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Located in West Marin County, California, near the mouth of Tomales Bay, Point Reyes Station has existed with various names since 1875 when the railroad arrived. Local resident, Galen Burdell was responsible for building many of the original structures including a hotel, saloon and depot. Early residents included dairy ranchers, rail workers and merchants. All of this history remains visible today. I like the spirit of a town willing to combine old and new so flawlessly. It’s not necessary to tear down the old building to make way for something new, but instead the old can be repurposed into whatever current tastes demand.
Arriving in Point Reyes
Arriving in Point Reyes is like a blast from the past. There are no chain stores like Costco or fast food restaurants like McDonald’s and there certainly aren’t large, neon signs promoting local businesses. Instead, every building is unique, mostly one story, often made of wood, and signage is simple. Blink and you’ll miss main street, the hub of this town that is approximately three blocks long. But just because main street is compact, doesn't mean there isn’t a great deal to explore. Toby’s Feed Barn is a unique business that obviously sells animal feed--as is evidenced by the strong smell of hay in the cavernous storage area--but this enterprise is also a collection of several small businesses including a coffee shop, an expansive gift shop, and non-profit art gallery. Other main street businesses include a bookstore, bakery, award winning restaurant, hardware store, and a few art galleries featuring local artists.
Ideal Time to Visit Point Reyes Station
I'll admit that it’s tempting to not write about Point Reyes Station because I may just encourage more weekend warriors to arrive and overwhelm this small town. Instead, I do write about this place that has deliberately chosen to keep and fiercely protect its unique character. I think towns (or regions or countries) that fight to maintain their own identity need to be championed. But I challenge you to visit on a weekday and see this town in its ideal state.
Take a vacation day (or a mental health day) to experience this town and enjoy the fact that residents recognize one another as they stroll down main street or pop into the post office. Take the time to chat with a local and learn about the unique characteristics of the town. Spend your money in the local bakery or restaurant and buy a souvenir in the independently owned bookstore or art gallery and appreciate that the world can exist without large, chain stores. This afterall, is what travel is all about--experiencing, appreciating, and supporting something different from life in our own hometowns. (Interested in visiting another small town in California, consider Pacific Grove.)