A gateway to great adventure, rural retreat Olema House can claim the pristine Point Reyes National Seashore as its back garden – just north of San Francisco – with hiking and cycling trails galore, migratory whales to spy and some of the most picturesque beaches on the west coast. Amid all this remote wilderness, Olema House is a friendly homestead of creature comforts – it’s heaven to return from the great outdoors to heated floors, rolling lawns dotted with Adirondack chairs and double-height rooms with roaring fireplaces. The kitschy-cool decor brings the outside in and showcases local artists with driftwood-accented mirrors, oyster-shell wind chimes and photographs showcasing the spectacular NorCal coast.
Get this when you book through us:
US$50 credit per booking to use in the hotel's Due West restaurant
Double rooms from £319.80 ($346), including tax at 15.2 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional resort fee of $28.80 per room per night on check-out.
Rates don't include the hotel’s farm-to-table breakfast, which has organic offerings from artisan producers around West Marin and Point Reyes: muffins, pastries, and quiche.
The Due West market is a classic country store and sophisticated tavern in a refurbished building dating back to 1865, which stocks picnic essentials (sandwiches, salads, charcuterie, cheese and wine) and serves tasty West Marin fare.
At the hotel
70,000 acres of protected wilderness, free on-site parking, free WiFi. In rooms: free bottled water, heated floors, black-out curtains.
Our favourite rooms
The Creekside Cottage would be perfect for families – it’s tucked away in the grounds (so make as much ruckus as you want), there are two queen-size sofa beds in the living room and a private garden patio. For rustic romance, the Drake Suite in the main building has soaring double-height windows, a mezzanine bedroom with a four-poster bed and a bay window seat looking out to the lawns and the forest beyond.
Lumberjack, but make it fashion: hiking boots and oversized flannel will work every time.
The public areas and one bedroom are fully wheelchair accessible.
All ages are welcome, but the hotel is better suited to older children and teenagers – if they can command a kayak, ride a bike and yell ‘na na na na na’ when they beat you to the summit of the lighthouse hike, they’ll love it.
Pull up a stool at Due West’s horsehair-covered bar – make sure to do your best Sam Elliott impression when you order.
Pack your Patagonia fleece – you never know when that NorCal fog and drizzle might roll in.
Due West is the hotel’s sophisticated saloon restaurant with a white picket fence and indoor and outdoor seating. It’s housed in a separate building from the hotel, but it’s just a two-minute walk away (so if you overdo it on the bounty of bourbon, you can crawl home). The hotel has a socially distanced terrace where you can dine alfresco and the dining room can hold a small number of guests too, and the menu offers meats and dairy from Bolinas farms and Point Reyes' ranches, plus fresh oysters from Tomales Bay. Due to the reduced capacity – and the alluring food – it's advised to book in advance. There's a Due West market too: a classic country store stocking picnic essentials: sandwiches, salads, charcuterie, cheese and wine. And, the Market-To-Go menu has tempting sandwiches and wraps and more substantial meals, such as Asian chicken salad and king salmon with piquillo peppers. There's no breakfast served at the hotel, but there are pastries, muffins, parfaits and more in the market.
The bar at Due West has a welcoming attitude, country music on the stereo and local beers on tap. The drinks menu focuses on barrel-aged bourbons and reimagined classic cocktails; the curated wine list features California vintages from nearby Sonoma and Napa valleys.
Due West is open from noon to 4pm to 9pm and from 11am on weekends; the market runs from 8am to 4pm.
There’s no room service available, so stash some extra trail mix in your suitcase in case hunger strikes after dark.
An hour north of San Francisco via the legendary Route 1, Olema House is perched on the Point Reyes National Seashore (a protected national park), where near-endless woodland meets a stunning stretch of wild, unspoilt Pacific coastline.
Fly into either Oakland or San Francisco airports – it takes about an hour to drive from each.
You’ll need a car if you want to explore the dune-backed beaches, wildflower-strewn trails and fresh shellfish stands. If you’re coming from San Francisco, you’ll cross the Golden Gate Bridge, an experience in itself. Once you reach the hotel, there’s free on-site parking.
Worth getting out of bed for
You’ll have over three miles of white-sand, dune-backed beach to play on at Limantour Beach, a spectacular 20-minute drive from Olema House. For little Smiths, Heart’s Desire Beach in Tomales State Park is a family favourite, edged by lawn and picnic tables. Tomales Bay is a haven for kayakers – rent a rig from Point Reyes Outdoors and paddle your way up the 14-mile stretch of unspoiled coastline. Peer into tidal pools and keep an eye out for the birds who nest here. Starting in March, take your kayak trip after sundown for some incredible bioluminescent gazing. To catch the grey-whale season, stay from mid-January until late April and early May – the best opportunity to see mothers and calves close to shore at Point Reyes. Marin County is famous for its biking terrain – there are miles and miles of novice and advanced rides that begin at the hotel’s front door: the Marshall Wall, Ridgecrest Boulevard and Fairfax/Bolinas Road are just a few of the well-known trails for cyclists. If you prefer two feet to two wheels, there are thousands of acres of hiking trails nearby, so the possibilities are nearly endless. A few deserve special mention, though, for their wildlife watching opportunities – like the hike to the historic Point Reyes Lighthouse on the tip of the Point Reyes Peninsula, the best place for whale-watching. We’re not going to lie to you, it’s a serious challenge to get to the top – get ready to climb a 30-story building – but you’ll be rewarded with 360-degree views of land, sea and sky when you get there. And, if you’re tracking the Tule Elk herd, they’re best spotted on the clifftop hike to Tomales Point. To find the famous California Redwoods – the tremendous trees are the tallest of all living things and have lifespans that last millennia – head to Muir Woods, a 20-minute drive from Olema House. And, to feel the sand under your feet, take the 20-minute drive out to verdant Stinson Beach; enjoy the views, then pick up a pizza loaded with Littleneck clams or curried cauliflower from Parkside Café.
Stroll into the local town, Point Reyes Station, which manages to mix Norman Rockwell quaintness with a whiff of wild west. The five-block main stretch is home to clapboard buildings, small shops, and a saloon straight out of the 1800s. Get an enormous muffin at the adorably named Bovine Bakery or visit Cowgirl Creamery to buy hunks of Red Hawk, a red-rind cheese that can only be made in Point Reyes. Also in town is Side Street Kitchen which pays homage to its history as a beloved greasy spoon with a 1950s counter and stools – go for slow-cooked meats, smoked fish, and fresh vegetables. You can’t leave the area without trying the oysters – get barbeque variations at Hog Island Oyster Co.’s ‘Boat Oyster Bar’, or visit California’s oldest shellfish farm, Tomales Bay Oyster Company, which is great for grabbing fresh oysters to-go for your own beachside feast; the area institution Tony’s is the place for a fried oyster po’ boy. For loaded taco plates – and some vegan options – try Smiley's Saloon, and Station House Café serves up American comfort classics: Philly cheesesteaks, mac and cheese, corned-beef hash.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this nature-loving hotel in Northern California and unpacked their hiking boots and Cowgirl Creamery cheeses, a full account of their great outdoors adventure holiday will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Olema House in Point Reyes…
Though you’ve only driven an hour north of buzzing, metropolitan San Francisco, you’ll feel light years away from big-city lights by the time you reach Olema House. This sophisticated roadside lodge is a launching pad for great outdoor adventures: the entire Point Reyes National Seashore – a protected peninsula with more than 70,000 acres of wild Pacific coastline and forest – is now your backyard. With a hiking, biking, kayaking and whale-watching wonderland on your doorstep, it might be hard to know where to start. Luckily, the staff at Olema House are handy with a trail map and eager to pass on their insider info: vaunted vantage points for sighting the migrating whales (shouting ‘thar she blows’ is optional, but highly recommended), perfect perches for glimpsing the native Tule Elk during rutting season and where to ‘get lit’ – by which we mean where to row your kayak to find glowing neon plankton. After your adventures, the cosy inn will greet you home with the hospitality equivalent of a bear hug – heated floors, warm baths and just-baked cookies.