Enjoy the World-Class Views at Stinson Beach
This tiny coastal town is like Mayberry with sand, a perfect spot for unwinding with million-dollar views.
Wonder what do do in Stinson Beach? Chill, relax, and eat at the Siren Canteen are good options at this destination away from the hustle and bustle of cities.
Photo by Jay Graham
One of the best things about Stinson Beach is getting there. Life slows down as you travel the winding, two-lane Shoreline Highway to this tiny town tucked between Muir Beach and Bolinas Lagoon. The 12.5-mile trek from the junction with Highway 101 in Mill Valley takes half an hour without traffic and a bit longer on a sunny summer or weekend day. But the meandering ride gives you more time to take in the stunning views of those steep wooded canyons and rocky coastline.
During July and August, Stinson can be socked in with fog until midday, but not always. Fall, when the gloom lifts and temperatures hover in the high seventies to low eighties, is a perfect time to visit. Stinson’s crescent-shaped, white-sand beach stretches 3.5 miles with the Golden Gate National Recreation Area on the south end and Stinson’s public beach to north. About 700 residences dot this unincorporated town, with many homes for rent in the hills overlooking the ocean.
The California coastline is scattered with beach towns, so what makes Stinson so special? Driving through it—all three blocks of it—you could almost miss it if you blinked. And that’s Stinson’s charm: Once there, all you’re left with to do is relax. It’s like Mayberry with sand. Its small central park boasting a jungle gym, basketball court, and a few benches within steps of the Parkside Snackbar is the perfect spot for a soft-serve cone and a chat with some locals.
Dogs are another great a reason to go. But watch the signs as you enter the beach: Canines are prohibited on the state park side, but free to romp on the public beach.
The oceanfront homes’ eclectic architecture lends your beach strolls a laid-back ’60s vibe. If you seek more of a challenge, Stinson sits at the base of Mount Tamalpais, with a trailhead just past the fire station as you enter town. It’s a full-day hike through the trees to the top of Mount Tam, which offers panoramic views of the coast and San Francisco in the distance.
When the town’s emergency siren blasts daily at noon and 5 p.m., it’s a reminder to stop by the Siren Canteen, Stinson’s only beachfront restaurant, at the bottom of the weathered gray wooden lifeguard tower. The protected outdoor deck keeps out the wind and sun and leaves what you came for: a spectacular view.