I bumped into a friend at the food market yesterday afternoon and accosted the poor man as he juggled his flowers and fruit and veggies. “We just went to Marin Headlands today. Why didn’t you ever tell us about the Marin Headlands? It’s gorgeous!” He beamed, said he would sit us down and tell us all the other beautiful spots too, that Californians keep to themselves. He has introduced us to parts of Half Moon Bay to be fair, where he and his family own a Christmas tree farm.
What is great about this amazing part of the Bay Area is that it is right next to the Golden Gate Bridge – you drive up to the right of it so you end up looking back on it and the city. There are plenty of people in cars looking out at the view for the first quarter of a mile – a few scenes in films have been set there, most recently The Internship – but then the crowds fall off and you are the only car driving down five miles of beautiful coast road. We walked down to Black Sands Beach looking for a slice of Auckland’s West Coast – and it was lovely, five people on the beach including three serious fishermen. We kept going and followed signs to the Point Bonita Lighthouse. Yes, it has a lighthouse. We didn’t visit it this time round, thought we would save that for next time but it looks very promising. The headlands reminded us a bit of North Head at Devonport in Auckland – lots of battlements and tunnels. It was where the Americans took watch to make sure no Japanese subs entered the harbour during World War II. The centerpoint of the Marin Headlands skyline apparently is the 920-foot (280 m) Hawk Hill, the lookout point for the largest known flight of diurnal raptors in the Pacific states. We saw a few hawks and a coyote. Took us a minute to figure out it wasn’t just a stringy looking stray dog.
There was a danger at one point that property developments were going to be allowed on the headland but that got nipped in the bud and the land became part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
We went to the visitor centre which was really excellent and I had a nice chat with an Aussie woman working there. We talked about how it was hard to be spontaneous in the Bay Area and to just leap into the car to go to the beach. In summer, anyway, weekends and even Fridays you are fighting some major traffic to get to lovely beaches like Stinson Beach which is just north of the Marin Headlands and still in Marin county.
Skirting the Rodeo Lagoon, we picnicked at Rodeo Beach which was a beautiful spot looking out to sea, with interesting features like Bird Island, take a look at this map . The surf is pretty good there so there were some enthusiasts in the pretty chilly water and some amateurs trying to control their heavy duty kites with limited success. Then, just up the hill we decided to check out the Marine Mammal Center and saw some lethargic sea lions and elephant seals. Only a mother would love an elephant seal, don’t you think? They do great work there, lots of education going on. Definitely worth a visit and fantastic views from it.
Just be prepared if you ever come to visit us, this is most likely where we will take you.