of view, Bolinas offers plenty to see and do or nearly nothing. If your idea of getting away from it all includes outlet malls, corporate chain restaurants and good cell reception, this place is probably not for you. If you’re the type of person who delights in being waited on by the owner of the local café, speaking directly with the artist who made the objets d’art in the showroom and can find hours of solace in walking on the beach alone, then Bolinas is definitely your type of place.

Bolinas is just a few miles off Highway 1 but leagues away from the crass commercialism of modern life. If you want to stroll through and experience a rare slice of California culture that is stubbornly protective of its identity, take a day trip north along Highway 1 and meander around in Bolinas. Just don’t rely on the road signs to get you there.