The Bay Area’s Best Kept Secret

Tiburon

It’s not hard to sell a weekend in Tiburon—lovely weather, 360 degree views of all of the bay bridges, accommodations on the water, high end restaurants from star restauranters including Michael Mina—it’s all here for a beautiful weekend away. Tucked onto the northside of the San Francisco Bay, this quaint seaside town is bursting with local flavor. There’s a little bit of outdoor adventure, a little bit of serenity, and a lot of good food just a short trek away from the bay, and the surroundings are sure to tantalize all of your senses, from the sounds of waves lapping at your doorstep to the aromas of fresh fish getting served up at the local eateries. Step into this stunning escape and get lost in the small-town charm as you dine on seafood favorites, hike to new heights, and spend long evenings taking in the scenery off the Tiburon Peninsula.

Take in the Sights
It never gets too cold in Tiburon, or too hot for that matter. Located on the San Francisco Bay, rolling fog blankets the town, cooling it from top to bottom. But when the fog clears away and the sunshine peaks through, the true beauty of the peninsula comes alive. From the water to the mountains, there’s plenty of ways to explore the varied terrain. We recommend starting with a trip to Angel Island, a short ferry ride away from the small downtown stretch of Tiburon. Ride over (it takes about 15 minutes) and prepare for an excursion. The best views are proffered on the more difficult hikes. A map guides the way for several trails; a favorite takes visitors to the top of Angel Island where they catch 360 degree views of the bay, and you can glimpse all three Bay bridges from one spot. Pack a lunch to enjoy at the picnic tables located at the top, but don’t underestimate the trek. The hike is about 3.5 miles to the peak of Mt. Livermore and starts with 144 stairs along the perimeter trail at the bottom. From there, it’s a steady climb to 788 feet.

There are other things to do on the island. Guided tours offer up history of the former military installation. Or you can rent (or bring your own) bikes to explore off-foot. From 1910-1940, an operational immigration station—now a historical landmark—processed more than 175,000 Chinese immigrants, and is now marked as a historic landmark. If you want to hike but don’t want to over-exert yourself, choose the path more traveled. A 5.5 mile perimeter trail will take you all the way around the island without the heavy uphill.

Lunch is served at a small eatery and gift shop that stocks sandwiches, beers, and hot dogs near where the ferry lets off. Some days, live music is played on the deck where patrons can enjoy it as they grub and toss back a post-hike brew. Hang around for a bit before catching the ferry back (you can see them come in from the deck).

If you haven’t figured it out yet, Tiburon is all about the views. Its unique juxtaposition means it’s easy to find a golden gate backdrop for just about any Instagram photo you take. The Hippie Tree is a tourist spot ideal for snapping a few photos. Take a quick walk—it’s dirt so dress accordingly—up Gilmartin Drive (it’s best to park around 100 Gilmartin Drive) and walk up the fire road until you hit a towering eucalyptus (and probably a LOT of other tourists). Several swings hang from the high branches, and if you pick the one in the middle toward the front, you can snap a photo overlooking the bay waters with no other swingers in view. Expert Tip: Before you leave, get a few shots in front of the bridge. Here, the scenery does all of the work.

Another way to enjoy the endless views of Tiburon is on Paradise Drive. The road hugs the water as you loop around, trekking a few miles out from downtown. This is a good place for spotting animals in the water, from dolphins to sea lions dipping and diving off the shoreline.

If you’re in the area, don’t skip the opportunity to get on the water. Bring your own kayak or paddleboard and launch off a neighboring dock or grab a couple of rentals from a nearby spot (San Francisco, Sausalito, or San Rafael). Sea Trek, in Sausalito, will likely be the closet rental shop to you.

Sleep Like Royalty
The best view in all of Tiburon may just be at the Water’s Edge Hotel. The name perfectly describes the boutique hotel, perched on a historic dock overlooking the bay. While many rooms proffer their own views on private balconies, the upstairs deck, washed in sunshine on a clear day, is the ideal spot to take in a sunrise or sunset. Complimentary coffee and breakfast delivered to your room each morning can be taken to the outdoor space, complete with cushy couches and large umbrellas, and wine can be enjoyed in the evenings, as those painted orange and pink skies give way to a landscape filled with twinkling stars above a lineup of sailboats. When allowed, the hotel ups the ante on extras, providing a wine reception for guests to enjoy local bottles and small snacks on the rooftop deck.

While the views are just about the only reason you need to stay at this luxurious hotel, the location is its other big draw. Not many hotels take up waterfront property on the bay, but Water’s Edge is one of the lucky few. Not to mention its Main Street address means its smack dab in the middle of all the action (which is sometimes a lot and sometimes a little depending on when you visit). It’s easy to walk to dinner or a champagne and caviar nightcap before heading back to the hotel for a deep slumber. In the mornings, breakfast is right outside and when you’re ready to explore outside of Tiburon, the ferry station is a stone’s throw away. 25 Main St.

Fill Your Stomach
There are many places to delight your senses in Tiburon. Make room to taste the local bounty while you’re in town, from grab-and-go lunches and coastal wine to patio beers and fresh catches. You can most likely spot Servino Ristorante from the comfort of your bed. Also on Main Street, the Italian eatery has ample seating, including an upstairs deck you won’t want to miss. It’s hard to pass up an opportunity to order calamari anytime you’re close to the water. The Monterey Calamari here—large fried rings—is served with an herbed aioli and marinara sauces for dipping as well as a lemon wedge. Pacifico Shrimp and the Polpettine (lamb meatballs) also make excellent starters. For your entrée, however, we recommend diving into one of the hand-made pastas, bursting will complex flavor profiles and truly all standouts on the menu. 9 Main St.

Michael Mina also recently put his horse in the Tiburon restaurant race. Next to Servino, the upper deck boasts the same sweeping San Francisco Bay views. Dubbed Bungalow Kitchen, the hotspot is new to Tiburon, bringing with it the shiny reputation of Michael Mina’s many eateries and a collaboration with nightlife mogul Brent Bolthouse (of The Hills fame). The long-term plan is to unveil a social dining experience for guests, with fare that stands up to Mina’s other ventures.

If you’re daring enough to leave the one square mile you’ve been exploring, we can’t say enough good things about Rustic Bakery. You may endure a line, but it’s well worth the wait. The shop sells delicious baked goods to take home by the box as well as fresh made breakfast and lunch dishes. The avocado toast is simple yet elegant, a thick slice of Rustic bread, topped with smashed avocados and Maldon salt. The breakfast panini, served on warmed focaccia bread with organic eggs, French ham, and cheese is another worthy option. Not to mention the long lineup of pastries, made fresh daily. 1550 Tiburon Blvd.

Another undeniable breakfast gem is Sam’s Anchor Café. This one located just steps from the hotel’s front door, is easy to get to. Stroll in for a leisurely brunch. When weather is nice, which is practically always, ask for a spot outdoors to enjoy the activity on the water as you sip cocktails on the wood deck, soaking up all of the nautical vibes we’ve come to expect from television shows about coastal towns. Oyster lovers will rejoice at the fresh servings of these slippery delicacies, while those looking for a cocktail will undoubtedly enjoy the mixed slushies concocted in a variety of rotating flavors that reach beyond most go-to mixes. 27 Main St.

Caffe Accri, which may be undergoing a name change but keeping its location, is the casual lunch stop of your dreams. Either stop by for a coffee on your way out to explore, create a picnic basket of goodies from the available paninis and snacks, or nosh on one of the other offerings from smoothies to baked goods for breakfast or lunch. 1 Main St.

Slip into the City
While Tiburon is a destination on its own, one of its charms is its close proximity to the city. If you have time to spare, slip into San Francisco for a few hours. A trip over the Golden Gate Bridge will land you in some of the city’s more elegant neighborhoods where you can play tourist at the Full House house (1709 Broderick St.), take a twisty ride down Lombardi Street (famous for its eight hairpin turns in a city block), or check out the Painted Ladies, the infamous row of pastel-colored Victorian homes across the street from Alamo Square.

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