It seems everyone has a different opinion of what exactly constitutes a “small town.” Is it only having one gas station, no traffic lights, or maybe people waving hello to one another on the street? While small town America is often associated with some pretty scary political leanings, each of these small Bay Area towns are positively bursting with charm. With summer upon us, there’s no better time to pack a bag and head to one of these adorable hamlets for a full day of exploring!
FELTON The town of Felton is nestled in the Santa Cruz Mountains, among towering redwood trees. For a community of just over 4,000 people, Felton has more than enough to see and do to satisfy a first-time visitor. The White Raven is a quaint coffee shop along the main drag of Hwy 9 with a rustic atmosphere and one of the best hot chai’s in the area. Once you’ve had your caffeine fix, walk (‘cause that’s what you do in a tiny town) over to the historic Covered Bridge Park where you can take a leisurely stroll through the beautiful 80-fppt covered bridge built in 1892. Do a bit of antiquing at one of Felton’s many antique/thrift stores or stop by the Big Foot Museum to learn the origins of this mysterious beast. Take a long hike beneath the gorgeous redwoods in Fall Creek to work up a sweat before heading to Cremer House, built in 1874, for a hearty and delicious organic dinner!
INVERNESS Along Tomales Bay you will find the tiny, delightful township of Inverness. This unincorporated community has only about 1,300 people living in it and once you arrive, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time. Inverness has a downtown that includes a post office, general store, a couple of restaurants, and a library. While there, the Saltwater Oyster Depot is an absolute must! Remember to pace yourself, you’re on small town time, so poke your head into the Bellwether Gift Shop downtown, grab a couple of sandwiches at Inverness Park Market and find a comfy bench, explore the Point Reyes Lighthouse, stroll along McClures Beach, or even consider renting a kayak for the afternoon and paddle out into the bay.
OLEMA Blink and you might miss this tiny unincorporated village along Hwy 1. Olema is in Marin County, right on the edge of the Point Reyes Peninsula. Take a quick hike on the Earthquake Trail, a 0.7-mile loop that runs along a beautiful creek and take a gander at the “earthquake fence” which jumped 16-feet during the infamous 1906 quake. After your light cardio, head to Farm House for a delicious lunch of fresh oysters, grilled artichokes, and a grass-fed burger. If you decide to stick around for dinner, Sir and Star is a gorgeous (though pricey) option for a magical date night.
MONTARA The tiny town of Montara has less than 3,000 residents, but more than enough to do to fill a day of exploration. If it’s hiking you’re after, try Montara Mountain Trail in McNee Ranch State Park. This trail is just over 7-miles long and on a clear day the views overlooking the coastline are sensational! If you’re feeling something a bit less grueling, try out Gray Whale Cove Trail for a less intense, but equally as stunning hike. Hungry yet? Try Gherkin’s Sandwich Shop or Montara Café & Bakery for tasty, casual options. If you’re in the mood for something more upscale for dinner, the Peruvian restaurant La Costanera is the one. Before you hit the road and move on, make sure to check out the historic Point Montara Lighthouse (which houses a hostel for travelers), built in 1875.
EL GRANADA This sleepy coastal town is about 25 miles south of San Francisco, just beside the larger community of Half Moon Bay. El Granada’s layout is rather unusual—the town has a concentric-circular street layout that was designed in the early 20th century. After you’ve taken a quick jaunt around the neighborhood, poke your head into the town’s only eatery, which also happens to be a hardware store (gotta love that small town vibe), El Granada Hardware & Café. Take beautiful walk in Quarry Park through open grassy meadows and shaded forest. Before jumping back in the car, make sure you stop at Mirada Surf Westfor a view of one of the few undeveloped coastal bluffs in the area.