Don’t let the name deceive you. Chicken Ranch Beach isn’t for the birds. It’s for folks who want to spend a mellow afternoon at a totally swimmable beach on the shore of Tomales Bay in Point Reyes. Most cars zip right by Chicken Ranch Beach en route to the lighthouse on the western side of the peninsula. There are no signs, but you’ll find its access point just north of Inverness (directions below).
This sweet spot doesn’t sprawl for miles, but there’s plenty of room to wander, spread a blanket, and play a little catch or fetch without ruffling any feathers. And the water? The Tomales Bay water is not only warmer than the Pacific, it’s calmer. The shore is shallow and gradual, making it ideal for a wade-in or a gentle swim. Paddle-boarders and kayakers float by, back-dropped by the vistas of West Marin’s rolling landscape.
BEVERAGE BONUS: The coolest hangout in Inverness? Saltwater Oyster Depot, just a few minutes south of Chicken Ranch Beach. Whether you have a table on the wooden deck patio looking at Tomales Bay or take a seat inside (resembling a restored fishing cabin) you can’t go wrong with a full fresh menu featuring signature oysters raw or broiled, along with favorites like baked coastal-hill eggs, Bolinas rockfish tacos, and peach and walnut bread pudding. Beer on tap or by the bottle includes tasty selections from North Coast Brewing Company’s Scrimshaw to Alaskan Amber Ale, with a Boonville Cider tossed in. The wine list is equally good, including the Fumé Blanc from Grgich Hills and Paul Janin Beaujolais.
In Point Reyes Station, go west on Sir Francis Drake Blvd. toward the lighthouse. Go through the town of Inverness. Just after Tomales Bay Resort and Blue Waters Kayak you’ll see a pullout on the right side of the road (across from Pine Hill Dr.). This is the parking for Chicken Ranch Beach. It fills up on warm weekends. Dog-friendly!