The 9 Best Things To Do in Stinson Beach With Kids (2024)

Looking for the best things to do in Stinson Beach with kids? I just visited over the weekend with my sons and I have all the details you need to know about what to do while you’re there.

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’d heard about Stinson Beach from so many people. I’ve wanted to visit for years, but the weather never cooperated when I was in the area.

So, when I saw that it was going to be 75 and sunny one weekend, I planned a trip to visit right away.

Stinson Beach is perfect for a beach day if you’re in the Bay Area and need to escape the craziness for a day. When we visited, we spent the day in Stinson Beach, then ventured off to San Francisco for the rest of the weekend so we could get the best of both worlds.

If you want a really relaxing getaway, you can stay a night or two to really get some peace and quiet. If you do, there’s only one hotel—so book it now!

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.

Even though it’s small, there’s still quite a few things to do in Stinson Beach, so check out my list and the rest of my guide so you can plan your trip.

Exploring the Northern Coast and want to check out Santa Cruz too? Check out my Santa Cruz guide! 

Key Takeaways

  •  Stinson Beach is a small beach town right outside of San Francisco. It’s a great spot for a calm beach day for the family. 
  • A few of the best things to do in Stinson Beach are to visit the beach, walk around the downtown area, enjoy a meal on the water, or visit the Griffin Preserve. 
  • If you’d like to stay overnight, the only hotel option is the Sandpiper Hotel. 
one of the best things to do in stinson beach is view the beautiful pacific ocean

Table of Contents

Where to Stay

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.

✅  Check prices and book your stay at the Sandpiper Lodging by clicking here!

Want extra space? There are a number of rental houses as well!
✅ Check prices out and book here!

Best Things To Do in Stinson Beach

1. Beach

One of the best things to do in Stinson Beach is definitely the beach!
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 the neighboring rental shops, and the lifeguards have volleyball nets you can use.

Amenities: FREE parking lot, picnic tables, restrooms, cold water showers, and lifeguards during the summer.

one of the best things to do in stinson beach with kids is to hit the beach!

TIPS:

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 beach showers near the restrooms, 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.

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 when we got there, I didn’t notice anything. Apparently, it’s temporarily closed 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.

2. Take a Surfing Lesson

Really enjoy your day at the beach and take a surfing lesson! The waves aren’t too powerful so it’s a good place to learn for beginners. And since the beach is such a big draw to the area, there are a few spots where you can get a lesson.
You can choose from private and group lessons. They’re usually a couple of hours so long enough to really get into it, but not too long that it’ll take up your whole beach day.

Check out Stinson Beach Surf and Kayak or Marin Outdoor Adventure. Both have great reviews and are next door to each other next to the beach. Stinson Beach Surf Camp also offers lessons and even has a kid’s summer surf camp!
And if you’re not into surfing, the shops also offer kayaks, boogie boards, and even bike tours.

3. Walk around Downtown

Stinson Beach has a small but cute little downtown area a short walk from the beach. It has such a unique vibe, like you’re going back in time.

Downtown is made up of a few boutique shops, restaurants, art galleries, a book store, and a general store. The surf shops are also here.

Exploring the downtown area is one of the best things to do in Stinson Beach, but the town is a little sleepy, so everything besides the restaurants close by 5pm.

4. Enjoy a Beachside Meal

One of the best things to do in Stinson Beach is eat! The food is delicious.
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 on one side. We ate here and enjoyed it.

On the other side is Parkside Snack Bar, known for its quick eats like burgers, fries, fish tacos, and ice cream, plus a small market, and a bakery. Bodega Stinson Beach also offers great for grab-and-go food options plus a market—and life size chess!

Breakers Cafe, a family-friendly cafe with Latin inspired food and a huge outdoor patio, is raved about by anyone that’s visited.

one of the best things to do in stinson beach is check out the adorable downtown area

5. Take a Break at the Park

If you want to get the kids energy out after the beach or eating, head over to Village Green Park (right next to Parkside). The park serves as the town square of Stinson Beach.

There’s a playground and a turf area to run around on. For parents, there are picnic tables and benches (some covered) to relax on.

If you come prepared with a ball, you can also shoot some hoops at the basketball court.

one of the best things to do in stinson beach with kids is to play at the local playground

6. Visit Marvin Griffin Preserve

If you’re a nature lover, this is your spot. It’s a 1,000 acre wildlife sanctuary for hiking, birdwatching, and educational programs.

It’s home to a variety of wildlife and plant communities for you to observe, and it’s a very popular spot to go birdwatching.

There are two main trails in the preserve, Picher Canyon Trail and Griffin Creek Trail. Picher is a 2-mile loop trail that goes through redwood forests and coastal scrub. Griffin Creek is 1-mile that follows Griffin Creek through grassland and redwood forests.

It’s open during the weekend from the end of March to beginning of July. Check out more info here.

7. Chill at Bolinas Lagoon

Right behind the beach is an estuary where the ocean water mixes with the water from Mt. Tamalpais watershed—peaceful Bolinas Lagoon. If you want quiet, this is your spot.

Since it’s protected from the ocean waves, it’s a great spot for little ones to splash around and jump in the water. You might see people kayaking there too.

The lagoon is also a spot to see birds and sea animals like otters, leopard sharks, and the well-known sea lions.

8. Take a Hike

So, if you’ve read most of my posts, you 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 info about hikes in the area here.

9. Relax!

Stinson Beach is known for being a laid-back town. Take advantage of the peace and quiet and RELAX.

Spend some time on the beach enjoying the waves or take a slow bike ride around town to take in the beautiful scenery.

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.

windy road to stinson beach

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! 

FAQs: Best Things To Do in Stinson Beach

Is Stinson Beach worth visiting?

Heck yes Stinson Beach is worth visiting! It is one of the most popular beaches in the San Francisco Bay Area, and for good reason. The beach has a long stretch of white sand, clear waters, and stunning views of the Pacific Ocean. It’s a great place for swimming, lounging, surfing, and hiking.

 

Can you swim in Stinson Beach?

Yes, you can swim in Stinson Beach. The water is usually cold, but refreshing on a hot day. Just be aware of the tides and currents, as they can be strong. If you are not a strong swimmer, stay in the shallow water.

 

Is Stinson Beach walkable?

Very! Stinson Beach is a compact town so everything is within a short walk. The beach is about 2.5 miles long and right next to it is the charming downtown area. You don’t have to go far to experience all the great things Stinson Beach has to offer!

 

Is there a fee for Stinson Beach?

Nope! Parking and use of the beach are FREE. 

Wrapping Up: Best Things To Do in Stinson Beach

Stinson Beach is a beautiful beach with plenty of activities to enjoy for the whole family. Whether you want to swim, sunbathe, surf, hike, or have a picnic, you’re sure to find something to do at Stinson Beach.

We absolutely loved our time there and I hope that if you visit, you do too! 

MEET BESA

Your Go-To Girl for Beach Travel

Hi! I’m Besa. I’ve always been a travel-loving beach bum… and then I had kids. Two boys, born 19 months apart. But I didn’t let that stop me. I still travel, even with a couple little boys in tow – and I want to help other parents like you do the same!

I’ll be sharing all my travel tips, beach hacks, and guides for some of my favorite family vacation beach spots.

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Besa has been a frequent traveler for almost 20 years, and the last five years of her travels have included her two toddler boys, 19 months apart.
Years of flying and beach bumming with her kids has given her plenty of hard-earned experience in the travel world.

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