Paddling Drakes Bay is one of the most surreal and peaceful experiences in Northern California. Just outside one of the most legendary estuaries in the state, and protected by Pt. Reyes National Seashore, Drakes is nature at her finest. The bay is small, only 8 miles wide, calm, glassy and incredibly clear. It’s home to an extremely diverse marine ecosystem with a pristine wide beach perfect for a picnic on shore. Bring a kayak, SUP or surfboard and get a birds’ eye view of an underwater landscape below.
What Makes It Great
Pt. Reyes is known for its natural, untouched beauty in west Marin County. It showcases the best of Northern California’s creatures and native plants--think pelicans skimming along the water, fields of golden poppies and occasional great white shark sightings, too. Protected by the government, there are definitely a lot of rules here, but it makes for a near perfect historical landmark honoring coastal mammals, amphibians, fish and birds. It’s close enough to the city to spend an entire day exploring, and making it home by dinner.
Drakes Bay is especially beautiful because of its impeccably perfect beach backed by white sandstone cliffs. Its peaceful and calm waters compared to the unpredictable Pacific beaches make for a mellow paddle along the shore. Drakes is never crowded, and even if it feels a little eerie and lonesome, a ranger is likely nearby watching with his binoculars. You can paddle the 8 miles parallel to shore, and on a sunny clear day you can see miraculous creatures just under your vessel. Stay relatively close to shore though, as it can get a little “sharky” further out. Be mindful of tides and currents, don't go alone, and take in all the beauty, it's likely you’ll never see anything that compares to Drakes.
Who is Going to Love It
Nature enthusiasts unite at Pt. Reyes National Seashore, and ocean dwellers, marine biologists and professional sand castle builders congregate at Drakes Bay. It’s definitely favored by the hard core, rather than the occasional recreationist. Plan for a remote drive to get there and back, and prepare to maybe not see any other humans once you leave the parking lot. Consider bringing the kids to a different beach for swimming, surfing or kayaking, because Drakes is for the fearless and the curious. Cameras and journals are a must to document its beauty.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
From Pt. Reyes Station (if you're low on gas, this is the only close place to get it) take Sir Francis Drake Road west for 16 miles. Wind through Pt. Reyes National Seashore, following signs for the lighthouse and Drakes Estero. Access points are located at the Estero and Drakes Beach.
There’s an outdoor shower, café and visitors center and plenty of parking at Drakes Beach. Follow rules strictly as fines are incredibly high if you break them. Definitely no dogs, no fires, no fishing and no camping. Plan for zero cell phone reception and no wi-fi.