Tomales Bay and Point Reyes are among the most iconic places in Northern California, and, to maintain their beauty, locals have forged a delicate balance between environmental conservation, oyster farming, and outdoor adventure. Unfortunately, these protections can make navigating Point Reyes and Tomales Bay with your dog somewhat tricky. Here, Bay Woof has done the work for you, and your four-legged friend, to have the dog-friendly western Marin afternoon or weekend of your lives.
The wind-swept vistas at Point Reyes are so spectacular that it was named a National Seashore in 1972, one of only 10 in the country and the only one on the West Coast. To keep these areas pristine, dogs are prohibited in most of Point Reyes’ ecologically sensitive bird nesting and marine mammal breeding grounds and at its historical sites, including the 150-year-old Point Reyes Lighthouse.
Where you and your dog can frolic are the ocean-facing beaches. In Point Reyes, Kehoe Beach, Limantour Beach, and the nearly 2-mile long stretch of Great Beach (Point Reyes Beach) are all open for on-leash dog exploration. Between the northern boundary of Tomales Bay State Park and Elk Fence North Beach (north of Point Reyes National Seashore), you’ll also find a handful of smaller beaches that allow dogs, including Kilkenny, Long Cove, Fruit Tree, Marshall, No Name, Tomales, and Elk Fence North and South.
Tomales Bay is known for its oyster farms and there are plenty of spots where you can consume these succulent bivalves. After last year’s closure of the picnic area at Tomales Bay Oyster Company, however, only one place remains for shucking and barbecuing fresh catch with your dog at your side.
Hog Island, a small island in the middle of the Bay, produces some of the best oysters in Northern California, and at Hog Island Oyster Company’s onshore depot, you can reserve a dog-friendly picnic spot for up to 15 people. Purchase un-shucked oysters on site and go to town.
If you’d like to leave the dirty work to someone else, Hog Island still has you covered. At its outdoor Boat Oyster Bar, you can purchase prepared raw or barbecued oysters along with local cheeses, beer, and wine. Reservations are recommended. Nearby, Tony’s Seafood Restaurant and the Marshall Store both offer outdoor, dog-friendly seating with beautiful bay views to enjoy oysters and a variety of other seafood.
If oysters aren’t your thing, try clamming at Lawson’s Landing. When the tides are low in spring and fall, you and your dog, armed with a bucket and shovel, can hunt these tasty shellfish in the black sands of Tomales Bay.
There aren’t many dog friendly accommodations around Tomales Bay, but two, Nick’s Cove and the Cottages at Point Reyes, warmly welcome their four-legged guests. The cluster of colorful cottages at Nick’s Cove hover on long, wooden legs over Tomales Bay. Each has a fenced porch for you and your dog to relax looking out at some of the water’s most beautiful views. In the restaurant, the staff prepares locally sourced meals for you and fresh-baked treats for your pup.
Closer to the quaint village of Point Reyes Station, you’ll find the Cottages at Point Reyes, which offer 20 guest cabins—seven of which are dog-friendly—situated on 15-acres of natural landscape. At the Cottages, you and your canine companion will find a pool, hot tub, tennis courts, and horseshoes. There’s even a private, eight-acre wildlife preserve and nature trail at the back of the property.
Shoshi Parks, Ph.D., is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, or CPDT-KA, and the owner of Modern Hound Dog Training, ModernhoundSF.com, in San Francisco. She writes about dog behavior and the dog-lover’s lifestyle and is an instructor at the SF SPCA.
Main article photo by: Jody Frost-Creative Commons