Calm waters, cozy beaches and oysters around Tomales Bay

Scott Zahl, owner of Cove Mussel Co., walks along the shoreline of Tomales Bay five years ago in Marshall.
Scott Zahl, owner of Cove Mussel Co., walks along the shoreline of Tomales Bay five years ago in Marshall. Contra Costa Times file

Tomales Bay on a sunny afternoon is as laid back and indulgent as Northern California gets.

The water in this Marin County inlet is soothingly calm, perfect for a few hours of away-from-it-all relaxing. World-class wine from nearby Napa and Sonoma counties flows out of glasses. And then, just as the Dionysian moment peaks, the fishermen arrive.

They bring with them piles of live, freshly farmed oysters, full of meat and brine. Diners await that bounty with their lemon wedges and shallot-vinegar mixtures ready. Some even barbecue their daily harvest at on-site barbecue pits before heading back to the cozy, sandy beaches. Squint, and you might imagine you’re on Oahu or the Florida Keys.

The Hog Island Oyster Farm (20215 Shoreline Highway, Marshall, 415-663-9218) makes for a good introduction to the Tomales Bay lifestyle. Even when the weather grows chilly, diners make the trek out to this outdoor oyster restaurant for raw and barbecued oysters along with cheese, bread and drinks. Some make use of the grills set up on the grounds. Oysters, as well as shellfish, can be bought at a kiosk at the front of the restaurant. Reservations are a good idea, considering the restaurant’s growing popularity.

Also in the town of Marshall are the Marshall Store (19225 State Route 1, 415-663-1339) and Nick’s Cove & Cottages (23240 Highway 1, 415-793-9638), which present their oyster fare in more traditional sit-down restaurant settings.

Finally, the Tomales Bay Oyster Co. (15479 State Route 1, Marshall, 415-663-1243) offers a more up-close view of the whole experience. Visitors can check out the oyster farm and then buy the crop harvested there. Until 2015, those delicacies could be shucked and eaten at picnic tables on the grounds.

Still, Tomales Bay has plenty of nearby beaches and parks, such as Heart’s Desire Beach in Tomales Bay State Park, ideal for oyster shucking, grilling and feasting.

Museum free-for-all

What: Clear your calender for a full day of free admission to almost 40 Southern California museums, including the Getty Center, La Brea Tar Pits and Museum, and the Museum of Tolerance, all along Metro bus and rail routes.

When: Hours vary between 9:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 29

Where: Multiple locations, including the Getty Center (1200 Getty Center Drive in Los Angeles), the Orange County Museum of Art (850 San Clemente Drive in Newport Beach) and the California African American Museum (600 State Drive, Exposition Park in Los Angeles)

Cost: Free


PGA Tour

What: Catch Tiger Woods and other professional golfers at the Farmers Insurance Open.

When: 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 26, through Sunday, Jan. 29

Where: Torrey Pines Golf Course, 11480 Torrey Pines Park Road, La Jolla

Cost: $15 to $50 daily admission; $70 to $220 group rates; $240 to $1,000 VIP


Bubbles & Bowties

What: Put on your “Sunday best” and take a date to an adult-only prom. Bubbles & Bowties will feature a photo booth, dance floor and best-dressed competitions.

When: 7 to 11 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 27

Where: Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, Highway 50, South Lake Tahoe

Cost: $65 general admission; $800 VIP table


Jessica Hice