SAFETY FIRST: Always check the weather and marine forecasts before kayaking, canoeing, boating, etc.
Kayaking Around Point Reyes National Seashore
The most popular area for kayaking at Point Reyes National Seashore is on Tomales Bay. Tomales Bay is a 24-kilometer (15-mile) long, 2645-hectare (6780-acre) tidal water body located in rural west Marin County, California. It is the largest unspoiled coastal embayment on the coast of California. The bay is largely bounded on the west by the Point Reyes National Seashore. Adjacent communities include Point Reyes Station, Inverness, Marshall, and Dillon Beach, which is at the bay's north end where Tomales Bay meets Bodega Bay.
Kayaking is also permitted on Drakes Estero and Limantour Estero from July 1 through February 28. To protect harbor seals from disturbance during the most crucial part of the pupping season, from March 1 through June 30, the National Park Service closes Drakes Estero and Limantour Estero to boating. Pelican Point, Duck Island, and the east side of Hog Island are closed to the public year round.
Another area within Point Reyes National Seashore that is sometimes used by kayakers is the open coast. Ocean kayaking is potentially very dangerous. It requires additional skills, experience, and equipment, and is not recommended for most kayakers. The most frequently used section of the coast by kayakers is in Drakes Bay from Chimney Rock to Limantour Beach. Other sections of the coast are kayaked, but they are not as sheltered from the prevailing wind and ocean swell, and are therefore much more dangerous. Per the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA), the Point Reyes Headlands is closed to all vessels within 305 meters (1000 feet) of shore from Chimney Rock west to Longitude 123° 01.00'. Per the Superintendent's Compendium, from Longitude 123° 01.00' west to the Point Reyes Lighthouse the headlands is closed to all vessels within 91 meters (100 yards) of shore. There are also 91-meter (300-foot) special closures around Point Resistance and Double Point/Stormy Stack, per the MLPA. Other temporary or seasonal closures may be in effect at different times due to breeding populations of marine mammals or seabirds. Please check in at the Bear Valley Visitor Center prior to a trip in order to get updated information on closures or conditions.
Recreational use of Tomales Bay has grown in recent years especially for camping, boating, and wildlife watching. The National Park Service at Point Reyes is concerned about the effects of the growth in recreational use.
The Seashore faces the challenge of not only preserving the pristine shorelines of Tomales Bay and assisting in protecting clean water, but also providing recreational opportunities for the public. Visitor use of national parklands must always be weighed against the responsibility to maintain natural and cultural resources for succeeding generations. As such, personal water craft (PWC) such as a Jetski or Waverunner are not permitted on Tomales Bay. (Note: please read A Guide to Low-Impact Boat Camping if you intend to participate in kayaking in and around Point Reyes National Seashore, even if you aren't camping.)
There are four areas for launching on Tomales Bay
MARIN COUNTY PARKS MILLER BOAT LAUNCH (415) 499-6387
TOMALES BAY STATE PARK - (415) 669-1140
TOMALES BAY RESORT - (415) 669-1389
LAWSON'S LANDING - (707) 878-2443
For a list of Kayaking Outfitters in the Point Reyes area, check our Outfitters and Tours page.
Disclaimer: The National Park Service provides the names, links, and phone numbers of area businesses as a visitor convenience. Inclusion on this list is not an endorsement.
Certain areas allow only day use
HEARTS DESIRE BEACH
Overnight and/or Day Use
Many individuals attempting to reserve permits for Tomales Bay online have frequently found the reservation process confusing. If you wish to make a reservation for a boat-in permit for Tomales Bay, download and review our How To Guide: Boat-in Camping Reservations at Point Reyes National Seashore. (560 KB PDF)
Beach fire permits are required and may be obtained free at park visitor centers.
Campers on Tomales Bay beaches must arrive by boat and may not hike, bike, or ride horses to the beaches. Overnight parking for boat-in campers is prohibited within Point Reyes National Seashore (i.e., along the Pierce Point and L Ranch Roads and at the Marshall Beach Trailhead) and Tomales Bay State Park.
Disposing of human waste in the bay or onto park beaches is prohibited. On Tomales Bay, there are vault toilets at Marshall Beach and Tomales Beach. On other beaches, pack out all human waste using a portable toilet that can be emptied into an RV dump station or pit toilet.
Potable water is not available at any of the Tomales Bay beaches.
Some of the Tomales Bay beaches that are open for overnight camping to those who have a current and valid permit are (listed from south to north):
Map of Tomales Bay Boat-in Campsites (249 KB PDF)
You can participate in the protection of Tomales Bay by practicing the guidelines stated in A Guide to Low-Impact Boat Camping.
NPSWilderness has produced three videos entitled Wilderness Calling: Point Reyes, Wilderness Motion: Point Reyes, and Wilderness Visions: Point Reyes featuring images and sounds from the Phillip Burton Wilderness within Point Reyes National Seashore, in addition to two videos about NPS wilderness: America's Wilderness and Leave No Trace Outdoor Ethics which kayakers and other visitors to Point Reyes may find of interest.