Surprise Staycation in Stinson Beach


For Alex’s birthday, I booked us a surprise staycation, complete with a blindfolded car ride to see if he could still figure out where we were going. Well, spoiler alert: he is very good at this game and could indeed figure out where we were. However, being blindfolded on Hwy 1 is a prime method for getting very carsick. So, he figured out we were in Stinson Beach but then had to take a break for the rest of the first day, oops.

Made it (unblindfolded) over to Pelican Inn for birthday dinner. There really aren’t that many dinner options on this stretch of the coast, but the Pelican Inn is great for some English pub vibes.

Back at our seaside cottage, Reeve Prism and Butter& tiramisu.

The next morning, breakfast awaits just around the corner at the fun outdoors hangout spot Bodega. It was rainy out though, so we brought it back to the cottage to eat.

For lunch, we drove over the hill (Mt. Tam) for an afternoon in Mill Valley. Here’s a historic lumber yard -mill area that’s now a bunch of shops and restaurants.

Shopping around in towntown Mill Valley as well.

Mamahuhu (Chinese American restaurant from SF chef Brandon Jew) has a Mill Valley outpost!

Little redwood grove right next to town.

This is also the eastern end of the Dipsea Trail, a legendary trail that goes up and over Mt. Tam and ends at the beach. There’s a Dipsea Race spanning the 7.4 miles that happens every year and is apparently the oldest trail race in America. We didn’t hike the whole thing but would do a big part of it the next day!

Stopping for a brief break atop Mount Tamalpais, but we got consumed by the fog.

Back down to Stinson Beach!

Definitely very windy and rainy conditions these days… 

A bunch of these blue little jellies had washed up on shore. I found out that they’re velella velellas, and sadly, once they get stranded they just eventually dry up and die.

Cute sandpipers

For dinner, a quick jaunt over to Bolinas. First, a stop at this huge honor-system farmstand at Gospel Flat Farm.

Bolinas is a small town famous for stealing all their own street signs so that fewer tourists would find their way over to them. Unfortunately for them, that doesn’t really work any more in the google maps age.

Dinner at Coast Cafe, followed by drinks at Smiley’s Saloon.

And finally, our big hike day! We started at the Stinson end of the Dipsea Trail, which was conveniently located just across the street from our airbnb. Then we looped around on the Steep Ravine Trail and returned back down the Dipsea to the beach.

Enchanted forest to start!

Out into the open plains as we ascend to Mt. Tam.

Got passed by a coyote on the trail. Look closely to see it scooting away at the top of the stairs.

Then we’re back in the woods, this time with lots of waterfalls and creeks running through.

Cute bridges galore.

A fun little ladder climb too.

We summited at the Pantoll area for lunch, and we were rewarded with views of San Francisco in the distance from atop Mt. Tam.

Stinson Beach back in sight on our way back down.

And finally, Strauss soft serve, perfect after seven miles of walking up and down a bunch of stairs.

Delightful Happy birthday my love!

Anna Wu is a wedding and portrait photographer based in San Francisco. She compulsively documents and blogs all of her daily adventures. Follow her on instagram and view more of her professional work at