Marin County is the perfect place to start a foodie journey through Northern California - the county just north of San Fransisco is nestled between misty waves of fog, the churning Pacific, rolling hills, and San Fransisco Bay - it is home to world-renowned seafood, wine, cheese, olive oil, and so much more!
I recently partnered with Visit California to tour three of my favorite gourmet destinations - Marin County, Napa, and Gilroy - for a dream foodie trip for anyone who loves garlic, wine, and cheese! This post is sponsored by Visit California. All opinions are my own.
For more fabulous California vacation ideas, be sure to check out the California Now podcast - it is jam-packed with ideas on the best places to eat, amazing stories and voices from California - and so much more! Be sure to click here to listen to the episode I was a guest on, where I talked about the Southern California Taco Tour I took with Visit California! And read all about our SoCal Taco Tour here, as well as our Top 15 Must Eat SoCal Tacos!
We're starting in Marin, since it's the gateway to Sonoma and Napa County from the city, and easy to get to from San Fransisco and Oakland International Airports.
On day one, we're going to head to Marin (hot tip: pronounce the county "like a local" and say it more like "muh-rin" than "mare-in") from the city in the morning - traffic flows into the city in mornings, so you can head out to Marin County against the flow of traffic without having to worry about many slowdowns as you head to the gorgeous rolling hills, pristine coastline, and soaring redwoods of Marin County.
What to Pack:
Knowing what to pack is essential for a successful, stress-free trip through Northern California.
- Waterproof shoes/boots
- Change of socks
- Rain jacket/pants
- Hiking pants/shorts
- Camera, charger, SD cards
Since Marin County is up against the Pacific, it can be common to have dramatic shifts in temperature throughout the day, so pack layers, and be sure to plan ahead for wicking fabrics that dry if it rains or is foggy. I was there during torrential rains (which is not really normal, but can happen, so plan for some rain to be safe), and I was glad I had tall boots with me, so I didn't care that my jeans got a little wet.
You might find yourself getting hot in the middle of the day when the fog and mist burns off, so layers really are essential!
Hot tip: while in Point Reyes, Petaluma, and many of the more rural spots of Marin County, I had little if any cell phone service - however, most locations had wifi you can use. Cell phone service was abundant near the freeway in Larkspur. Similarly, if you forget a charger or need a memory card you might find yourself driving 15-20 minutes from Point Reyes to San Rafael or Larkspur on windy roads to get to a bigger store if you need something specific from Walmart, etc.
There are lots of really cool independent stores and shops with amazing local goods you'll want to shop at, so be sure to leave some extra room in your suitcase, too! We will be making note of some of our favorite spots to buy items in the itinerary stops below.
Day One - Cheese, Oysters, Mead, & Farm-Fresh Favorites
- Nicasio Valley Farmstead Cheese, 5300 Nicasio Valley Road, Nicasio
- The Marshall Store, 19225 Highway 1, Marshall
- Heidrun Meadery, 11925 Highway 1, Point Reyes Station
- Station House Cafe, 11180 Highway 1, Point Reyes Station
- Due West Tavern, 10021 Coastal Highway 1, Olema, CA 94950
- Olema House, 10021 Coastal Highway 1, Olema, CA 94950
Nicasio Valley Farmstead Cheese
5300 Nicasio Valley Road, Nicasio
Nicasio Valley Cheese started when Fredolino Lafranchi immigrated to America from Switzerland in 1919, hoping to bring his Swiss-style cheese to his own dairy in Marin. To this day, his great-grandchildren still work as cheesemakers and bring his dream to hungry eaters along the California Cheese Trail (hello... my kind of road trip trail!!)
Nicasio Valley has a small cheese shop selling crackers, locally made goods, chocolates, and everything you need for a delicious picnic - including small cheese coolers, cheese knives, and more.
Be sure to give yourself enough time to watch the cheesemakers at work when you visit - there is a large glass window so you can see them making cheese as you shop! The family-run
We had visited just after they had a pumpkin patch in fall, which looked absolutely adorable!
The Marshall Store
19225 Highway 1, Marshall
The Marshall Store’s delicious Pacific Oysters are fresh from their family farm, Tomales Bay Oyster Company! The store is currently serving raw oysters and grilled oysters, including BBQ, Rockefeller and Kilpatrick. Established in 1909, Tomales Bay Oyster Company, California’s oldest continuously run shellfish farm.
The Marshall Store has adapted well to expand outdoor seating, so you can enjoy oysters from their spot along the ocean. On rainy days, like when we visited, there are heaters running and curtains down, to keep the sea spray and rain from soaking you - but wear shoes that won't get soaked!
11925 Highway 1, Point Reyes Station
Heidrun Meadery produces naturally sparkling varietal meads - wine made from honey rather than grapes. Heidrun uses the traditional French Methode Champenoise (the method French use to make Champagne, including riddling racks, where yeast settles and then is pulled from wine before corking) to make their mead, which is less sweet than some meads, and has lots of rich, delicious flavors that showcase California's diverse wildflower honey!
The meadery is located on a former dairy farm which they’ve transformed into a bee forage oasis. The pastures, gardens and greenhouse are cultivated with flowering plants to provide healthy, natural, year-long foraging for the honey bee colonies.
Heidrun has a gorgeous tasting room and the winery is on amazing farmland with a great setup for picnics - families are welcome, and the winery is known for impeccably charming events. Inside, they sell numerous local goods like fresh fall apples, candles, flowers, linens, honey, and so much more!
Want to try Heidrun's head at home yourself? They ship to a large number of states (depending on the rules where you live), so you can try them at home!
Station House Cafe
11180 Highway 1, Point Reyes Station
Station House Cafe sources organic, fresh and local foods to create everything from their classic breakfasts to favorite burgers to fresh local fish and oysters.
The restaurant proudly supports local farms, producers and food artisans.
Be sure to try the knockout cocktails - they were simple, delicious, and full of creative, fresh flavor!
I also loved the enormous fiddle leaf figs in the restaurant - they had amazing plants indoors which is always a favorite of mine to help create a cozy California natural atmosphere.
10021 Coastal Highway 1, Olema, CA 94950
Located adjacent to Olema House, Due West is a sophisticated modern tavern housed in a cozily refurbished, circa-1865 building. Due West Tavern serves fresh West Marin fare and houses a vibrant, recently remodeled market featuring house-baked items made fresh daily and signature on-the-go picnic staples.
Due West is cozy, dimly lit, welcoming, and serves up killer food and drinks - we grabbed a slice of cheesecake and some old fashioneds that were so delicious, I could have jarred them up and smuggled them home with me.
Be sure to ask the bartender if they have anything special they are working on - we got to sample some drinks they were trying out that weren't even on the menu yet!
10021 Coastal Highway 1, Olema, CA 94950
Olema House is seriously dreamy - oozing with Instagram worthy charm in every corner, with boutique decor, romantic lighting, cozy fireplaces, and gorgeous views over the river and forest - you can snuggle up in bed and watch the fog roll in and be perfectly content doing nothing at all - or use the hotel as the perfect base to explore Marin's wild wonders.
I was greeted with a gourmet setup in my room thanks to the fabulous market Olema House runs in Due West - they can arrange all sorts of snacks, foods, and other items to be delivered to your room. I was really excited that they prioritized spotlighting local artisan brands, like a craft canned cocktail, local ground coffee, local jerky and snacks, and of course plenty of treats from Due West!
I stayed in the River View Suite, and let me tell you, it was a knockout. I can't wait to bring my husband back someday - it was the epitome of romantic cozy hotels. There isn't very good cell reception or a TV in your room here (though there was great wifi) - you check in to Olema House to check out from the world. Turn on the fire, open the balcony door, listen to the river run by, watch the fog roll in, and realize you have everything on earth you need, right there.
Hot tip: wake up to a picture-perfect view with the remote-controlled shade on the picture window across from the bed, with views out over the Point Reyes National Seashore National Park Wilderness area. I didn't stay in the family cottage, but it looks absolutely adorable - my room would be a bit tricky with kids (it had very steep stairs to get to the bed loft), but the family room looked beyond adorable!
Day 2 - Coffee, National Seashore, Cheese, Olive Oil, Marin County Mart
- Due West Market, 10021 Coastal Highway 1, Olema, CA 94950
- Bear Valley Visitors Center, Point Reyes National Seashore
- Marin French Cheese Company, 7510 Point Reyes Petaluma Road, Petaluma and Novato
- McEvoy Ranch, 5935 Redhill Road, Petaluma
- Courtyard by Marriott San Francisco Larkspur Landing, 2500 Larkspur Landing Circle, Larkspur
Due West has a variety of muffins, cookies, frittatas, omelets, sandwiches, salads, and other meals and grab-and-go snacks you can eat at the hotel, out on the grounds, or at a picnic table, or take with you to go and explore around Marin County.
Due West also has an adorable market absolutely packed with clothing, gifts, and other goods you'll want to snap up - I could have bought everything.
Hot tip: you can order your meal to your room, eat at the market in one of the small tables outside, or take your breakfast on the go like I did - I had them box it up so I could head out to Point Reyes National Seashore and eat my brunch with a scenic view! They had lots of different hot sauce packets to grab with your meal, a special touch I appreciate.
1 Bear Valley Visitor Center Access Road, Point Reyes Station, CA 94956
The visitor center is the perfect spot to learn about this unique National Park space - the National Seashore isn't just oceanside, it also encompasses the Phillip Burton Wilderness, and features extensive trails through grassland, firs and pine forest, and up to the peak of Mount Wittenberg.
7510 Point Reyes Petaluma Road, Petaluma and Novato
Marin French Cheese has been operating in Northern California since 1865 - making them the oldest continuously operating cheesemaker in the United States.
The flavor of Marin French Cheeses is unparalleled - light, creamy, delicious bries - rich and indulgent goat cheese - quirky, squeaky breakfast cheese - there are just so many options here, even the biggest fan of all things dairy will be jumping for joy.
Hot tip: head to Marin French Cheese with a full wallet and a picnic blanket, and leave with a full stomach. They have everything else you could need - the store is loaded with clothes, decor, wine, beer, home goods, cookbooks, foods, and more.
My favorite is the breakfast cheese - I LOVE it so much, I order it directly from them once a month. They ship quickly, and it is the best way to get Marin French Cheeses (as well as other local producers they carry) if you don't live locally. You'll also see Marin French Cheese at a lot of Costcos and some Kroger and other grocery stores nationwide!
5935 Redhill Road, Petaluma
McEvoy Ranch is a 550-acre working, organic ranch, committed to sustainable farming practices and specializing in certified organic olive oils, small-lot wines and culinary products - as well as a new CBD organic skincare line.
McEvoy is a labor of love from Nan McEvoy, who bought the former dairy in 1990 when she was retired - with a dream to grow the best olives and make the best olive oil, wines, and food. Her family is protecting her vision of bringing the best to fans of their 550 acre organic ranch - with amazingly delicious olive oils, great wines, and fabulously luxurious beauty products with essential oils from fresh herbs and organic CBD.
McEvoy is an amazing place to spend an afternoon - the patio is so cozy, and divine to sit and watch the fog roll in and out as you sample foods. While we visited, McEvoy was offering an Oktoberfest pretzel and mustard sampling (the pretzel was delicious, but I'm very oddly allergic to mustard, so I didn't dip into it - my husband was so jealous he wasn't with me this trip!), and I grabbed a vegan wrap that was so delicious!
Be sure to leave plenty of time when visiting to browse the store at McEvoy - their store is truly worth visiting all on it's own.
See our web story review of McEvoy Ranch here.
2257 Larkspur Landing, Larkspur
The ferry to San Fransisco lands at the Marin Country Mart, so you can pop into the city and time your trip to head back for dinner, to shop, and stay back in Larkspur for a quieter, cozier evening a bit away from the buzz.
Look for fresh oysters, California classics like Johnny's donuts, and luxury shopping in this premier outdoor shopping destination.
2257 Larkspur Landing, Larkspur
Farmshop is not only delicious - the creative farm-fresh California cuisine centers around impeccably presented, playful, gorgeous dishes that are as fun to look at as they are to eat.
Every time a plate appeared at our table, my friend and I squealed a bit - each dish was so delicious, I just about had to roll across the street to my hotel room.
Courtyard by Marriott San Francisco Larkspur Landing
2500 Larkspur Landing Circle, Larkspur
The Marriott Courtyard in Larkspur Landing is a major hidden gem in Marin County - it is tucked into a tiny area in Larkspur that feels small-town, though it is just across the bay from the city. You can take the ferry into San Fransisco just steps from the hotel - and yet, you can park in the hotel's parking lot for free, without any problem.
The Courtyard has a great, large outdoor pool in the center of the hotel, and many rooms look directly out onto the pool, perfect for families looking to balance a bit of downtime from the city while visiting Northern California - while still being close to all the action. There is a large lobby with hot breakfast in the morning, and the hotel is literally across the street from the Marin Country Mart, so you can be just a few steps from Farmshop, Hog Island Oysters, Diptyque, Cosbar, Intermix, Shake Shack, Johnny Donuts, Miette, and so so so much more!