Tomales Bay on the Pt. Reyes National Seashore is one of our favorite day trips. We first discovered it when training for a 340 mile, 5-day bike ride from Eureka to San Francisco about 2 years ago and immediately fell in love. It’s only ~40 miles from San Francisco (although with all of the curvy, country roads it takes about 90 minutes to get there) but feels a lifetime away from the city life. Amazingly beautiful scenery, relatively untouched wildlife and some of the best Bay Area gastronomic treats around!
Typically when we head to Tomales Bay, we pack an empty cooler and make our first stop in the town of Pt. Reyes Station…home of Cowgirl Creamery, Bovine Bakery, Marin Sun Farms and many other well-known Bay Area food treats. This is the perfect place to pick up all of your picnic fixings to go along with those delicious Tomales Bay oysters you’ll be adding to your bounty a bit further down the road. If you haven’t been to Pt. Reyes Station before, beware…you’ll have a hard time making it out of this adorable town and onto your next stop!
My go-to picks for a quick & easy picnic basket that I picked up at the local spots are shown below. Don’t forget to grab some local beer (Lagunitas is right down the road) or wine for your picnic…there are a few wineries you’ll pass between Pt. Reyes Station & Tomales Bay.
Once our cooler is full, we then like to park our car near our chosen Oyster shack and take a nice long bike ride to work up an appetite. If you’re a cyclist and haven’t been up there you should definitely check it out. There are newly paved roads that have incredible curves and bends and the traffic doesn’t get too bad in my opinion. They’re the kinds of roads that feel like your on a roller coaster. Even though you see the hills and know your working hard the momentum from the downhills and curves keep a permanent kid-like smile plastered to your face. On this ride, we were fortunate enough to stumble upon the Tomales Day festival right in the town of Tomales where we picked up some fresh cherries to enjoy at our half-way point…
Finish off the ride, a quick change of clothes in the car and onto the rest of the fabulous afternoon. There are quite a few Oyster places to choose from, but we really like Hog Island Oyster Co. So much so that we actually haven’t strayed yet since we haven’t found a reason to, but I think a lot of people really like Tomales Bay Oyster Co. And apparently people say that Tomales Bay Oyster Co. “doesn’t charge $12 a person to use the picnic facilities whereas Hog Island Oyster Co. does,” but honestly we’ve never been charged anything at Hog Island…so I’m not really sure if that’s true. Anyway, we love Hog Island and the tranquil nature of their smaller picnic area. We’ve typically been pretty lucky getting a table too.
At either place (or any of the others I think) you are welcome to bring in your own beer, wine, charcoal, items to grill and coolers full of food as long as your buying something there. People get pretty elaborate with their picnics too..but unless we’re going with a big group we like to keep it simple, and then just buy 2 dozen oysters to shuck ourselves and get to work! Shuck them and eat them raw or throw them on the grill…whatever you like best. We choose to shuck them vs. buying them pre-shucked for two reasons…one, it’s part of the experience to us and it slows us down to savor our time there a bit more. Two, it’s about half the price of when you buy them pre-shucked :)
If you’ve never shucked oysters before, don’t fear…it’s actually quite a bit easier than it looks or than it may seem. The guys at Hog Island are also so super friendly and they’re happy to give you a crash course (in fact, I’m sure they’d rather you ask then risk getting hurt!). The biggest down-side when your new at this is that you’ll likely get a bit more shell debris in your oyster, but practice makes perfect…and now you have a new skill to impress your friends!
As our last summer weekend draws to a close, a trip to Tomales Bay for a quick taste of summer is the perfect “stay-cation.” Especially now as we are getting into the “r” months, which many believe are the best months to enjoy raw oysters due to cooling water temperatures. If you’ve been to a few of the oyster places down in Tomales Bay, chime in and let me know which is your favorite and why…maybe you’ll convince me to try a different one next time I’m there! Otherwise, see you at Hog Island Oyster Co. this fall