This post contains affiliate links. My stay at Dillon Beach Resort and all meals were paid for by myself.
I’ve lived in the San Francisco Bay Area my entire life and, yet, I had never heard about Dillon Beach until a year ago. A few months after hearing about it, an auction for an organization I support had a gift card for a hotel in Dillon Beach as one of the items. I felt like it was meant to be so I bid on it and won! After reviewing Dillon Beach Resort’s website, I knew the tiny house cottages they had would be perfect for a parent-child trip and we were long overdue for one of those! Read on more a full itinerary for a weekend in Dillon Beach, whether you go solo, with one of your kids or the whole family.
Depending on where you’re coming from, try to head out in the mid-morning with the aim of getting to Point Reyes Station by lunchtime. This quaint town is the perfect start to your weekend away. Grab a bite to eat at Side Street Kitchen and maybe even grab some artisanal cheese from Cowgirl Creamery for an afternoon snack. Need a coffee for the road? Stop by Toby’s Coffee before heading out.
With full bellies, continue out of town to Sir Francis Drake Boulevard which is the main road into Point Reyes National Seashore. Point Reyes National Seashore boasts 71,000 acres of wilderness, trails and beaches but also has a few spots perfect for a quick visit. I knew hiking wasn’t going to be on my 6 year old’s radar so I opted for a mini tour of this beautiful park:
- Stop #1: Point Reyes Shipwreck – when I asked my daughter if she’d like to see a shipwreck, she was all in! While this boat probably isn’t as large as she imagined, she was pretty impressed. To find it, pull into the parking lot at the Inverness Store and drive to the back of the lot facing the water. We did check the tides prior to visiting here to ensure a safe visit and planned around low tide.
- Stop #2: Cypress Tunnel – after a day of driving, this is a fantastic (and beautiful) place to get the wiggles out. A row of cypress trees along a road have grown to form a gorgeous canopy. Not much else to do here but a nice photo op. It is not marked with signs but it is on Google Maps – the surrounding land is quite flat so it is relatively easy to spot. The only sign you’ll see is for the “North District Operations Center”. Parallel park on the road and have a walk around.
- Stop #3: Point Reyes Lighthouse – an incredible spot located on the tip of Point Reyes National Seashore. Unfortunately, both the lighthouse and the visitor’s center are both closed due to COVID restrictions. Nonetheless, it is a great view and worth a stop. There is a parking lot and then a short, .4 mile walk (stroller friendly). This will take you to the top and then you can look down on the actual lighthouse. A word of caution: it is incredibly windy here so bring a jacket and make sure you don’t have loose items that could blow away.
If you’re looking to add more to your itinerary, consider visiting one of the many beaches in Point Reyes National Seashore or plan a hike.
After you’re wrapped up in Point Reyes, you will come back the same way you came in, head through Point Reyes Station and then head up the Highway 1 alongside Tomales Bay. Once you hit the town of Tomales, you will head west to Dillon Beach. Once you’re in town, you cannot miss Dillon Beach Resort and there will be a huge sign welcoming you. Check-in is at 4pm so, if you arrive sooner, you can always head to the beach until your room is ready.
Dillon Beach Resort is a family-owned, modern resort that totally embraces that laid-back beach vibe. The accommodations are unique in that they are mostly tiny homes! Ranging from the 2-person Cypress Cottages (just 265 square feet) to the Coastal Cabins that can sleep up to 6 in 2 bedrooms (800 square feet), there is a perfect fit for every group. I opted for the Cypress Cottage since it was just my daughter and I. I must admit, I had no idea what to expect – camping is not my jam, I am not a fan of RVs and I usually place a huge emphasis on space. But, I was pleasantly surprised with the creature comforts, cleanliness and, most importantly, incredible location of Dillon Beach Resort.
The Cypress Cottage has a Queen bed in a loft, one bathroom with a shower, a small kitchen with a gas stove and a living area. It also has a small patio with table and chairs as well as a side yard by the entrance with a hose, hooks and a bowl of water (in case your pup is joining!). Parking was just across the way and we could easily walk down to the beach in a minute or two.
One thing about Dillon Beach is that it is primarily residential so you won’t find shops or a plethora of dining. Thankfully, Dillon Beach Resort is the central hub in town and has a restaurant, Coastal Kitchen, as well as a General Store full of locally-sourced grocery items, grab & go food and drinks and other supplies you will need. We dined at Coastal Kitchen on night one and it was delicious with great service. They also offer take out if you prefer to dine at the beach or in your cabin.
Be prepared for overcast mornings and, instead of freezing at the beach, take a short drive (15 minutes) to Valley Ford to have breakfast at Estero Cafe. With farm fresh ingredients, you can indulge in a filling breakfast featuring local ingredients. If you like bacon, definitely order a side. It was amazing! You could easily head over to Bodega Bay from here (10 minute drive) to explore. We decided to return to Dillon Beach after breakfast and got packed up for the beach. Be sure to stop by the general store first to grab some food for the day – we picked up some salads, chips and drinks to bring down to the beach.
When you’re ready to head down to the sand, you can either drive or walk down. We actually did drive down since I was by myself with our daughter and had a bunch of beach gear. The parking fee is waived for resort guests by showing your parking placard (it is $10 for all other cars). The mile-long private beach is very clean with amenities such as picnic tables, fire pits, trash/recycling and bathrooms.
The luxury of staying just around the corner from the beach is that it is easy to come and go! After a few hours of sand play, we decided to head back for a relaxing afternoon playing games and watching a movie in our cottage. We did venture out to Tomales (10 min drive) around 3pm as we had heard that there was pizza by the slice at Route One Bakery & Kitchen. Unfortunately, it had sold out for the day so our only option was a full pizza (14″ size). We walked over to the Tomales Community Park where there is a play structure, swings, a large grassy area and public bathrooms for a bit and then returned to order pizza. Don’t forget room for Strauss Family Ice Cream which is sold at the Tomales Bakery next door to the pizza place.
We returned to the beach for one more time and enjoyed less crowds and the sun beginning to set. This is also when my daughter noticed the sign below: 1 free soft serve or drip coffee for every bucket of trash you collect. She was 100% in! Buckets and grabbers are supplied and my daughter happily filled her bucket and got her coupon for a cone (yes, second ice cream of the day). I loved seeing how proud she was picking up the litter that had remained for the day as she was concerned about animals ingesting it.
We chose to head out relatively early on Sunday but you can check-out as late as 11am to enjoy a morning at the beach. For those looking to take the scenic route home, you could stay on Highway 1 down to Stinson Beach or Bolinas to explore or cutover to Muir Woods National Monument or the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
What To Pack for Dillon Beach
- Clothes – opt for layers as the weather is ever-changing at the beach
- A warm jacket and other warm-weather gear for chilly mornings/evenings and in case of strong wind
- Sturdy shoes for hiking, water shoes or flip flops for everything else
- Toiletries (soap, shampoo and conditioner are provided)
- Beach attire: swimsuits, cover-up, hat, sunglasses, sunscreen
- Beach umbrella – this is the one I have (shown below). It is incredibly easy to set-up, has tons of space inside and comes with stakes to help keep in firmly planted in the sand
- Beach chairs – we have these from Coleman and we use them for the beach and outdoor events. Easy set-up, two drink holders and a zippered pouch to store items.
- Beach or picnic blanket
- Beach towels – Dillon Beach Resort only provides towels for use inside the cottages so be sure to bring some for the beach.
- Sand toys – and, yes, the snowball maker comes to the beach, too!
- Cooler – for picnic or beach lunches but also to transport fresh produce back from the farm stands you will discover while exploring.
- Water bottles to refill
- If you plan to cook in your cottage, you may want to bring some basics like oil, salt, pepper, etc. as well as paper towels/napkins. Dish towels (for drying items), a sponge and dish soap are provided.
- Your cottage has a Smart TV with Hulu access but we also brought board games, a puzzle and books.