If you don’t know it’s there, it’s entirely possible to miss it. Nestled into the North Bay and just minutes north of San Francisco across the Golden Gate Bridge, this Marin County town provides stunning views and a slower pace of life. Whether you’re looking for a subtle home base from which to visit San Francisco or want to fully embrace the quiet opulence in this bayfront town, Tiburon—less than two hours from Sacramento (if you can avoid traffic)—makes a great weekend getaway. A bonus: Summer in Tiburon is chilly in comparison to Sacramento, so you can play outside all day long.
Take a Stroll
Tiburon offers a small downtown, one that is sometimes closed to traffic in order to create a pedestrian-friendly experience and cater to events in the plaza. Wander through the boutiques in HISTORIC ARK ROW—many in old ark boats—and enjoy the plaza’s fountain glorifying the town’s sailing roots with its shifting-sails sculpture.
Take the OLD RAIL TRAIL from downtown out Tiburon Boulevard to BLACKIE’S PASTURE, where stands a statue erected in honor of a swaybacked retired cavalry horse named Blackie, who grazed here for 28 years. Another worthy walking path, PARADISE DRIVE is one you shouldn’t skip. Sprawling grassy lawns beckon families with kids and dogs to the shoreline by PARADISE BEACH PARK, where dolphins may be spotted playfully jumping in and out of the water and sea lions bark in the distance. It’s also an easy spot to eat a picnic lunch, laid out on the grass or on a park bench.
Angel Island, accessible via a 15-minute ferry ride from Tiburon’s quaint and bustling downtown, makes a great day trip. The best views are found at the end of the island’s more difficult hikes, notably the MOUNT LIVERMORE TRAIL. There are two ways to head up; the more strenuous requires a climb up 144 wooden stairs. Once at the top—and after a 788-foot incline—you’ll be able to see three bay bridges at once: Golden Gate, Bay and Richmond. If you brought food, enjoy a picnic—or just a beer—at the top of the mountain and admire 360-degree views before you head back down. You’ll clock 3.5 miles by the time you hit the bottom again.
While you’re on the island, grab a bite at the food shack near the ferry terminal (serving sandwiches, hot dogs and brews).
Sometimes there’s live music. Or keep your journey going. Many people like to explore the historic side of Angel Island, with an immigration station that was an inspection and detection center from 1910 to 1940. There is a renovated barracks museum on-site and tram tours, complete with history lessons, that cruise the perimeter of the island (a 5.5 mile trek you can also make on foot). The upside is that after a couple of years of at least partial closures, everything on the island is operational again.
Snap a Photo
The views in Tiburon are a big part of its appeal. So what’s one of the best places to take a photo for your Instagram? Tourists (and locals) like to get dressed up and visit the HIPPIE TREE, a towering eucalyptus decorated with ornamental wooden swings. There’s not one—as it may appear in photos—but rather several dangling from the sturdy branches. A shot swinging your feet out into the abyss is worth getting a boost up into the tree. It’s almost
guaranteed, however, that you won’t be alone, which can be a negative since you’ll have to wait in line to get your shot, but also a positive as you’ll always have another eager tourist nearby to take the photo for you. Find the tree near 100 Gilmartin Drive (off Tiburon Boulevard); park and walk the fi re road up the hill.
Dubbed “the culinary coast” by the town’s visitors bureau, Tiburon has a restaurant scene that is decidedly coastal—equal parts high end and laidback. Longtime favorite SAM’S ANCHOR CAFÉ affords one of the best views in town from its bay-view deck on Main Street—the best spot to catch a sunset.
In the morning, RUSTIC BAKERY on Tiburon Boulevard serves fresh coffees and baked goods as well as a collection of impressive, house-made breakfast entrées. You can grab it to go or head to the back patio to enjoy your food. The avocado toast involves a thick slice of rustic bread topped with smashed avocado and Maldon salt. The breakfast panini stacks scrambled organic farm eggs with French ham, melted cave-aged Gruyere and provolone on focaccia. The vanilla pecan granola parfait layers seasonal fruit with Straus Family Creamery vanilla yogurt and granola—it will satisfy any sweet tooth.
For lunch, one of Tiburon’s newer restaurants, FLYBIRD, gives fried chicken center stage. Chicken sandwiches come in a variety of flavors including Mexico City (black bean, avocado, cabbage slaw, pickled radish, cotija cheese and chipotle aïoli), Seoul (Asian slaw, pickled daikon, shiso, sesame mayo and gochujang pepper sauce) and Hot Classic (Nashville- and Buffalo-style with cabbage and carrot slaw, bread-and-butter pickles and sauce.
Tiburon shines at dinnertime. With an outdoor deck offering stunning bay views, THE BUNGALOW KITCHEN has taken the community by storm, drawing crowds across the water from San Francisco to dine in award-winning chef Michael Mina’s Tiburon dining room on Main Street. Mina and hospitality veteran Brent Bolthouse co-own the restaurant, which opened in Fall 2021. Get cozy on plush chairs as you order Kaluga caviar and truffle-yellowtail sashimi. On weekends, stay for late-night bites and cocktails. A DJ is known to stop by and play to the crowd, but a thoughtfully designed speaker system means patrons can enjoy the music without struggling to have a conversation over the noise.
Other notable eateries include SALT & PEPPER, specializing in seafood, meats and wine; CAFFE ACRI, with fabulous sandwiches for picnics; and LUNA BLU, which features seafood forward Italian fare.
Lay Your Head
Perhaps the most important decision you’ll make while staying in Tiburon is where to sleep. There isn’t an abundance of options for overnight guests, but there are two specifically that strike our fancy.
Located near Main Street’s shopping, WATERS EDGE boutique hotel offers 23 rooms, all with fireplaces and soaking tubs, many with balconies that overlook the bay. Its communal outside deck is where we want to spend most of our free time in Tiburon. Cozy up on a couch with a glass of wine and watch the stars twinkle above the docked boats. On a clear night, you can see across the water to sparkling city lights in the distance, flanked by the eye-catching bridges that make up Tiburon’s unique backdrop. Over coffee in the morning, it feels like a completely different view.
THE LODGE AT TIBURON is a classic full-service hotel with a pool, newly renovated rooms and on-site restaurants. It’s a bit farther from the action but still only a five-minute drive from downtown, and the extra amenities may be appealing, especially to families with small children.
Across the Water
While there is certainly enough to keep yourself entertained for a weekend in Tiburon, the glittering high-rises across the bay may still beckon you for a visit. Ferry service makes it easy. Until 11 p.m. Thursday through Sunday, you can catch a ride between downtown Tiburon and the Ferry Building or Pier 39 in San Francisco.
Opening This Summer
Tiburon, like much of the Bay Area, continues to evolve. While The Bungalow Kitchen and Flybird are still new and the return of more robust ferry service and downtown events is still front-page news (after being shuttered for so long during the pandemic), there is more to come to this quaint seaside town.
On the horizon, CINELOUNGE has plans to open in late summer. The theater will play movies, new and old, while serving alcoholic and nonalcoholic drinks. The real draw, however, just might be the lineup of gourmet popcorn, including movie-specific versions such as Popcorn of the Living Dead (cinnamon churro popcorn with salted pretzels) and Once Upon a Time in Popcorn (mesquite-smoked cheddar).
SERVINO RISTORANTE (with the same owners as Caffe Acri) plans to reopen this summer. The long-standing Tiburon restaurant most recently served Italian fare next door to The Bungalow Kitchen but is returning to its original home base on Ark Row. In its place, MALIBU FARMS, a farm-to-table New American eatery, will become Bungalow’s newest neighbor.