Jonsing for a super chill, coastal jaunt this weekend? Head north to one of the Bay Area's best (un)kept secrets...Bolinas! While it may rue visitors en mass, us local city dwellers can't help but want to make a day of exploring this eclectic beach town's charming nooks and crannies.
To help you take in the sights, bookstores, cafes, and galleries just like a local, we've created this handy Bolinas guide to spare you the embarrassment of asking someone where to go — they may not tell you (seriously though, they won't!). Take notes, heat up the wheels, and find out why it's no wonder Bolinas wants to stay under the radar.
Photographed by Michelle Drewes
Bolinas People's Store
Need something to settle your stomach after the twisty, windy drive out West? Hit up Bolinas People's Store to grab a warm chai and some snacks before you head out to the beach. There are healthy options galore and the homemade soups and tamales are out of this world! (Tip: This place is a little tricky to find — tucked behind the community center — so keep an eye out for the hand-painted sign.)
Bolinas People's Store, 14 Wharf Road (near Brighton Avenue); 415-868-1433.
Bolinas People's Store Free Box
Before leaving the People's Store, make sure you take a gander inside the Free Box which is exactly what it sounds like — a box filled with freebies! The mantra here is "take something, leave something," from shoes and clothes to books and gear. Be prepared to find a real gem or two…and if you do, make sure next time you visit you bring something back to keep that karma in check!
Bolinas People's Store Free Box, 14 Wharf Road (near Brighton Avenue); 415-868-1433.
The best part of Bolinas doesn't exactly have an address, because it's the beach! There are plenty of places to explore, whether it's walking to the end of Wharf Road to enjoy the bay views, heading to Bolinas Beach for some seaside cliff action, or getting in the water and collecting seashells at Brighton Beach.
Bolinas Beach, off Wharf Road; No phone.
Tamalpais Surf Club
If adventure is more the name of your (weekend getaway) game, then Tamalpais Surf Club is definitely your destination. Sign up for surf lessons, paddle out into the horizon, and learn how to walk on water with the best of ‘em.
Tamalpais Surf Club, on Wharf Road; No phone.
Smiley's Schooner Saloon and Hotel
At the epicenter of Bolinas' bucolic 'burb is Smiley's Schooner Saloon and Hotel
. Those looking for a down and dirty good time — equipped with a low-rent place to pass out after one too many — should head straight here. The drinks are cheap, live music is on the regular, the crowd is interesting, and the bar food is...well, decent! What more could you want from the oldest, crudest local saloon in California?!
Smiley’s Schooner Saloon and Hotel
, 41 Wharf Road (near Olema Bolinas Road); 415-868-1311.
Bolinas Gallery and Museum
The natural setting is already worthy of oohs
, but if you want to check out some local art and history (which we highly recommend!), head over to the Bolinas Gallery
or Bolinas Museum
. The museum hours are from noon to 5 pm Friday through Sunday. Coastal inspiration runs rampant through every piece and the history of the utterly charming town has deep roots worth exploring.
, 52 Wharf Road (near Olema Bolinas Road); No phone.Bolinas Museum
, 48 Wharf Road; 415-868-0330.
One of the few actual restaurants in town is Coast Café
. This cozy dining outpost serves up brunch, lunch, and dinner from the grill, with lots of goodies for seafood aficionados (like the scrumptious fish and chips). If you're there on a Thursday or Sunday, sit back and catch some live music from the locals.
, 46 Wharf Road; (near Olema Bolinas Road); 415-868-2298.
Bolinas Book Exchange
A literary lovers dream, the Bolinas Book Exchange is crammed with lovingly used tomes, you're practically tripping over them as you walk in the door. In true Bolinas spirit, the bohemian communal bookstore is run on an honor system. If you go all the way back, you'll discover an epic thrift store filled with tchotchkes.
Bolinas Book Exchange, 22 Brighton Avenue (near Park Avenue); No phone.
Been at the beach all day and want to wet your whistle with something cold and sweet? Pop into Bobolicious for a yummy smoothie. With delish concoctions named such things as the "Peace Train," who wouldn't want to stop in for a chilled-out slurp?
Bobolicious, 6 Wharf Road (at Brighton Avenue); 415-868-9978.
The Grand Hotel and Blue Heron Inn
You can't help but ogle at the quaint, quirky Grand Hotel when you pass by — that sign alone makes us swoon! This hotel-slash-antique store is definitely worth a visit. Spending the night in town? You can crash here in the small, rustic B&B or head back down to Wharf Road and try the Blue Heron Inn.
The Grand Hotel, 15 Brighton Avenue (near Olema Bolinas Road); 415-868-1757.
Blue Heron Inn, 11 Wharf Road (near Olema Bolinas Road); 415-868-1102.
Bolinas Bay Hardware
A must-visit on the way out of town is Bolinas Bay Hardware
, which happens to house some of the cutest handmade quilts, napkins, and women's bags.
Bolinas Bay Hardware
, 1 Olema‐Bolinas Road (at Brighton Avenue); 415-868‐2900.