What to do in Point Reyes National Seashore with kids

Point Reyes National Seashore is a peninsula overlooking the Pacific Ocean, 50 kilometers northwest of San Francisco.

Known by most for its iconic lighthouse, this natural park is much more than the picture postcard image of this red-roofed building.
It’s a natural sanctuary just a few miles from a big metropolis like San Francisco.

An oasis of pristine wilderness, where hills turn into cliffs before they meet the Ocean. Where tule elks chase each other on green meadows. Where elephants seals meet on the beach for their mating and breeding season.
An Oasis where migrating whales delight lucky tourists with their blow.

In this post:
Best time to visit Point Reyes
What to do in Point Reyes with kids
Tomales Point Trail
Cypress Tree Tunnel
Drakes Beach
Point Reyes Lighthouse
Elephant Seals Overlook
Where to stay in Point Reyes

Best time to visit Point Reyes

When planning a visit to Point Reyes it’s recommended to check the weather ahead, especially if you are traveling with kids.
During summer rains are scarce, but most beaches and headlands are covered in thick fog almost all day.
Fall is a great time to visit Point Reyes. During the months of September and October the peninsula enjoys sunny days and light winds.
Most of rainfall occurs in winter. Starting from November winds get stronger.
In spring winds are still moderate, while temperatures are milder.
Whichever season you decide to visit Point Reyes, dress children in layers, and don’t forget a hat to protect them from the wind.

What to do in Point Reyes with kids

Tomales Point Trail

Tomales Point Trail is a beautiful hike that crosses rolling hills and runs along the coast offering splendid views of the cliffs and the ocean.
Despite its length of 16 kilometers (roundtrip), this is an easy hike, suitable for young children. You can just stop and go back when they get too tired.
The trail starts from the historic Pierce Point Ranch , a collection of ancient white buildings, dating back to 1858, which include a school, the blacksmith’s shop and the stable.

In addition to striking views of the coastline, this hike offers the opportunity to spot lots of tule elks, several species of birds and even coyotes.

During our hike we saw several elks grazing in the distance.
On the way back we were lucky enough to spot a coyote. The kids were very excited!

Cypress Tree Tunnel

Cypress Tree Tunnel is one of Point Reyes most popular and photographed attractions.
Located along the road leading to the lighthouse and Drake Beach, it is definitely worth a stop.
The tunnel is created by two rows of cypresses whose branches meet up to touch each other.

Drakes Beach

Drakes Beach is a beautiful stretch of send, enclosed between the waves of the ocean and the cliff behind it.
Here, with a little luck, between December and March you can spot several male elephant seals, lying on the sand.
This beach is an excellent spot for a family picnic.
At the visitor center, an interesting exhibition tells the story of the evolution of the local fauna.
During winter weekends, you can buy here tickets for the shuttle to the lighthouse and to the Elephant Seals Overlook ($7 for adults, free for children under the age of 15 years).

Point Reyes Lighthouse

The Point Reyes Lighthouse is one of the most iconic attractions of California, and well worth the drive to Point Reyes.
The lighthouse and the Vistor Center are open from Friday to Monday from 10.00 to 16.30.

During winter weekends the road leading to the lighthouse is closed to traffic, and access is allowed only with the shuttle that leaves from the Visitor Center of Drakes Beach.

Once you get to the stop, a 400m long paved road leads to the Visitor Center.
Along this short route you can enjoy a splendid view of the coastline.

While walking along the path we met several fawns, a few meters away from us.

Spotting wildlife is always exciting for kids. They took care not to raise their voices so they would not frighten them, and they watched them in delight.

At the end of the short path you reach the Visitor Center, where a small exhibition tells the story of the lighthouse, and illustrates the characteristics of the whales that populate the coast during their migration.
The kids loved the huge whale skull exposed just outside the Visitor Center.

After passing the Visitor Center, the view opens onto the main attraction: the Point Reyes lighthouse, which stands on the tip of the promontory with its iconic red roof.

To reach the lighthouse you have to walk down 313 steps, along which there are several benches for resting, and stations for taking pictures.

The lighthouse and the building are both open to the public, and contain explanatory panels and ancient machinery.

The lighthouse is a great spot for whale watching. With a little patience and some luck you can spot whales approaching the coast during their migration.

Elephant Seals Overlook

The Elephant Seal Overlook is located 3.5 kilometers east of the lighthouse.
During winter weekends it can only be reached via the shuttle that leaves from Drakes Beach.
From the shuttle stop, a short flat path leads to a panoramic terrace from where you can spot dozens of sea elephants with their cubs.

Where to stay in Point Reyes

HI Point Reyes Hostel is a beautiful hostel nestled in a valley a few kilometers from the beach. This hostel offers private rooms for families, a common kitchen, and an outdoor patio with picnic tables and barbecue.

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