You can feast on tasty bivalves in a number of beautiful California locales, but it’s much more satisfying to slurp them down alongside the waters where they’re harvested. Just north of Point Reyes National Seashore, Tomales Bay’s nourishing waters sustain California’s biggest oyster-producing region. More than half of the state’s shellfish growers lease acreage on the shallow bay’s floor, where conditions are just right for cultivation.
Taste the fruits of their labor at The Marshall Store in the bayside hamlet of Marshall. Order oysters prepared every which way—not just raw, but also barbecued, smoked, Rockefeller (spinach, cheese, and breadcrumbs), and Kilpatrick-style (bacon and Worcestershire sauce). Then find a spot at the outdoor tables—live-edge wood slabs perched on oak barrels—and gaze at the bay while you toss back your bounty. Hefty, plump, and sweetly briny, Preston Point oysters pair perfectly with creamy clam chowder or a hunk of sourdough and baked brie. During crab season, typically November to May, the kitchen caters to Dungeness devotees as well as oyster fans. Try their divine Dungeness sandwich or crack into a whole carapace.
After your meal, rent a boat at Blue Waters Kayaking and paddle along the bay, stopping at tiny beaches wherever you please. Twelve miles long and one mile wide, Tomales Bay is home to dozens of shorebird and waterbird species. Great blue herons and glistening white egrets stand sentry along the bay’s edges. On moonless nights, Blue Waters offers an unforgettable guided paddling tour to witness the magic of bioluminescent plankton glowing in the dark.
Of course, you could just go for a drive. Highway 1 hugs the water’s edge, with weathered oyster shacks and Cape Cod–style bungalows perched over the bay and picturesque dairy farms lining the eastern hills. A few miles south of Marshall, stop for an easy stroll at Millerton Point for sweeping vistas of the bay and grassy pastures. Or walk the hillside paths at Marconi Conference Center State Historic Park (Meadow Trail offers the best views of the bay). In 1913, this westward-sloping property was where Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi set up a receiving station and was the first person to retrieve wireless telegraph messages sent through the airwaves from Hawaii and Asia.
Once you settle into Marshall’s slow life, you won’t want to leave. Extend your time in the no-rush zone with a stay at Nick’s Cove, a collection of 1930’s-era bayside bungalows, each decorated in its own funky-chic style with recycled wood and galvanized metal. Play a little bocce ball, rent a paddleboard at the pier, and join your fellow guests for an evening bonfire at the beach—with s’mores, of course.