Earthquake faults and oysters…interesting and beautiful Tomales Bay

When I made a request for a few days visit to Pt. Reyes in California’s Marin County, my son suggested we contract with VRBO (Vacation Rental by Owner) and rent a house. In addition to making it possible to cook our meals and share the intimacies of a home rather than a hotel, we could also bring Obi, their lovable and very active Vizsla.

We settled on a wonderful home in Inverness, located on the southwest shore of Tomales Bay.


 This photo was taken at daybreak from the deck of our vacation rental, and it was an added thrill for me to realize that we were staring right at Elephant Mountain.

I didn’t know Elephant Mountain was visible from Tomales Bay, but I did know it was in Marin County. I know more useless trivia!


I had this album at one time, and here we were! The Youngbloods were really only known for their 1969 “Get Together,” but I had this album. And everywhere we went, Elephant Mountain followed us.

The serenity is unmistakable, but it’s also an area of great seismic activity. Tomales Bay has an interesting relationship to the San Andreas Fault. Californians know the San Andreas fault.

The San Andreas is a crack in the earth’s crust separating the North American plate and the Pacific plate. The 1906 great San Francisco earthquake was centered at the end of the bay.


The bay supports a very large bird population year round,  and is also an important feeding ground for migratory birds. I found a notation that in January 1987 a rare Siberian brown shrike was spotted on the bay and bird watchers came from all over the U.S. to observe the bird.


Oyster farming is a major industry on the bay. I must admit that oysters are “not my thing,” but I was more than happy to accompany the other members of our party while they had their fill.

The Olympia oyster is native to Tomales Bay , but small and slow-growing it isn’t usually considered a commercial success. Eastern or pacific oysters were introduced to San Francisco Bay in 1896 and the oysters grew and multiplied. Japanese oysters were introduced in 1928 and only a few years later introduced to Drakes Estero.


The water in Tomales Bay and Drakes Estero is too cold for any but native oysters, but oyster farming is supervised by the Department of Fish and Game, and Kumamoto, Euroflat, Atlantic or Eastern and the Olympia oysters are  successfully grown in Tomales Bay.


Along the bay and adjacent the highway little shacks and small eateries serve fresh oysters as eager diners sit outdoors enjoying the peaceful environment. I enjoyed watching other people enjoy the oysters, and all I needed was a nice glass of wine, some crusty bread, sunshine and the bay…perfect!


There are other stories worth telling, but I need to hold back and save some for next time. And there will be a next time. We will undoubtedly be making our way back to Marin County at least by early summer. I didn’t get my fill.

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There’s a lot to see in this part of California. Next week I’ll share just a few photos taken in the little town of Nicasio. We stopped for breakfast–not at  Skywalker Ranch, but George Lucas has his home in this quaint little town.

DSC_1923 I have a lot more exploring to do!

47 thoughts on “Earthquake faults and oysters…interesting and beautiful Tomales Bay

    1. I have a lot of concern about earthquakes when I think about them, but most of the time I just don’t think about them at all. I will admit that I don’t like to park my car in underground parking and go to great lengths to avoid that necessity. 🙂

        1. No. I love living where we are, and I can’t think of any place that is guaranteed against natural disaster. I’ve lived here all my life and earthquakes of any great magnitude are rare. I had friends move back to California after a period of time in the midwest weather, including tornadoes. I guess I’d rather live with the risk I know. 🙂 Remember a few years ago when the deadly meteorites hit parts of Russia? You sure never know, do you?

          1. That’s true; but the UK is a pretty safe bet, situated in the middle of the world as we are 🙂 When we get a tornado, local news reports that a few slates fell off a roof; and once, a chimney fell into the street, missing everyone. We do get flooding, but that’s usually caused by stupid and/or greedy governments allowing homes to be built on floodplains, and they are thus entirely avoidable. We did have a hurricane in 1987 which is mostly remembered because weatherman Michael Fish scoffed at a woman who had phoned in to warn that it was on the way. It’s a famous story here:

            We don’t have volcanoes; our earthquakes are small when we occasionally get them; and snow lasts only a day or two (admittedly, bringing the country to a halt) before melting away. We just don’t do extreme weather in this country, which I suspect is what makes us such a tolerant people.

    1. I might like oysters prepared that way, Jude. Almost anything with parmesan sounds fabulous. The lighting was really nice on some of our photo shoots. We had a little of everything in three short days, including lots of fog and even rain, though, and I was having a little trouble figuring out how to make the camera adjustments. The good things is that everything is so beautiful somehow even very flawed photos have given me pleasure. 🙂

    1. Thank you, Bruce. I am delighted that you know the area. I feel like it’s a very memorable location and from what you’re sharing of your time spent there, you have similar feelings–it’s lovely, isn’t it?

  1. We have that album! It’s somewhere deep in the bowels of the basement with the rest of the vinyl. I didn’t know that was Elephant Mountain, Debra, but, it would be fun to “Get Together”. 🙂
    LOVE this post, the scenery, details of climate and fishing/oyster industry/ the whole thing. I look forward to seeing and hearing more about this area, Debra. You are my kind of explorer.
    Now, out into the arctic cold for me . . . brrrrr.

    1. Now you’ll have to find your Youngbloods album, Penny! I think that’s fun that you have the album, too. And now you know something more about Elephant Mountain! I am so glad you’re enjoying my little Point Reyes area journeys, my friend. 🙂

    1. Here’s the funny thing about a picture of Obi, Kate. I actually had a photo in my draft. When I published, it disappeared! I have absolutely no idea what happened. But it was after 10 pm and I was just too tired to figure it out. I will figure out a way to share more about Obi another time. He’s too cute to ignore! 🙂

    1. I agree with you, Andrew. So many people around the world only know California through television and the movies, and beautiful areas like Marin County aren’t well known at all. I enjoy sharing what I also consider the most beautiful part of the state.

  2. I’m with you on oysters. I used to enjoy fried oysters until I bit into a bad one.
    OMG!!! Never again.

    California has some beautiful spots along its ample shoreline. We haven’t been out there since 1992, but we loved it.

    As for Elephant Mountain: I’ve got “Get Together” playing in my head ~> great song!

    1. Did you spend time in a particular part of California when you visited, Nancy? It is such a big state, and I think I’m using my blog as a reminder that there is much more to the state than many now from television and movies. I used to like fried clams, so I assume a fried oyster is similar. But I can’t get past the texture. 🙂

      1. On a month-long coast to coast trip, we spent a week in and around Santa Clara to visit my brother, SIL, and first nephew ~ visited San Fran, Cable Cars, Fisherman’s wharf, the beach, Lombard St., Yosemite, etc..

        From there we drove down the coast ~ Carmel, Monterrey, Hearst Castle, and then inland to Las Vegas and home.

    1. I agree with you Gerlinde about earthquake territory. I do the same–I try not to think about it. 🙂 How fortunate to live in this area! It’s about as perfect as I can imagine, and I look forward to visiting as often as possible. My son and his wife live in the East Bay and so we’ll be visiting them often–we’ll have to go just a bit further north whenever possible. 🙂

    1. We were leaving Point Reyes and going back down to San Francisco to have dinner with my cousins. They texted us and asked us to stop and buy a huge amount of kumamoto oysters for the family gathering at their house. When we arrived with our fresh “catch” it was wonderful to realize what a treat we’d brought. Everyone was so excited! I learned there is a lot more to oyster farming than I ever would have known!

  3. I am sure that winter must feel long, but we sure don’t want to rush the year. Summer will get here soon enough! I’m glad I can send you a little warmth through the photos, Colleen. 🙂

  4. I’m not a fan of oysters either, Debra, but just sitting with bread and wine looking over that lovely bay would be pleasure enough. I can see why you want to go back there. 🙂

    1. Thank you, Perpetua. I am always quite content if I’m anywhere near the ocean or bay. I call ocean views anywhere “my happy place,” and I mean it! This area in Northern California is now my #1 happy place. 🙂

  5. This sounds like a very special part of the California coastline, Debra. You take us to some really beautiful spots and your love of California is self-evident. Unlike you, however, I would be very happy to take a seat there and enjoy some freshly plucked & shucked oysters. Never having experienced anything like an earthquake, I’ve never even considered one a possibility while I’ve been our West. It’s an “ignorance is bliss” kind of thing, I’m sure. It’s one of life’s experiences that I’ll gladly take a pass.

    1. As I’ve said to others who have even asked if I’d consider moving out of California, we don’t really feel earthquakes very often, and although the danger is there, I’d like to know where we could relocate that would be free of any possibility of natural disaster. And you’d have really enjoyed the fresh oysters, and I loved the party atmosphere. The outdoor seating was really just a very long table with benches and everyone was friendly and enjoying themselves. I really enjoy that kind of environment and it gives me a boost to see so many people really enjoying their oysters. I may need to give them a try again sometime. 🙂

  6. Love exploring new places by doing VRBO…makes it feel like I’m exploring in my hometown! 🙂 My husband loves oysters…we’ll have to make it over to that little part of the country when we’re in California next! Thanks for sharing your adventures…makes me appreciate the little moments we get to slow down and explore what’s around us! xoxo

  7. I love how you keep introducing me to parts of California I had no idea existed. The scenery in these images is gorgeous. What a stunning part of the world. I do love it when we have the opportunity to take our pets with us on holidays! xx

    1. I know how much you love your Rosie and taking her with you on vacation! My son’s dog, Obi, is a very active, larger dog, and taking him with us is an adventure. I completely understand why they want him to come with us, though, and we love him. I think it’s really marvelous that people renting out their homes are willing to let pets stay, too. I’m really pleased you’re enjoying the photos from Marin County, Charlie. I wonder if your sister has had any opportunities to travel north of San Francisco. The places I’ve been showing you would be great for one of your spectacular family reunions! 🙂

    1. I’m sure you know this area so much better than I do, Philip, but I’m going to do my best to know it well! I’m glad that I can provide photos to bring back fond memories. Oysters at Stinson Beach would surely be a very pleasant memory!

  8. Pondside

    That’s such a pretty spot. We haven’t yet ventured much as far south as California, with the exception of a trip to visit family in San Luis Obispo. That holiday made me wish for more time to explore – it’s such a huge state. The idea of renting a house appeals to me too – great move!

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