Stinson Beach is less than an hour away from San Francisco, but the small, calm beach town seems like a world away from the bustling city.
Living in Northern California, I’ve heard about the beach from so many people. I’ve wanted to visit for years, but the weather never cooperated when I looked. So, when I saw that it was going to be 75 and sunny, I immediately planned the trip!
Stinson Beach is a teeny, tiny town so it’s perfect for a great beach day if you’re in the Bay Area and need to escape the craziness for a day. Or if you want a really relaxing getaway, you can stay a night or two to really get some peace and quiet.
One note before you think of heading over—the weather is a very important factor for Stinson Beach. Not only check the temperature but check the wind report too. Anything over 10mph will not be pleasant.
Getting to Stinson Beach with Kids
To get the Stinson, you hit (the famous!) Highway 1 towards Mill Valley/Stinson Beach. You’ll follow that until you hit the beach! It’s a very windy, steep road to get down there, but the views of the woods, cliffs, and ocean are amazing. There are plenty of pull-out spots to take in the beautiful views and snap some pictures.
Getting Around Stinson Beach with Kids
Like I mentioned, the town is tiny so once you get there, you can park your car and forget about it. Walking is your best bet because everything is so close. You can also rent a bike and cruise around town, but note that you won’t be able to get too far unless you like steep roads!
Where to Stay in Stinson Beach with Kids
Sandpiper Lodging—The only hotel option in the area, it’s quaint and cozy. It’s right next to the beach and there are choices of cottages with full kitchens or single rooms. Beach chairs and toys are provided.
There are a number of rental houses as well. Check them out here.
What to Do in Stinson Beach with Kids
The sands are white and super soft, and the beach goes on for 3 miles. It’s long AND wide, so there is plenty of room to stretch out. (It’s one of the very few Northern California beaches with white sand!) The water is shallow and the waves were pretty calm when we went but they did get a little aggressive from time to time—it’s still one of the best swimming beaches in the area though.
You can rent kayaks or surf boards at neighboring Stinson Beach Surf and Kayak. The lifeguards have volleyball nets you can use as well.
Amenities: FREE parking lot, picnic tables, restrooms, cold water showers, and lifeguards during the summer.
It’s a pretty big parking area— it’s like three medium sized lots that are connected. BUT I can imagine it filling up FAST on a warm weekend, so be sure to come early (like before noon). Street parking is very limited, so there’s really no overflow parking.
There are two showers, high and low faucets on both. When we went, one shower was broken and the other one just had the lower faucet working and it was weak. Don’t expect to get a good wash off.
There used to be a food shack right on the beach, Siren Canteen. In all of the reviews I read, everyone raved about it! But we got there, and I didn’t notice anything. I looked it up and read that it was temporarily closed! After some Googling, I found out that it’s closed for renovations and won’t be back until 2026. Bummer! So bring lots of snacks and then head over to the restaurants when you’re done at the beach.
The day that we went there were a LOT of birds. A local told me that it wasn’t normal and only happened once every few years, but something to be wary of. As soon as we would go into the water, the seagulls would try to find food in our bags. Once I laid our towels over our stuff they stopped coming around.
Walk around town
It’s a tiny, compact town—some would even call it sleepy. It’s made up of a few shops and restaurants, art galleries, and a general store. Everything besides the restaurants close by 5, so plan accordingly.
Right next to the beach is Parkside—it’s made up of Parkside Café, serving delicious breakfast, lunch, and dinner on a beautiful outdoor patio with string lights and lots of greenery, Parkside Snack Bar, known for its quick eats like burgers, fries, fish tacos, and ice cream, plus a small market, and a bakery.
PLUS, right across the street from Parkside is an adorable playground. This is perfect to get some energy out before or after eating.
Breakers Café, a family-friendly locally owned café with Latin inspired food and a huge outdoor patio, is also raved about by anyone that has visited.
So you all know that I’m not much of a hiker, but Stinson Beach is SUCH a beautiful area and there are many easy hikes to be able to enjoy the beauty. (There’s also not THAT much to do in this tiny town so why not, right?)
The adjoining Mount Tamalpais State Park has many trails that go through it and leads to beautiful panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean and the coastline.
Or you can hit the beach and hike the Stinson Beach Trail. It’s about 4 miles (out and back) and should take a little over an hour.
A little bit tougher, Cataract Falls gives you views of waterfalls through the whole hike! It’s about 3 miles (out and back) and mostly shaded, but has a high elevation.
Check out more information about hikes in the area here: https://www.alltrails.com/us/california/stinson-beach
Have you been to Stinson Beach? Let me know in the comments!