Lodging options are fairly limited in the Marin Headlands. Options run toward hostels and campgrounds, along with one lonely posh inn. Many luxury-minded travelers choose to stay in Tiburon or Sausalito, while budget-motel seekers head for San Rafael.
While camping might sound appealing, it requires some planning. It can be foggy, cold, and windy in July and August (or any other month) in Marin. So bring your warm camping gear if you plan to seek out one of the precious few campsites in the Marin Headlands.
The most popular and biggest campground in the region is Kirby Cove (877/444-6777, www.recreation.gov, reservations required). Secluded and shaded campsites provide a beautiful respite from the busy world. Do make your reservations well in advance for summer weekends, since this popular campground fills up fast.
The Bicentennial Campground (Battery Wallace parking lot, 415/331-1540) boasts a whopping three campsites, each easily accessible from the parking lot. Each site can accommodate two people maximum, and there’s no water or fires allowed on-site. A nearby picnic area has barbecue grills that campers can use to cook themselves a nice hot dinner.
On the opposite end of the accessibility spectrum, you’ll find the Hawk Campground (415/331-1540). The three-site (four people per) campground sits a two-mile hike up from the Tennessee Valley trailhead. Your reward for the work of packing in all your gear and water is a near-solitary camping experience that lets you kick back and get to know the wilderness surrounding you. Amenities include chemical toilets, but no water or fires.
Travelers who want budget accommodations indoors often choose the Marin Headlands Hostel (Fort Barry Bldg. 941, 415/331-2777, www.norcalhostels.org/marin, $22 dorm bed, $60 private room). You’ll find full kitchen facilities, Internet access, laundry rooms, and a rec room—all the amenities you’d expect from a high-end U.S. hotel. Surprisingly cozy and romantic, the hostel is sheltered in the turn of the (last) century buildings of Fort Barry, creating a unique atmosphere. And of course, with the Headlands right outside your door and 24-hour access to all registered guests, no visitor lacks in activities or exploration opportunities here.
One fine Marin lodging rests inside The Pelican Inn (10 Pacific Way, Muir Beach, 415/383-6000, www.pelicaninn.com, $215). Inside the Tudor structure, the guest room decor continues the historic ambiance, with big beam construction, canopy beds, and historic portrait prints. The seven mostly small rooms each come with private bathrooms and a full English-style breakfast, but no televisions or telephones. The Pelican Inn is a perfect spot to unplug, disconnect, and truly get away from it all.
© Liz Hamill Scott from Moon California, 2nd Edition