Bolinas is a town famous for tearing down road signs, road signs that point to Bolinas that is. Located thirty miles north of San Francisco and ten miles west of San Rafael, Bolinas is a notoriously reclusive beach town traditionally populated with artists, eccentrics, writers, hippies and surfers—more recently Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and movie people. The exit to the town is an unmarked road off of Highway One (the sign is regularly stolen by residents who would rather not encourage visitors). Bolinas Lagoon and Stinson Beach are on the east, Bolinas Bay to the south and Olema Valley, Tomales Bay and Point Reyes are just to the north.
The town of Bolinas and Stinson Beach were once part of a huge ranch—a Mexican Land grant that was called Rancho de Baulines (Ranch of the Whales). The town is unincorporated, but receives government services from Marin County. There is, however, a Bolinas Public Utilities District and a Bolinas Fire District to provide local services.
The vibe in Bolinas is decidedly low key, funky and Bohemian. You might think hippy when you first drive into town, but once you really start to look around, you may think again. Although the services are purposefully scarce, there are a few places that accommodate visitors and townsfolk alike; Smiley’s Schooner Saloon and Hotel is a hub, with live music and a thriving bar scene. There is also the Coast Café, the Blue Heron Inn, the Bolinas Bay Bakery and the tiny Bolinas Museum. Despite its limited commercial district, the town attracts a surprising number of famous people looking to enjoy the gorgeous scenery and stay out of the public eye. Town residents include; Frances MacDormand (actress), Joel Coen (director, Coen Brother’s), Alice Waters (chef), Stephen Ratcliffe (poet, playwright), Grace Slick (singer- Jefferson Airplane), Anne Lamott (author), Susie Tompkins Buell (Esprit founder), Magda Cragg (a sculptress and Mother of Huey Lewis), and the list of high profile neighbors goes on and on. When you consider that there are less than 2,500 residents, your chance of running into a celebrity at the General Store (which also serves as the Post Office, Library and Fire Department) is pretty good.
Why are so many well known people hiding out in Bolinas? The town is undeniably charming—this is not your typical California beach town. Bolinas has a personality all its own and magnificent natural surroundings; Alamere Falls are nearby, as is Agate Beach, Muir Woods, Point Reyes National Seashore and Samuel P. Taylor State Park.
If you’re in the market for a Bolinas home, or a vacation getaway, your options will be limited- but interesting to be sure! The town has many different types of properties. From tiny turn of the century cottages with country gardens to uber-modern glass view homes, to quaint farms to gated family compounds.
Bolinas is a very special town, off the beaten track but well worth at least a visit. That is, if you can find it!