Dillon Beach for Family Get Togethers

Location: Dillon Beach, California (about 90 minutes north of San Francisco)
Length of hike to secluded beach: 1 mile to secluded beach from end of Oceana Drive

When I was about a year old my parents bought a beat up old station wagon and drove across the US from New York to California visiting as many National Parks along the way. They thought that this would be their last time ever in America (they were so wrong about that) before heading back to Japan so they went all out and did everything and went everywhere they could think of. They fell in love with the beauty of the National Park system and they often to this day talk of them as America’s greatest treasure. Camping back then in the “olden days” was a different experience when everything was big and heavy and it took serious work to set up camp. But they did it because they were young and full of energy (even with a one year old!) and everyday was an adventure. Nowadays, my parents aren’t the first ones (nor the last) to volunteer to come with us camping, but they do like to get away and enjoy nature. This usually means renting a house somewhere with a view or surrounding nature area and inviting all the family, especially the grandkids!

Right about this time a few years ago my dad suggested we rent a beach house somewhere on the coast of California for the Fourth of July weekend. Really? July Fourth is next month! A quick search on VRBO confirmed my suspicions that beach houses that are big enough to accommodate 11 people were completely booked up already, especially during a holiday weekend. Many houses were even booked solid for the entire summer. We were about to give up when we found a bunch of listings in Dillon Beach. Why? The pictures of these houses on VRBO showed amazing houses with sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean. The town is south of Bodega Bay and North of Tomales. We really had no other options, so we decided to give Dillon Beach a chance. We were so happy we did!

Dillon beach is a small coastal community filled with vacation homes that have beautiful views of the ocean. It’s a little off the beaten path, it takes about 1.5 hours from San Francisco, but the drive is beautiful and there are many places to stop on the way. The houses are worth renting just for the views, but the reason we’d go back is because of the secluded beach we happened to come across while exploring. This beach as we later learned was called Estero de San Antonio Beach. This beach can be described as a sandbar at the mouth of the Estero de San Antonio stream. The only land based access is by a trail from the private housing community of Oceana Marin in Dillon Beach. The caveat is that this land belongs to the State Marine Recreational Management Area and there is a sign that says this is a private easement for the Oceana Marin Association members and guests only and that anyone parking near the trailhead must have an OMA parking pass to avoid getting towed. Therefore, there are only two ways to access this beach if you do not live in this community. Hence, the reason why it was a secluded beach. The first way is to get there by boat or kayak which you can launch from Dillon Beach, the closest access point. The second is to rent a house in this community, which I highly recommend. The houses are spaced apart with plenty of open spaces all around to explore and the views were just incredible.

View of the sunset (from the window of the rental house) which we all watched together intently as if we were watching the final minutes of a movie

The rental property that we stayed in is no longer available through VRBO, but there are many in all sizes and price ranges. If you’re looking for a coastal getaway with family and friends, the Dillon Beach community is a great place (especially with access to Estero de San Antonio Beach). We spent the day BBQing oysters from the Tomales Bay Oyster company, (Hog Island Oyster Co. is another local place to pick up oysters) that we picked up on the way, as well as sampling cheeses from Nicasio Valley Cheese Co. which was also on the way. Of course, being on the Sonoma Coast there are many places to pick up locally produced wines. We spent the day eating and drinking our way through the local bounty, hanging out on the patio and soaking in the hot tub, all while admiring the… wait for it… view. Dillon Beach is not a place to come for fine dining or a night life (there was only one cafe that we found in the area), but we found that it was perfect for our family get together. A beautiful home to have our family time (for all ages) and enough nature in the surrounding areas to keep everyone busy (when we needed a little break from all that family time 😉 ). Also, Bodega Bay is 30 minutes north of Dillon Beach where a few of us went to check out the fish market and restaurants there.IMG_4473We took all the kids to Dillon beach (it’s a little confusing when both the beach and the town is called Dillon Beach) for a bit. There is a parking lot on Cliff Street right next to the beach you can park in for a fee. The beach area was a bit chaotic, which was not surprising since it was the Fourth of July weekend, but the kids had fun exploring the tidepools and playing in the sand. On the way back to the house we stopped by the General Store at the top of Beach Ave to pick up souvenirs and an ice cream bar for the kids and they kept letting us know, “this is the best vacation – EVER!”

In the late afternoon my hubby and I went out for a quick stroll on a trail that started at the end of the road where our rental house was (Oceana Drive). Right about when we were about to turn around, we spotted the sandbar. This is how we found Estero de San Antonio. The place draws you in, you can’t help but go explore it. We made it down to the sandbar and had the place to ourselves. It was so magical to have your own beach surrounded by cliffs and water. I didn’t want to leave, but I didn’t want my family to send out a search party for us. I didn’t have my camera with me (rookie!) so I was determined to bring the family back the next day.IMG_4511
It was an easy 1 mile hike to the secluded beach from the end of Oceana Drive.

Tomales Point across Bodega Bay


The way down
This last part was a bit tricky
Estero de San Antonio
All to ourselves!

10 replies to “Dillon Beach for Family Get Togethers

  1. Your parents are incredible (and brave)–so amazing that they road tripped coast to coast with a baby in tow! No wonder you love the outdoors…with amazing parents like that, you come by it honestly. And that HOUSE–love!! Thank you for sharing–this is a great idea! I’d definitely look into doing something like this with my family, especially someplace beautiful like that. Half of them are into camping, but this would be perfect for the other half that enjoys the outdoors, but not so much the camping. Love that there were trails nearby, too, and that beach is a great find. By any chance, is this near Point Reyes? We’re looking at visiting in 2 years, so I’m bookmarking for sure!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My parents were crazy back then, but their love of nature has definitely influenced us. They’re pretty cool, we’ll keep’em around 😉.
      Dillon Beach is about 45 minutes north of Point Reyes. That entire area is just gorgeous. That’s great that you guys have California in your sights!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Looks like a fun family spot. Enjoyed the stories of the past and the present. Yep. I get the bot so ctazy slowing down part. We’ve done a family vacation for all and it is the best.!! Ready, set?, Go.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love the story about your parents and the station wagon! I don’t want to repeat what adventuresoffive said, but pretty much the same goes for me. I definitely had the complete opposite experience with my parents regarding national parks but luckily I was able to discover them on my own (and I finally got my mom into hiking which is great).
    The beach – breathtaking. My dog growing up was named Dillon – a black lab afraid of water – so the words Dillon and Beach in the same breath made me laugh.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s great you got your mom into hiking! There is something very rewarding about opening someone’s life up to nature and the great outdoors (glad you discovered it yourself!). I remember my parents constantly looking at our faces when they brought us to Yosemite for the first time. I get it now, I find myself doing that with my daughter.
      I asked my mom what happened to that station wagon tonight and she told me that the car broke down a block away from the Salvation Army in SF and they were able to donate it before catching their flight to Japan. Sometimes ignorance is bliss, no car trouble until it died at their final destination??? Crazy stuff!
      Liked your story about Dillon 😄!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks for sharing that! What a perfect way to end a long trip. Taking the trip not knowing if they would return to the US says a lot about how important our parks are. They’ve set a great example.
        Now that I’ve seen 30 or so national parks and monuments myself, I feel more proud to be American and its my duty to visit as many as I can.
        I understand what you mean about the look on someone’s face when the first time they see a place like Yosemite. I saw it with my mom at the Dunes and that doesn’t compare with what’s out west! Still can’t believe she’s had these parks in her backyard for almost 50 years and she never once thought to go visit. One day when I have kids of my own I look forward to seeing the same look on their faces.

        Liked by 1 person

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