One reason Bolinas is cool is that many Bolinas townsfolk (even storekeepers) don’t seem to care that you’re visiting. You may have heard the folklore about Bolinas citizens ripping down the town signs so that outsiders can’t easily find it. It seems they still do so (see below).
Bolinas doesn’t exactly invite you into their town.
My theory? I believe Bolinas folks have it so good that they closely guard their little secret by the sea.
Bolinas even has its own happy birthday song — more on that below.
Ok, let’s explore Bolinas on this day of heavy rain. We need coffee first.
Before you go to Bolinas Tip: Check out the tides — the beach might be inaccessible if you go during high tide.
Bolinas espresso is good but you have to move fast!
The only one place we found for espresso drinks during our day in Bolinas is a little coffee hut in front of the Coast Cafe at 46 Wharf Road.
Soy Latte was solid !But late risers might miss out. The coffee hut closes at around 11:30pm.
We ate a brunch at the Coast Cafe at 46 Wharf Road.
We loved the throwback interior consisting of surfboards lining the roof starting from the 1940’s up until the 1990’s style.
We ordered the fish and chips, turkey chile and a cup of coffee.
Sorry, but we forgot to take pics of the food. Everything was yummy: especially the turkey chili which had a little kick.
There’s a cute little stove in the corner to sit near.
A Fun 1 Mile Loop Around Town (and the Ocean!)
After coffee and food, we recommend you do the loop around town (about 1 mile) that takes you by shops and the ocean.
Bolinas Surf Shop (not just for surfers)
Make sure to duck into the Bolinas Surf Shop on 52 Wharf Road. The owner Buzz (below) is a character and you’re bound to find a good deal on shirts, hats or thick, cozy socks.
If you go to Bolinas a few times chances are you’ll get wet (rain or ocean) and end up at Buzz’s shop for extra clothing. Ask Buzz about his irregular sock deals (our favorite rain jackets and cozy socks are from the Surf Shop).
And sorry, Buzz — I know you said you were low-key and didn’t want a shout-out online. But you and your store are awesome and we want our friends to visit you. That’s one of the reasons my family writes these articles.
We headed from the Surf Shop towards the ocean. You’ll see the lagoon first:
Crab traps — yes, there are really fisher-folks in this coastal town!
…and some funky houses. Cool bike planter!
The ocean is super-fun . Today was raining hard so we were alone!
But even if humans don’t show up, you’re bound to see other life!:
The Bolinas beach is a huge beginner’s surf spot on less stormy days. I’ve seen 50 beginner surfers out there (you can easily walk your board out).
Bolinas People’s Store
There are a bunch of cool little places in Bolinas you’ll miss if you don’t look closely. There’s a nice food market called Bolinas People’s Store on 14 Wharf Road (behind the Community Center). We got some yummy bulk food (cashews, Australian black licorice and fig newtons).
Bolinas always seems to have someone opening up their home (or garage) to show you something
Bolinas seems to let people sell things from anywhere. Today we saw a man selling raw honey out of his garage.
Bolinas is home to some super-creative folks (see the Wikipedia entry for famous from Bolinas).
We ran into David Strathairn (Billions (a favorite TV show of ours!), Lincoln, Goodnight and Good Luck and L.A. Confidential):
Other famous people who have lived in Bolinas include:
- Frances McDormand (Fargo!)
- Grace Slick and Paul Kanter (Jefferson Airplane)
- Alice Waters (our favorite chef of Chez Panisse fame)
- Joel Coen (of Coen Brothers)
- Bill Niman (Niman Ranch Meats)
Annual Winter Faire
We also lucked out in that today was the Bolinas Annual Winter Faire:
It’s held at the Bolinas Community Center at 14 Wharf Road. They had tons of yummy food, wine and creative crafts…
A couple of people at one booth were jamming out on violin and guitar:
This is a great venue to rent out by the way:
- 100 for dining, 129 if the stage is used for dining as well.
- 200 for theater seating (chairs only.)
- 275 for standing (dances.)
- Private rentals start at $1700 from 2pm-midnight.
- Perhaps a Bolinas wedding venue for you!?
While we were at the Faire, the whole place erupted into an unusual birthday song. It turns out that Bolinas has its own birthday song. I didn’t turn record it with my iPhone because it seemed like a very private moment. But here‘s the Bolinas Birthday Song sung by some locals in a separate video:
It was now about 2pm and I needed a little caffeine pick-me-up. With the coffee hut long-closed I darted into Bovida (at 6 Wharf Road). This cool Acai/Smoothie/Healthy Food place has super-healthy food and beverages. I had the Thai Iced Tea with coconut milk instead of half-and-half. Real yummy.
24-Hour Unmanned Farmstand
As we we were leaving town, we noticed the “Farmstand” (140 Olema Bolinas Rd.). This is not your normal farmstand.
…there was no one there. AND it operates 24 hours a day!
We picked up some lettuce and snap peas and dropped our money (based on recommended prices per veggie) into a box:
The Farmstand is run by Gospel Flat Farm. Maybe that explains the honor system payment approach — you gotta have faith, huh!?
Their farm is behind the Farmstand:
Gospel Flat does a number of other cool Agritourism things (including events, tours and wood-powered oven!) that they mention on https://gospelflatfarm.com/. Go check it out!
The Farmstand also had this thing below called the Mothership next to it:
I’m the curious type but I didn’t look inside the Mothership. Perhaps I thought my family would get sucked into some new Bolinas Solar System…never to return to civilization. That wouldn’t be so bad. :)
Update on the “Mothership” Mentioned Above: I found a video on what the Mothership is at https://vimeo.com/166043. Here’s an excerpt of its description:
I am building a mobile school. It will be a farm extension device, a mobile kitchen and farm market, the mothership, deploying a mobile pizza oven, projecting farm videos and offering a space for workshops, baking and brewing, and live cultures…The mobile school will slowly be pulled by a tractor, contrasting the speed of roadways and calling attention to the necessary equiptment that produces and distributes food. This lifeboat, pulled from our bushes, mated with an old tractor trailer will become a special piece of farm equiptment, a device to take the food we grow and the kitchen we eat with, on the road. For now, more toxic fumes, metal cutting, welding, casting and wondering how to make the kitchen fit.
Driving home from Bolinas
On the drive home, consider driving south on Highway 1 where you can check out the Pelican Inn, a throwback to 1800 English pub with dark wood interiors and wooden benches and chairs. It’s hearty pub food (fish and chips, chili, Guinness Stew, etc.). On a sunny day, eating outside is fun and can be quite a scene. It’s a couple of hundred yards from Muir Beach . Or head north on Highway 1 and stop by Olema, a cute small town worth its own day trip.
Things to do in Bolinas next time:
- The Smiley’s Saloon Hotel (there’s a great article on it here: https://whimsysoul.com/bolinas-hotel-smileys-saloon/ and the article includes other awesome insights into Bolinas!
- Dinner at eleven (the highest-rated restaurant in Bolinas)
- Take a surf lesson