Welcome to Marin County
Marin County is nestled on the peninsula facing San Francisco across the Golden Gate Bridge. It is a desirable location, in part for its proximity to the City, and for the sheer beauty of the county. Marin boasts the highest percentage of protected land in the Bay Area, which gives residents ample opportunity to find views and space aplenty, from sparkling city skylines, lovely Pacific sunsets, and rugged coastlines to miles of hiking, biking, and running trails.
Marin has a long history as a suburb, dating back to the days before the bridges were built. Many residents work outside of the county. As technology, healthcare, media, entertainment, food, and hospitality industries continue to thrive, some companies have relocated or opened up satellite offices in Marin and nearby counties. The economy is strong. The local shopping, dining, hospitality, educational, cultural, and recreational offerings reflect that. West Marin continues to support local agriculture, and Marin has an active restaurant and grocery scene, which takes full advantage of the vibrant local produce coming out of the local farms, ranches, cheese makers and dairies, and grape growers.
The lay of the land
Marin County shares its northern border with Sonoma County. The county has water on three sides, with the Pacific Ocean and Tomales Bay to the west, San Francisco and San Pablo Bays to the east, and the channel underneath the Golden Gate to the south. A combination of open space, watershed, and park lands link together to create a wide swath of open space that runs north, most dramatically with the Marin Headlands that soar out of the ocean and tower over the Golden Gate Bridge up to Mount Tamalpais and its surrounding parkland. The Point Reyes Seashore juts out into the Pacific. Further north, Mount Burdell provides Novato residents with views and vistas.
With 260,750 residents (according to the U.S. Census’ 2014 estimates) in the county, Marin has the second smallest population in the Bay Area spread out among 520 square miles (the third smallest in the Bay Area and the fourth smallest in the state), Novato is the largest city. San Rafael is the county seat. The bulk of the county population has settled in communities along the 101 corridor and the bay side, including Sausalito, Mill Valley, and Tiburon in the south, Corte Madera, Larkspur and San Rafael centrally, and Novato to the north. The remaining residents are spread out among smaller villages, beach towns, and valley hamlets in West Marin, such as Muir Beach, Stinson Beach, Point Reyes Station, Inverness, Marshall, Nicasio, Woodacre, and Lagunitas.
Two main highways traverse the county (1 and 101). Marin has direct access to the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge, connecting to the East Bay and San Francisco. Golden Gate Transit runs buses and ferries. Ferry terminals are in Larkspur and Sausalito, and are used by locals and visitors alike. The ferries running to AT&T Park when the Giants are in town are very popular and sell out quickly. The SMART train and pathway project is under construction and will connect Marin and Sonoma County from Larkspur to Cloverdale. Phase 1 is slated for completion in late 2016.
Marin County’s award-winning schools enroll nearly 33,000 students in 76 schools within 19 school districts. A variety of Catholic, parochial, secular, and other independent schools are available.
Higher education offerings include the College of Marin, part of the state community college program, Dominican College, two Theological seminaries, and the Ali Akbar College of Music in San Rafael.
Although Marin’s professional sports are limited to San Rafael’s minor league baseball team, the San Rafael Pacifics, you’ll find plenty of ardent sports fans supporting the other Bay Area teams.
The Marin Civic Center was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and holds a distinctive spot in the hills north of San Rafael. It houses the Marin Symphony and hosts a variety of internationally known speakers and performers, as well as a local farmer’s market. The county has other cultural offerings, including the Mill Valley Film Festival, and repertory theater companies such as the Marin Theatre Company and the Ross Valley Players.
For live entertainment, options vary. The Marin Center has larger headliners, while the Sweetwater Music Hall & Café, Terrapin Crossroads, and Rancho Nicasio offer afford a more intimate vibe. Even smaller clubs in Fairfax, San Rafael, and Sausalito have live music most nights.
More than 40 spots are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A few highlights to consider: Muir Woods National Monument, the Outdoor Art Club in Mill Valley, which was built in 1904 and designed by Bernard Maybeck, Point Bonita Light Station, West Point on Mount Tam, the Sausalito Women’s Club, the Dipsea Trail in Mill Valley, and Rancho Olompali north of Novato.
The great outdoors
Marin is the birthplace of mountain biking, and you’ll find a series of single-track trails to ride at Camp Tamarancho in Fairfax or China Camp in northern San Rafael.
Mount Tamalpais State Park is the most obvious choice for hiking and has trails that will satisfy everyone. The views from East Peak are spectacular, with Bolinas Ridge and the Pacific, the hills of the East Bay heading toward Mount Diablo, and the headlands rolling to the Golden Gate and the city to the south. Even on foggy days the scenery is impressive.
Visitors take full advantage of the easy walking trails in the wildly popular giant redwoods at Muir Woods National Monument.
If you’re looking for rocky trails and remote beaches, head west to the Point Reyes National Seashore or the dramatic views and plunging slopes of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
For camping and hiking along a lovely creek, Samuel P. Taylor Park is a popular destination.
Angel Island, which sits across Raccoon Strait from downtown Tiburon and is accessible by a small ferry, provides 360 degree views of the bay. There are paths for cycling and running, and a handful of campsites that book up well in advance. The island is also a National Monument for its role as an immigration station and, briefly, an internment camp.
Cities Located in Marin County
- Corte Madera
- Dillon Beach
- Mill Valley
- Muir Beach
- Pt. Reyes Station
- San Anselmo
- San Geronimo
- San Rafael
- San Quentin
- Stinson Beach
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