As we are teetering on the edge of spring, dreaming of summer as the last flakes of snow sprinkle down outside. Our next vacation may still be a few weeks away but we have the memories of our favorite family vacation spots to keep us warm. I can smell the salty air now. I can feel my skin warmed by the sun. King Winter is fading.
Road to Stinson Beach, California Coastal Highway 1
One of the many that goes unmentioned when you have children is that your vacations will never, ever be the same. We don't want to give up our plush bedrooms for bunk bed rooms. We don't want to be sent to a far corner of the hotel in case our children were too loud or cried. We don't want to be sentenced to a life of chain hotels with free breakfast. We merely want to enjoy our family vacations in a way that allow us to show our children the world yet allow us a little luxury. So we are always in search of places that we can bring these two worlds together. We look for good food. We like to be near the ocean. We love to find a connection in some way to this beautiful earth and the people in it. The sun always helps but there have been rainy vacation days that we embraced, leaving us with fond memories.
Mini lifeguard wearing bud & june boys' bikini
We ventured to Stinson Beach simply for its geographic location just north of San Francisco in Marin County. Stinson Beach is the place you may have never heard of but it is destined to be one of your favorite beach spots! The road to get to Stinson Beach is Highway 1 which is a notoriously winding road with steep cliffs that are breathtaking. If you are the passenger, I would advise keeping your eyes on the ocean or the road ahead of you. If you are the driver, I would advise keeping your eyes only on the road ahead of you.The side of the roads are remarkably steep! Stinson Beach is nestled in between mountains that plummet to end at the ocean. Regardless of the fact that our backseat had two occupied carseats, it still felt incredibly romantic driving as we made our way to this remote beach area.
When you pull off the main road, the pace slows way down. The roads become gravel, there are flowers in bloom and buildings are tucked away behind lush vegetation. We stayed at the charming Sandpiper (sandpiperstinsonbeach.com). Sandpiper is named after the famous movie The Sandpiper (1965) starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. A perfect movie to accompany the vacation! We rented a cottage with a fireplace that was decorated in a rustic beach decor. Just outside of our door was a lane that leads to a lovely garden. Just passed the garden is a sandy lane that takes you to the beach. We were delighted to have found such wonderful accommodations so close to the beach. They offer an assortment of children's beach toys that you may borrow to take to the beach.
Joyfully running in bud & june swim suit
The town of Stinson Beach is completely walkable. Once you arrive you probably will not step back into your car until you leave to head home. It is so enjoyable to not have to pack the car to go sightsee with children. It makes for much happier vacation days! The mornings are filled with fog so most people do not go to the beach until the late morning which leaves a perfectly empty beach to explore. The Siren Canteen (sirencanteen.com) is just steps from the ocean at the base of the lifeguard tower. You can find crêpes, burgers and tacos on the menu at this popular spot.
The Siren Canteen on a foggy morning
There are several other enjoyable restaurants, a surf shop, and a market. Stinson Beach has a wonderful laid-back atmosphere. The Breakers (stinsonbeachcafe.com) restaurant has adopted a "No Shoes, No Shirt: We’ll serve you!" motto. We love Parkside Cafe (parksidecafe.com) which is aptly named as it is situated across from the Village Green and playground. It consists of a string of eating options including a bakery, cafe, and snack bar. There is also an ice cream shop and coffee shop nearby.
There is always a dilemma at the end of the day when we want to go out for dinner but the kids are too tired. (Read we don't want to put other diners through a potentially harrowing meal!) Somehow eating outdoors always allows the kids the space they need to get through a dinner at the end of a busy day. Parkside Cafe gave us that bit of comfort with their romantic outdoor spaces. We ate dinner in the garden under the stars with the moon smiling down over us. A perfectly memorable ending to a beach day.
Moonlight dinner in the garden at Parkside Cafe.
The Village Green park and playground
The local market is Stinson Beach Market where you can find just about anything you may need. There is a nice selection of local food from nearby farms, beach gear, and a popular coffee filling station. You will see many locals filing in and out getting their morning coffee before starting their day.
We spent our days drifting back into town to eat or explore then returning to the beach for more fun. The stretch of the beach is quite long and there are many large rock formations that the kids loved to investigate. The lifeguards were not on duty so we took the opportunity to have fun on the lifeguard towers! Of course, our boys were honing their surf skills in bud & june swimsuits. A little wooden surf board they found kept them entertained for hours. There is a lovely community spirit at Stinson Beach. You will often see items left for others to use and each morning there is a group of volunteers that comes to clean the beach of any debris.
A little surfer wearing bud & june swimsuit
A tiny lifeguard in bud & june
In town, you will also find a well regarded surf shop called Live Water (livewatersurfshop.com) which borrows from the fact that the waters off the coast of Stinson Beach have been known have sharks in them. But don't let that deter you as the beach stays shallow enough for plenty of play! It is a big surf community so there is a lot of knowledge shared among the surfers at this favorite shop. They rent surf gear, sell surfboards and other accessories. A little history about this surf shop, they are the only surf shop that holds the copyright to the famous "no-shark" swag that was designed in 1978 by Kirby Ferris.
Sandpiper Inn 1 Marine Way, Stinson Beach Ph:(415) 969-9032
Red Haus Bed & Breakfast Belvedere & Highway 1, Stinson Beach Ph: (415) 868-1034
Parkside Cafe 43 Arenal Avenue, Stinson Beach
Sand Dollar 3458 Shoreline Highway, Stinson Beach for a lovely meal accompanied by live music
The Breakers 3465 Highway 1, Stinson Beach
Head to Point Reyes National Seashore-spend a day tide pooling at Duxbury Reef and the night around a bonfire on the beach.
Discover Muir Woods National Park by letting the kids become Junior Rangers for the day. Parking lots fill up early so plan to arrive before 10 am. Plan for no cell phone reception as well.
Get a little Zen at the Green Gulch Farm Zen Center which offers an open house on Sundays that include lecture, meditation, tea and a lunch. First Sundays of the month are specially for kids.
I hope you enjoyed our trip to the beach! Our boys are more comfortable and more adventurous than ever in their bud & june swimsuits. If you're interested in shorter, more form-fitting suits for your boys that will literally make them jump up and down, you can view our full collection here (www.budandjune.com)."
Do share with us your photos or reviews if you go! Or maybe you have already been there? If you have some tidbits about Stinson Beach please add in the comments section.