Muir Beach Overlook: A Perfect California Vacation

One Magical, Rainy Weekend at Muir Beach Overlook

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We travel so much that people assume any trip is work-related. And while that’s often the case, not always. In fact, our recent trip to Northern California was entirely for pleasure—and for a change, there were days at a time where I didn’t even open my laptop like during our weekend staying at the Muir Beach Overlook. It was glorious. I should do more of this.

Muir Beach Overlook: A Perfect California Vacation

The trip came about rather quickly when a few of our Nashville friends told us they’d gotten insanely cheap flights to the Bay Area and needed our recommendations. A quick search told me that, indeed, there were still $99 direct fares, so without hesitation, we snatched them up—fully knowing that we were pushing it with my sister’s pregnancy; we were scheduled to fly back three days before Charlotte was due. So of course she decided to show up early. Naturally.

Where to Stay in Muir Beach, California

The problem with traveling to the Bay Area is the ludicrous cost of lodging. A mid-level hotel in the city starts around $250, and the rooms are tiny, as we found during our first night staying at the Alise, which we booked through points. Luckily, the rest of our trip would be far more comfortable as we’d booked a three-night vacation rental in Muir Beach, followed by a four-night apartment swap with our friend who lives in a sprawling home in a quiet part of the Mission. I highly recommend home-swapping with friends if you can swing it; this wound up being such a good fit for us—and bonus, she got a pair of cat-sitters out of it!

Muir Beach Overlook: A Perfect California Vacation
Muir Beach Overlook: A Perfect California Vacation

But I digress. I’ll get to San Francisco later; this post is dedicated to exploring Marin County, which may very well be my favorite stretch of coastline in Northern California.

Where to Stay in the North Bay

As you know, I live and die by Airbnb usually; it’s simply the way we like to travel in terms of finding both affordable and unique accommodation. Only, in Marin County, the Airbnbs were either a) ridiculously priced for what they were or b) non-existent. The same goes for hotels; there wasn’t really anything nice and worth paying for around Point Reyes, Olema or even up to Bodega Bay.

Where to Stay in Muir Beach, California

We went back and forth about where to stay for ages—we wanted to have a nice time and a comfortable stay, but we didn’t want this trip to break the bank, especially when we have a boatload of house expenses coming up this quarter. So in the end, we went old school and found the perfect HomeAway listing directly at the Muir Beach Overlook. (If you want the link, let me know and I’ll email it to you.)

Where to Stay in Muir Beach, California

Owned by a sweet family who lives in the main house, our darling carriage house offered these views:

Where to Stay in Muir Beach, California

Not too shabby, right?

And good thing, too, as it rained nearly the whole time we were there and yet we didn’t feel cooped up as our surrounds were so stunning.

Best of all: We were not more than five minutes from the Pelican Inn, the very spot we got married.

Where to Eat in Muir Beach, California: The Pelican Inn

And directly across from the incomparable Muir Beach Overlook.

Muir Beach Overlook: A San Francisco Day Trip

If you’re looking for a rental that’s a bit more urban, there are plenty of places to stay in and around Mill Valley or even up in Larkspur. But we came here for the coast, and the coast we got. We’ve already made a pact that any subsequent visit to the Bay Area will begin or end with a few nights at Nancie’s perfect Muir Beach perch.

Where to Eat In and Around Muir Beach

Of course, we went to the Pelican Inn twice. How could we not? We liked it enough to book our wedding there, after all! The funny thing is that I’ve still not actually stayed there; we looked at it on this trip, but it was out of our budget with rooms starting around $300 a night. Eek!

Where to Eat in Muir Beach, California: The Pelican Inn

But the pub is a lovely, cozy respite, and it rained the entire time we were in Muir Beach, so we spent two soggy afternoons warming up there with pints in hand. Not a bad way to spend a vacation if you ask me.

We also went into Mill Valley a couple of times; it’s a winding, 15-minute drive that I recommend reserving for daylight hours. While there, we lucked out on two stellar meals: dinner at Sol Food, the best Puerto Rican food I’ve ever tasted, and brunch at Kitchen Sunnyside with its bottomless mimosas (when on vacation…).

Where to Eat in Mill Valley

Mill Valley has really blossomed into a high-end development full of cool shops and restaurants. I probably wouldn’t opt to stay there on any subsequent visit, but it’s great for finding a delicious bite to eat.

Visiting Mill Valley, California: a drone shot

SVV’s parents were staying up in Olema in their trailer, so we scooped them up one evening at the RV campground then drove into Inverness for dinner at Saltwater Oyster Depot, which offers an ever-changing prix-fixe menus.

On another afternoon, we met the entire VV clan for a fun afternoon around Point Reyes, and we went to the famed Marshall Store for oysters and crab cocktails.

Our final night in town, we headed 15 minutes north of our rental in Muir Beach to Stinson Beach where there are a number of small cafes, patio bars and bistros. We chose Parkside Café based on its proximity to the beach, then were treated to a front-row view of a spectacular sunset.

Sunset in Stinson Beach, California

What to Do in Marin County

Go to the beach. While you’ll rarely be in a bathing suit in the Bay Area, the beaches are too good to pass up—even if you are bundled in three layers, a scarf and a wool hat as I was.

Best Beaches in the North Bay

A favorite of both of ours is Stinson Beach, which is also one of the sharkiest beaches in Northern California (don’t go surfing there!).

Sunset in Stinson Beach, California

Just below where we were staying beyond the Pelican Inn is Muir Beach, where we had our wedding photos taken. And while we didn’t actually go down there on this trip, we did fly the drone past it, which offered an entirely new perspective of a beloved spot of ours.

A drone view of Muir Beach

Even further north is Point Reyes National Seashore, which has a couple different beaches to explore, including Drakes Beach, home to the famed elephant seals.

Point Reyes National Seashore in California

I had really wanted to get in a few hikes at Mount Tam and even around Bodega and Tomales Bay, but see: didn’t stop raining. Ah well, the hikes will be there when next we return.

Sunset in Stinson Beach, California

If you’re a oenophile, you can take advantage of the nearby wine country. Petaluma and Santa Rosa aren’t far, then of course you have the more famous Sonoma and Napa Valley. We’ve done plenty of Wine Country exploration in the past, so no wine for us on this visit but I do recommend it if you haven’t.

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Somehow though we were there for seven full days, we still didn’t tackle even half of our vacation to-do list. And for once, I didn’t stress over having a schedule and eating and drinking all the things for fear I’d be missing out on the greatest meal of my life.

Muir Beach Overlook: A San Francisco Day Trip

I’ve never considered myself a lazy human, but I did little other than lounge around our rental, read a book and scroll through Instagram Stories for the duration of those three days. And you know what? I regret nothing.

Muir Beach Overlook: A Perfect California Vacation


 

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Muir Beach Overlook: California Travel
Muir Beach Overlook: California Travel
Muir Beach Overlook: California Travel
COMMENTS
  • March 19, 2018
    Lydia

    Hi! I’m a Bay Area resident and would love the link to the HomeAway cottage. I try to squeeze in overnight and weekend trips up the coast as much as I can. Thank you!

    • March 27, 2018

      Let me know if you make it out there, Lydia!

  • March 19, 2018

    Such beautiful photos of the Marin coastline! I haven’t been up there in a long time and I’m inspired to go back asap.

    • March 27, 2018

      Thank you so much, Julia! It was our first time flying the drone there, so we saw a completely new perspective.

  • March 20, 2018

    Those aerial shots are unbelievable! On my first trip to SF, my friend and I did a long drive through Point Reyes and to Hog Island Oyster Co. I’d love to go back and stay out here for a few days and do some more exploring.

    • March 27, 2018

      Thanks so much, Em! I still haven’t been to Hog Island—would you believe taht?

  • March 20, 2018

    Finding the right accommodation is so important. I sometimes plan trips because of the accommodation. As you say even though the weather was rainy, with views like that ‘who cares’!

  • March 20, 2018

    It makes me happy to hear you having a real holiday 🙂 You deserve it! Also, I TOTALLY forget sites outside Airbnb exist for home rentals, ha, so thank you for the reminder!

    • March 28, 2018

      The only bad part is I had a really hard time going back to 18-hour work days when I got home!

      And yes, it was my first time in yeaaaaars to travel with a service that wasn’t Airbnb. The VRBO/HomeAway process is just so clunky!

  • March 22, 2018

    That vacation rental looks so dreamy. I love that part of the coast but have not been to Muir Beach Overlook (or the inn where you got married). On my to-do list now. And by the way, it’s STILL raining!

    • March 28, 2018

      Well, it’s still raining here in Tennessee, so not much different, ha! Rainiest winter/spring I remember.

  • March 22, 2018
    grace

    I couldn’t even read this before scrolling down to comment that my Bay Area nostalgia/wanderlust is very high right now (husband is a native, we should be there in June visiting family) and this did me now favors! Looks like a gorgeous trip. And I second you on $$$ lodging. Either camping or staying with some very kind friends in the East Bay is our go-to and then we splurge for a rental car if we don’t use BART.

    Just gonna be here drooling over the photos!

    • March 28, 2018

      I hope you guys make it up to the North Bay when you’re there! Scott’s family has a camping trailer, so his parents take it to the campground at Olema all the time and don’t even fuss with hotels/Airbnbs.

      • March 28, 2018
        gracemarieatx

        I had to google Olema – looks beautiful! My husband’s family has a cabin in Monte Rio on the Russian River but we haven’t made it up there in years. It is the best place to spend 4th of July and we hope to get back soon to get a break from our hot hot hot Texas summers!

  • March 22, 2018

    You taught me a new word today. I had never heard of an oenophile. “Oen” in Dutch means dummy/airhead so needless to say I liked the word immediately 🙂

    • March 28, 2018

      I like the Dutch translation MUCH better, ha!

  • March 22, 2018
    Briel K.

    It looks so beautiful there! I’ve been to Stinson Beach and Muir Woods but I don’t recall ever going to Muir Beach. Hope to be able to check it out sometime when I’m up North.

    I’ve only been to Mill Valley a couple times to see some live music (when I used to live in Vacaville) so I haven’t explored it much or even seen it in daylight but I always loved it! Such a cute little town from what I remember.

    • March 28, 2018

      Muir Beach is tiny! And the beach itself isn’t what’s so stunning, it’s the overlook that gives the best view in the area.

  • March 23, 2018

    Glad you had a lovely trip to the Bay Area – I haven’t been back since I moved to Europe. The Marin County area is lovely. Sorry you didn’t have the best weather, but it does tend to be foggy/rainy there a lot but it adds to the coastal atmosphere 😉

    • March 28, 2018

      It wouldn’t be a trip to the Bay Area if it wasn’t gray/foggy/misting the whole time 😉

  • March 27, 2018

    I’m so bad at relaxing on vacation unless that is the whole point of vacation. I just planned a Palm Springs trip with some lady friends for the fall and I am so, so excited to just lounge around next to a pool and eat and drink delicious things.

    Also, I really need to get out to Marin County and explore!

    • March 28, 2018

      That sounds amazing! I haven’t been to Palm Springs since college, and I’m not sure why that is. The photos I see from all my fellow travelers look fantastic!

  • March 29, 2018

    Wow.. looks a perfect weekend getaway.
    Beautiful pictures especially that last one.. loved it!

  • March 29, 2018

    We got engaged under the watchful eye of an elephant seal at Point Reyes 😀 Will always have happy memories of that part of the world!

    • April 16, 2018

      I love that, Laurence! We have even more in common than I initially knew (but especially that love for Scotland…where I used to live!). Can’t wait to chat in person over beers at TravelCon =)

  • April 17, 2018
    nancie bailey

    i love everything about this post! 😉

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