point reyes
Point Reyes
Drakes Beach - In 1579, Sir Francis Drake put his ship into the sheltered bay on the southern part of the peninsula. At Drakes Bay, he encountered spectacular white cliffs that reminded him of the Dover cliffs in England, and he named his landing spot "Nova Albion" (New England). Drakes Beach is stunningly beautiful, a long sand beach that goes on forever.
The Kenneth Patrick Visitor Center has exhibits about Sir Francis Drake. There is a snack bar on weekends and picnic tables (sheltered from the wind) - it's a wonderful spot to have lunch. (If the lighthouse is closed, a good alternative is Drakes Beach.)
Fly kites - Drakes Beach is the perfect location to fly kites, the flat sandy beach and plenty of wind.
Point Reyes Lighthouse - The Point Reyes Lighthouse is perched on a craggy rock that is the foggiest place on the West Coast. It's almost a half mile walk from the parking lot to the small visitor center.
Along the way is a whale watching overlook. This is a good spot to watch the yearly gray whale migration (December to April).
From the visitor center (check out the exhibits about whales and the lighthouse keeper), you climb down 300 steps to the lighthouse itself. The stairs are well-fenced and energetic little ones can easily go up and down the steps. As you're going down the stairs, that yucky smell is bird droppings from murres, birds that live on the rocks. From the lighthouse, there is a spectacular view of "land's end."
The lighthouse is closed Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Also, on weekends, late December to April, you'll need to take the shuttle bus from Drakes Beach (parking lots for cars are closed). Tip: The stairs to the lighthouse can also be closed due to high winds or fog; check at the Bear Valley Visitor Center to be sure the stairs are open before you drive all the way to the lighthouse.
Chimney Rock - December to late February is the time to see the northern elephant seal colony, and excellent location for spotting gray whales.
Elephant Seal Overlook - It's just a short walk to the overlook, where you'll see hundreds of large elephant seals on the beach below. Female seals give birth and nurse the seal pups for a month. The male seals are big guys, they can weigh up to 3 or 4 thousand pounds. And they're a noisy bunch, the seals barking almost sounds like monkeys. Bring binoculars.
Chimney Rock Trail - From the parking lot, follow the easy trail along the top of the headland out to "lands end." April and May, the wildflowers are glorious.
From the headland are spectacular ocean views, and look for pods of gray whales migrating north in March and April. Bring binoculars! This is one of the prime gray whale viewing spots in California.
Trail is about 1.5 miles out and back, okay for strollers, but stay on the designated trail.
Limantour Beach and Muddy Hollow - Limantour Beach is another white sand beach, edged with dunes. While you're walking down the long Limantour Spit, look for pelicans partying in the water. Crawl around on your hands and knees in the little paths between the grasses on the dunes. Good spot to picnic, but it can be windy. Limantour Beach is the perfect location to fly kites.
Muddy Hollow Trail - The Estero de Limantour (Limantour Estuary) is home to many marsh birds and ducks. Follow the Muddy Hollow Trail along the salty stream until you come to a pond surrounded with reeds. Ducks in the water, white egrets in the estuary and dragon flies in the air are just some things you'll see on this easy hike.

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