Marin County Beaches

Drake's Beach at Point Reyes
Colleen Proppe/Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Marin County beaches line the Pacific coastline from the Marin Headlands north of the Golden Gate Bridge, around Point Reyes National Seashore. They continue to Dillon Beach, just south of the spot where the Russian River flows into the sea and Sonoma County begins.

In Marin, much of the seashore is rocky, with steep cliffs plunging into the surf. It's exciting to look at, but only a few spots are flat and easy enough to access for a day at the beach.

California Highway One winds along the coast, taking you through hairpin turns above knuckle-whitening dropoffs. Between the cliffs, you’ll find some sheltered, scenic beaches to visit. Which one is best for you depends on what you want to do when you get there.

Best Beaches in Marin County California

These beaches are listed in order from south to north:

Most Beautiful Marin County and Great for a Walk: Rodeo Beach is one of Marin’s most beautiful beaches and it's close to San Francisco, too, on the west side of the Marin Headlands. Craggy, "sea stack" rocks stand guard offshore. Dramatic waves sometimes whip the shore and there's a marshland nearby. Rodeo is often used by skimboarders and surfers - and people going for a walk. Instead of sand, it’s covered in small, smooth pebbles, which make a charming little gurgling noise as the waves wash over them.

Nearby is a nude beach called South Rodeo, but it's not the same as the one profiled in the link above.

Bonfires and Tidepools Close to San Francisco: Muir Beach is part of the Golden Gate National Parks and just a few miles west of Muir Woods. Because of its proximity to San Francisco, it can get really crowded in the summer - and on sunny weekends any time of year. People like to have bonfires there in the evening. In the day, you can explore the tidepools at low tide or take a walk to Redwood Creek to watch the birds and fish.

The north end of Muir Beach is also used for clothing optional recreation. Get all the details, ratings and directions in this guide to Nude Recreation at Muir Beach.

Beach Volleyball and Things to Do Nearby: Stinson Beach can be even more busy and crowded than Muir. In fact, it can sometimes be hard to find a place to spread your blanket among all your fellow beachgoers. If you can wedge yourself in, you can play volleyball on the beach, fish in the surf or rent equipment to go kayaking or bicycling nearby. 

The little town of Stinson Beach has some restaurants, a market and places to rent beach gear. And it's close enough to walk, a real bonus if you snagged a hard-to-get parking spot.

Gentle Waves, Uncrowded and Gorgeous: Inside Point Reyes National Seashore, Limantour Beach is a wide beach with cliffs to block the wind. The waves are gentler than at other Marin locations. It’s also a good place for flying a kite, beachcombing or just walking on the sand.

Also at Point Reyes are several more beaches. Each of them has unique features, including Alamere Falls, a waterfall that cascades down the cliffs onto Wildcat Beach. Nude recreation is legal on Federal land at Point Reyes. The Limantour Beach Nude Beach Guide has all the details.

Views, Surfing, Clam Digging: Dillon Beach is a privately run beach. Located at the north end of Tomales Bay near the Marin/Sonoma County line, it has outstanding views of Tomales Point. You can go surfing when the waves are big enough, take a walk or dig for clams. A nearby vacation rental community makes it a great place to spend a day or two.

Beach Camping in Marin County

Nude Beaches in Marin County California

Besides the ones mentioned above, a few more Marin County beaches are used for clothing optional recreation. Here’s how to Bare It All: Where to Find a Nude Beach in Marin County