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A drive out of the city and across the Golden Gate Bridge takes you to a completely different landscape. Rugged cliffs, beautiful grassy meadows and a diversity of wildlife: welcome to Point Reyes National Seashore, a park filled with countless biking and hiking trails and a 130-kilometre-long coastline for enjoying fresh sea breezes. And all of this at only a stone’s throw from the city.
President John F. Kennedy declared Point Reyes a National Park in 1962. Apart from its natural beauty, the park also has historic significance. Around 5,000 years ago, this was the home of the Coast Miwok Indians. It’s been said that the English explorer Sir Francis Drake went ashore here in 1579 and put Point Reyes on the map.
Point Reyes is known as one of the foggiest places in the United States of America. During the summer, the fog can become so thick that visibility is no more than a few metres – hence the lighthouse . For more than a century, the lighthouse cast its light over the ocean waves, but was replaced by automated light in 1975. The old lighthouse is now one of the top attractions at Point Reyes. A 310-step stairway takes you down to the rocky outcrop that is the most western point of the park. During the months of April, May and June, it’s the perfect place to spot whales migrating north along the coast.
A unique section of the park is the Tule Elk Preserve at Tomales Point, where a large herd of rare tule elk roam. This species was more or less extinct by the end of the 19th century. In 1978, a small herd was released at Tomales Point, after which the elk multiplied rapidly. There are now 450 living at Point Reyes National Seashore. July, August and September are the mating months, when volunteers inform curious visitors about the elk and their habits.
With ever-present wind and water temperatures that rarely rise above 10 degrees Celsius, sunbathing is not particularly recommended here. You’re better off focusing on the nature, as the coastline offers breathtakingly beautiful landscapes. Every beach has its own highlights. At Wildcat Beach, for instance, 2 waterfalls crash from the cliff face directly into the ocean and, at Palomarin Beach, there are lots of tide pools to explore during low tide, filled with colourful starfish. A stroll on the beach has never been so varied!