Thomas J. Story
We've been hiking for hours along the Inverness Ridge Trail, above the shining blue ribbon of Tomales Bay, and we're ravenous. Maybe it's all the gazing at the water that leads my boyfriend, Peter, and me to look at each other and mouth the same word: "oysters." Twenty minutes later, we're sitting at a picnic table at Hog Island Oyster Co., shucking and slurping cold, firm, plump Pacifics harvested a few hundred feet away.
You can find good local food in any number of beautiful places, but in Tomales Bay, on California's North Coast, there's a special kind of seamlessness between the act of eating and just being in nature. The loveliness of this landscape, which flanks the Point Reyes National Seashore, is in fact shaped largely by food and the raising of it.
From San Francisco, take U.S. 101 north toward San Rafael; go west on San Anselmo/Sir Francis Drake Blvd. exit to Olema and State 1. Head north on State 1 and drive about 2 miles to the town of Point Reyes Station.
WHERE TO STAY
Anns View on Tomales Bay The bayfront sides of these two gleaming white suites have huge panoramic windows. Shimmering bluish green bedspreads match the color of the bay beyond, so when you're in bed you feel like you're floating in the water. Continental breakfast is all about superb local foods ― Straus Family Creamery milk, blackberry jam, cheese from Cowgirl Creamery or Straus, and baked goods from Brickmaiden Breads. INFO: From $225; in Marshall; 415/663-9144.
Apple Cottage A comfy four-poster bed, a loft, and a beautiful old apple orchard, plus exotic chickens and a hot tub. INFO: From $175; 1 mile west of Point Reyes Station; book through Inns of Marin or by calling 800/887-2880.
Manka's Inverness Lodge A major fire in December 2006 destroyed the Arts and Crafts lodge, dining room, and kitchen but left the 10 bewitchingly beautiful, fog-shrouded cottages and rooms untouched ― in the woods, on the shore, and up in the hills, they're all expressions of owner Margaret Grade's eccentric, elegant imagination. The restaurant, where she and partner Daniel DeLong cooked the finest, most creative food on the bay, is being rebuilt (they hope to have it finished by late 2008). INFO: From $235, including breakfast; in Inverness; 415/669-1034.
Nick's Cove & Cottages A 1930s institution right on the bay, reborn in July 2007 under the guidance of San Francisco restaurateur Pat Kuleto. The cottages are full of burnished wood, supple leather, and sunlight, and Nick's Cove Restaurant ( $$; 23240 State 1) promises to be a major dining draw. INFO: From $375; in Marshall; 866/636-4257.
The Old Point Reyes Schoolhouse Compound Gorgeous private gardens surround the three accommodations here (owner Karen Gray is a former landscape architect). The Jasmine Cottage, draped with blackberry vines, was made for romance; therestored antique Shepherd's Wagon, perfect for kids, can be rented as an annex to Gray's Retreat, a handsome barnlike house that sleeps six. INFO: From $185; in Point Reyes Station; 415/663-1166.
Ten Inverness Way B&B A 1904 Craftsman house with warm yellow lamps set against the wildness of the Inverness Ridge. Full of thoughtful touches ― a blackboard listing nearby wildlife sightings, good reading lights over the bed, cookies and tea in the afternoon, wine and cheese in the evening, a hot tub in the garden, and outstanding homemade breakfasts. INFO: From $159, including breakfast; in Inverness; 415/669-1648.
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