Tomales Bay, California

Pt. Reyes from Tomales Point Trail

Pt. Reyes from Tomales Point Trail

A long, narrow inlet along the coast of northern California, Tomales Bay is 15 miles long and one mile wide.  On the west side of the bay is Point Reyes Peninsula, on the east side is the mainland.


Lesser Goldfinch, Pt. Reyes

Lesser Goldfinch, Pt. Reyes

The two land areas flanking the bay lie on different tectonic plates.  Over millenium they have been separated by the frictional movement of the Pacific Plate and North American Plate.


After the big earthquake that destroyed San Francisco in 1906, Point Reyes moved 21 feet north (Wikipedia).


Point Reyes. Courtesy Nat’l Park Service, Wikipedia

See map below.   More Point Reyes info here.


Original Coast Miwok inhabitants  hunted and lived here; eating seaweed and acorns, hunting rabbit, deer, and seasonal salmon.


Thousands of years later, after European seafarers, Russian fur traders, and settlers of all kinds have come through, the area is now a compatible combination of residents, visitors, and ranchers.

Pt. Reyes Tule elk, cow and calf

Pt. Reyes Tule elk, cow and calf


Bobcat, Point Reyes

Bobcat, Point Reyes







As a national park there is no hunting, but visitors still enjoy observing deer, rabbit and small game like the Miwok did, as well as 490 species of birds.


As featured in my previous post, tule elk live in large herds on a protected landscape.


Pt. Reyes, doe and fawn

Pt. Reyes, doe and fawn

Seasonal migration of whale can be spotted at certain times of the year, and northern elephant seals and other marine mammals live here too.


In addition, the Tomales Bay waters are home to small bioluminescent organisms called dinoflagellates.  Info on bioluminescence here.


Wild Amaryllis, aka Naked Ladies

Wild Amaryllis, aka Naked Ladies

The Tomales Bay area has public beaches, numerous trails, kayaking, and many other opportunities for outdoor adventures.


Click here for National Park Service trail guide.


Barn swallow nestlings, Pierce Point Ranch, Pt. Reyes

Barn swallow nestlings, Pierce Point Ranch, Pt. Reyes

Bugling elk, sparkling waters, and the endless expanse of the Pacific Ocean…can’t beat that.


Towns of rural western Marin County. Inverness Park is in violet.

Point Reyes Peninsula, California. Courtesy Wikipedia







Photo credit:  Athena Alexander unless otherwise noted


74 thoughts on “Tomales Bay, California

    • Thanks very much, Morgan. I’m happy to share this beautiful place with you. I’m glad you like the bobcat photo. They are extremely elusive, and Athena hid behind a barn and had a few seconds to photograph before he picked up her scent. I hope you have a delightful week~~

  1. What a magnificent part of the world this is….If I were to return to the States this is where I would want to live. I remember when visiting friends in San Francisco, I was told that there is earthquake activity going on all the time….most of it not detectable by we mere mortals. Point Reyes moving 21 ft north since the 1906 earthquake is amazing. Another superb post – and as always I learn so much. Hope you enjoy a beautiful day Janet:)

    • At Pt. Reyes there is even an earthquake trail. And yes, EQs are always going on, but most of them are not detected in our daily lives. The Bay Area is magnificent. I have lived here over 30 years and there is always somewhere beautiful or interesting to explore. Always a pleasure to exchange words and thoughts with you across the pond, Janet~~

    • We found the barn swallows in the old Pierce Point Ranch barn at the trailhead. The barn is no longer in use, but they leave the doors open and at certain times of the year the swallows are nesting. We felt pretty lucky to find this lively nest, and what a joy to share it with you, Andy. My thanks for your visit and comment.

    • Now I’m chuckling. You make me laugh, Sue. That bobcat was a real treasure to find. They are silent and shy and she just caught it out of her periphery, snuck up on it from behind a barn, and she peered around the corner of the barn and snapped a few before he streaked off.

  2. What a beautiful area, love the photos. I was thinking about kayaking when I saw the images and you confirmed my suspicion – that this must be a popular spot for kayaking:)

    • It is a popular spot for kayaking, you got it, Inger. Some of the bays and inlets here are calm. There are numerous kayak rentals, espec. in the small town of Inverness right on Tomales Bay. You and your husband would like it here, there is much to explore. I’m glad I could share Pt. Reyes with you, maybe if you return to the states you will visit northern Calif.

    • I love to read maps and find them so interesting and grounding. I think you must be a map reader too, Sherry. I am happy you enjoyed the Pt. Reyes post. I have been going here for so long that we have a nice repertoire of beautiful wildlife photos. I am happy to share it with you, Sherry.

    • I have not seen bioluminescence in the water, Simone. But I have seen bioluminescence on earth: glow worms in Australia and in Calif., and fireflies in Illinois and Wisconsin and other parts of the U.S. It always delights me, every single time, and I can see why you aspire to see it. With your strong desire, I imagine you will see this. Thanks so much for your visit today!

  3. Great post Jet!! Wow, the point moved 21 feet, amazing. I’ve read about that 1906 quake, so horrible. Geology and how the plates have moved over millions of years has fascinated me for many years.

    • Yes, it is a testament to the hundreds of years of residents who have lived in the Point Reyes area, because they chose to preserve the area rather than develop it. I enjoyed sharing Pt. Reyes with you, Amy – thank you.

  4. Thanks for sharing your Point Reyes adventures, Jet. I’ve enjoyed reading and looking at the photographs (hats off to Athena – especially for the bobcat!) and now we have another beautiful area we’d like to explore one day. How early can early retirement be…
    Wonderful post!

    • You and Mrs. pc would love hiking Point Reyes, pc. So many picturesque trails and adventures. It can be rainy in winter but not too cold for hiking, esp. when Canada is freezing and snow-covered. I’m happy you enjoyed this little series, and appreciate your kind responses.

  5. I really enjoyed this post. It reminded me of places I explored back in the mid-70s while living in the Bay Area. It’s a great place for exploring. Lucky you to be near enough to visit.

    • Yes, the Bay Area is great for exploring, as you know Gunta. It’s a lot more populated now than in the ’70s, so we often take time off work and adventure on weekdays when there are less people on the trails. Thank you for your visit and kind words, always appreciated~~

    • Yes, the northern Calif., Ore. and Wash. coasts are rich with ruggedness, something I also like a lot. And since Calif. is over the tectonic plates, the geological features, as you say, are interesting and scenic too. Thanks for your visit, Gin.

    • We recently hiked around Drake’s Bay, Nan, and it reminded us of the time years ago we took you there. We tried hiking that day but it was so cold and so windy, we were bent forward just buffeting against the wind; turned around and went to a less-coastal area of the park. ha.

  6. I’m adding this to my destination list for California’s coast, Jet. Your last post on the tule elk and these beautiful photos and post share so much of what Pt Reyes and Tomales Bay have to offer. Love that last shot of the hungry barn swallows!

  7. Amazing photos Jet! I always feel like I get a little bit of an adventure in my day, visiting parts of the world that I may likely never really see when I visit your blog. Thanks for sharing your experiences in this way. It is really incredible. ~Rita

  8. Wonderful post and photos!
    For your readers: Tomales Bay was formed by the San Andreas fault, which continues out to sea to the north and all the way below Los Angeles to the south. The linear trace can be seen clearly on the map.

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