Small Wonders

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POINT REYES STATION • MURPHYS • CAPITOLA • PLACERVILLE • PACIFIC GROVE • TIBURON • CALISTOGA • GUALALA

Point Reyes Station

WHAT TO DO

Forage Like a Local
Point Reyes Farmers’ Market, held every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Toby’s Feed Barn (11250 Hwy. 1, 415-663-9667, tobysfeedbarn.com), is an all-organic produce market and a one-stop opportunity to sample the local cornucopia of seasonal produce and artisan products. Plus it’s not the average market that once drew Prince Charles and where you can catch cooking demonstrations and appearances by leading chefs and food writers. Cattle aren’t the only grazers around Point Reyes, not with such spots as tiny Bovine Bakery (11315 Hwy. 1, 415-663-9420). The big question here is savory or sweet, thanks to such temptations as ham-and-cheese croissants so buttery they dissolve. And poppy seed-filled bear claws helped turn the bakery into a reward for Bay Area cyclists, who fuel up along the benches out front. Inside Toma-les Bay Foods, Cowgirl Creamery  (80 Fourth St., 415-663-9335, cowgirlcreamery.com) is ideal for picnic prep. Build around Cowgirl’s triple cream organic cheeses, such as the Mt. Tam or Red Hawk, or just choose from a changing selection of ready-to-go sandwiches. A window also lets you peek in at the cheese-making process and don’t be shy about samples. Inspired? Then take that first step toward your brilliant new career and make reservations for Cowgirl’s Cheese 101 classes (Wednesdays and Fridays; $5), which include demonstrations and tastings. Another way inside the food scene is on the free tours given by Marin Agricultural Land Trust (415-663-1158; malt.org). Outings change monthly and can feature visits to such local producers as Hog Island Oyster Co. on Tomales Bay and the organic Straus Creamery.

An oyster picnic at  Drakes Bay Family Farms.

Shuck and Awe
Drakes Bay Family Farms (17171 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., Inverness, 415-669-1149, drakesbayoyster.com), located about 10 miles from Point Reyes Station, is California’s last oyster cannery and dates back 80 years. Call ahead for free tours and learn how the farm raises nearly 20 million oysters and why the bay’s tidal action is so ideally suited to production. With its salt- and wind-weathered shacks and workers sorting oysters by size along an outdoor conveyor, it definitely gives a sense of the hard work that goes into food production around Point Reyes. All that only adds to your appreciation as you sample oysters on the half shell or shuck your own from a picnic table overlooking the bay.

The Point Reyes LighthousePoint of Views
If you get a clear day at Point Reyes National Seashore (415-464-5100, nps.gov/pore), then hike Tomales Point Trail. A 16-mile drive from town leads through dairy farms along Pierce Point Road. The trail starts from historic Pierce Ranch and heads out on the finger-like peninsula with commanding views from hundreds of feet above both Tomales Bay and the Pacific. And along the way, you’re likely to see herds of tule elk grazing on the slopes. The full hike is nine miles but even if you go halfway, it’s worth the trip. For a different world’s end view, head over to the 1870 Point Reyes Lighthouse and descend 308 steps to see its rare Fresnel lens. Rangers are on hand (from 2:30-4 p.m. Thurs.-Mon. through December) and special free sunset tours are offered (first and third Saturday of the month through December; call 415-669-1534 for reservations).

 WHERE TO EAT

Local oysters at Osteria StellinaOsteria Stellina
Having cooked at New York’s James Beard House, Christian Caiazzo’s renown has truly gone bicoastal. But Osteria Stellina (11285 Hwy. 1, 415-663-9988, osteriastellina.com) remains focused on Point Reyes: oysters from Drakes and Tomales bays, lamb and sausage from Barinaga Ranch, and organic chard from County Line Harvest. Caiazzo calls it “Point Reyes Italian,” and inventive combinations and variations on classics (the falling-off-the-bone osso buco uses pork instead of veal) have made the restaurant a foodie mecca. Fussy it’s not: With bare wood tables, it’s relaxed enough for live music on locals’ nights and occasional $20 prix fixe pasta dinners.

Station House Cafe
The cafe (11180 Hwy. 1, 415-663-1515, stationhousecafe.com) emphasizes local ingredients to invigorate a menu of comfort foods. You’ll find plenty of oysters here: barbecued, deep-fried, on the half shell, or inside a creamy stew, which takes full advantage of meaty oysters from Drakes Bay. Point Reyes Farmstead bleu cheese pops up atop burgers, in Cobb salads and on a remarkably moist herb-roasted chicken. The interior, with its high ceiling and bistro chairs, is casual and open, but you really want to be out on the rose-filled patio, which is perfect for warm nights. And the cafe’s flaky dinner popovers are a Point Reyes institution.

WHERE TO STAY

Black Heron Inn
You get the bed and breakfast with no B&B fuss at this cozy three-room inn ($155-$195; 51 Cypress Rd., 415-663-8846, blackheroninn.com) overlooking Tomales Bay. The rooms come stocked with fixings like homemade banana bread, but you’re largely left alone (housekeeping is by request only). The redwood deck has ample space to take in the landscape, and the Grandview Suite—with its soaring ceiling and sleeping loft—is especially appealing. Drink in views of grazing cattle (and occasional coyotes) on hilly pastures as fog rolls in and out over the bay. The wake-up call is a pre-dawn jam of birds, with occa-sional solos by Anna’s hummingbirds and spotted towhees. Here’s a place that finds a balance between creatures and creature comforts.

Point Reyes Schoolhouse Compound
Owner Karen Gray authored The Family Guide to Point Reyes and has created an escape that’s true to the town’s spirit. Embracing the garden setting, Jasmine Cottage is bright and airy while the Barn Loft has a rustic feel that connects it to local farming traditions. With four distinct units, this is not a single-building B&B ($185-$385; 11559 Hwy. 1, 415-663-1166, pointreyesschoolhouse.com). The huge Schoolhouse Rental has four bedrooms and even a baby grand piano, and Gray’s Retreat even offers a covered wagon that sleeps three. Leave the car, walk five minutes to the main drag, and hang out over coffee amid the hay bales at Toby’s Feed Barn. And bring back some goodies from Bovine Bakery for anyone who slept in. —M.J.

Take a scenic hike on  Tomales Point Trail.