Watersports on the California coast.
Kayaking Tomales Bay, CA
Credit: Stephanie Conrad

Just a short drive across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, the Marin County peninsula has a mountainous center surrounded by water. Spend a day exploring the region’s misty and moody Point Reyes National Seashore by water and on land (tip: be sure to dress in layers). Chances are, you’ll spot elephant seals, elk, or brown pelicans—the birdwatching is excellent—in the 70,000-acre expanse.

Nick’s Cove & Cottages

Just an hour north of the Golden Gate Bridge, Bay Area restaurateur Pat Kuleto's 1930’s-era fishing lodge looks straight out of an Edward Hopper painting with its rusted gas pumps and vintage Coca-Cola signs. Details that in lesser hands might seem cloying—shell-frame mirrors; mounted moose heads—fit naturally in this rustic corner of Marin. Our favorite of the 12 cabins is the Bandit’s Bungalow, a two-bedroom suite with handsome wainscoting and beadboard, wraparound windows, and a claw-foot tub.

Olema Inn & Restaurant

Only a two-minute drive from the Point Reyes Visitor Center, the Olema Inn & Restaurant has a countryside feel that befits its history as an 1876 inn where area farmers and ranchers got together. Old kitchen implements and century-old pine floorboards from a Virginia tobacco warehouse add to the heritage aspect of the (sometimes loud) dining room. Dishes on the local and seasonal menu may be a country pâte with pickled vegetables and date compote, or veal stew with trumpet mushrooms and pearl onions. Lunch is slightly more casual, with burgers, omelets, and sandwiches. Outside, flower gardens surround the patio, and the inn’s fruit orchards are nearby.

Blue Waters Kayaking

Meet your guide (bring your own packed lunch) in Inverness. You’ll split the day between paddling along the Point Reyes peninsula, looking for seals, and hiking into Tomales Bay State Park; elk-spotting tours are also available.