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Tiburon is the Spanish word meaning “shark.” But typically the biggest bite you’ll encounter while visiting this charming bayside town is in your pocketbook. That is to say, it’s easy to find ways to part with your hard-earned money here. Just across the Bay from San Francisco, this tiny town packs in stunning vistas, a beguiling mix of shops, galleries and attractions, and a few great watering holes that bring people in by the boatfuls. The town’s artistic culture is center stage during the fifth annual Tiburon Art Festival, August 27-28 (tiburon-artfestival.com). The outdoor festival along Ark Row features original art, jazz music, kid-friendly activities and plenty of adult beverages. Tiburon is the former southern terminus for the Northwestern Pacific Railroad, so there’s also a good bit of history anchoring all the fun. One way or another, a history-making weekend awaits.
WHAT TO DO
Tiburon Railroad & Ferry Depot Museum
Dating to 1885, the Tiburon Railroad & Ferry Depot Museum (1920 Paradise Dr., 415-435-1853, landmarks-society.org) is on the National Register of Historic Places, and is the last dual-use railroad terminal west of the Hudson River, a remnant of a time when everything came west by trains. You needn’t be a railroad nerd to appreciate the collection of model trains running through a 1:87-scale version of Tiburon (circa 1910), including buildings and ferry boats.
Angel Island State Park
Tiburon is the closest mainland point to Angel Island (415-435-3544, angelisland.com) the green gem in San Francisco Bay. Frequent 10-minute ferry rides mean easy access. Angel Island boasts a maze of trails, a picnic area and a small beach. A short hike from the ferry landing and you’ll find commanding views of San Francisco. If you’d rather not walk, you can rent a bike or a Segway and take a self-guided tour, or hop aboard a guided tram. Fresh-shucked oysters and cold beer are the standard order at the new Cove Cantina Oyster Bar.
WHERE TO EAT
Sam’s Anchor Cafe
For many, Sam’s Anchor Cafe (27 Main St., 415-435-4527, samscafe.com) is synonymous with Tiburon. Sam’s has an old-world feel inside, with wooden tables and a long bar flanked by local fishermen. But the deck out back enjoys its own microclimate—drenched in sun and protected from wind. Folks pour off ferries or hop off bikes to grab a seat outside, whiling away the day with a Bloody Mary or a signature Sam’s spiked pink lemonade. The food includes the popular cioppino and buttery fish and chips. Weekend brunches are wildly popular—expect to wait—and once you’re seated, you may never leave.
This waterfront spot sets a standard in the North Bay for gourmet Mexican fare, with local ingredients and made-from-scratch sauces (5 Main St., 415-435-6300, guaymasrestaurant.com). The carnitas made from beer-braised pork shoulder are especially delicious. And don’t miss the margaritas. Ordered by the glass or pitcher, they set the tone for an afternoon on the deck or an evening in the dining room (each with sweeping S.F. and Bay views) where the fiesta never stops.
Where to Stay
The Lodge at Tiburon
Owing to its postage-stamp size, Tiburon does not offer many lodging options. Luckily, the Lodge at Tiburon ($143-$299; 1651 Tiburon Blvd., 415-435-3133, larkspurhotels.com) is both affordable and luxurious enough to please most travelers. The location is remote enough to provide nighttime quiet, but a short hop to the action on Main Street. Each of the 102 guestrooms boasts cushy feather-top beds. The on-site restaurant, Tiburon Grill, has a great patio for sipping wine while watching the ferries come and go. —R.F.