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4 Paddling Adventures in Marin County

A paddlers paradise.

By: The Outbound Collective + Save to a List

California's Marin County is edged in by water on three sides, from the wild coastline of Point Reyes National Seashore to the protected waters of the San Pablo Bay. Just minutes from San Francisco, Marin County is the perfect destination for beginners and experienced paddlers alike.

So grab your boat (or rent one!), don't forget your lifejacket, and maybe bring along your binoculars, too. You never know what you'll see from the water!

Drakes Estero

Photo by Aja Pete

Drakes Estero is an underwater Wilderness (yes, that's Wilderness with a capital "W") that is teeming with life. From birds to harbor seals to leopard sharks, there's always something to see as you dip your paddle into one of the most pristine estuaries on the California Coast.

Kayaking and canoeing are permitted from July 1 through February 28 and closed from March 1 to June 30 for harbor seal pup season. 

Tomales Bay

Photo by Alite Designs

Tomales Bay is one of the most popular places to kayak on the western side of Marin County, and it's no wonder. The 15-mile long tidal bay has calm waters, beautiful scenery, and, if you hit your timing right, the lure of a bioluminescent night paddle.

You can also make your trip a multi-day adventure with campsites all along the western coast of the bay (permit required, available from the Bear Valley Visitor Center in Point Reyes National Park).

Corte Madera Creek

Moving over to the eastern side of Marin County, Corte Madera Creek is a protected waterway that is perfect for all kayakers, including beginners. The 2.5-mile route over smooth water makes for a relaxing afternoon, and kayak rentals are available nearby from 101 Surf Sports and Outback Adventures. Bring a picnic lunch and paddle to Piper Park to eat on the dock.

China Camp State Park

Photo by Tyler Drake

There's something for everyone at China Camp State Park on the San Pablo Bay. While the park is often known for mountain biking, those seeking quiet exploration can check out the intertidal salt marsh during high tide, and more adventurous paddlers can access the bigger waters of San Pablo Bay.

Be sure to stop in at the museum to learn more about the history of China Camp, where nearly 500 Cantonese settlers lived and worked in the 1880s.

Looking for more fun in Marin County? Check out 7 Beautiful Spots for Photography in Marin County and Your Guide to Visiting Muir Woods.

Cover photo by Gaby Colletta

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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