Local Flavor: Your Guide to the Oyster Farms Outside San Francisco

From the salt marshes of Tomales Bay to the Pacific coastline of Hog Island, here are the best oyster farms to visit on your day trip in Northern California. After all, why go on a wine tour of Napa Valley when you can shuck shellfish along the coast of West Marin instead?

The top was down on the convertible and I was riding in the passenger seat, looking up at the burnt red towers of the Golden Gate Bridge as they passed overhead. I was on a day trip, leaving San Francisco for the Point Reyes oyster farms. And when I watched the rolling hills and rocky coastline of Marin County come into view, it felt like I was arriving in heaven.

I wasn’t wrong. My idea of heaven is pretty consistent with the day that awaited me: endless foggy vistas overlooking the Pacific Ocean and even more endless buckets of oysters, paired nicely with local wines from Napa Valley and Sonoma.

If this sounds ideal to you as well, book a room at The Ritz-Carlton Club® and Residences in San Francisco and drive to Point Reyes to kick off your oyster road trip. Travel up and down the Pacific coast, and take a jaunt over to the grassy coastline of Hog Island for your ultimate NorCal day trip.

Tomales Bay Oyster Company

At Tomales Bay Oyster Company, simple is the name of the game. In keeping with their slogan — “…and the pursuit of happiness” — the setup is pretty bare, yet infinitely satisfying. They provide the oysters and a table, and everything else is up to you. So plan to bring your own provisions, whether it’s wine and beer or hot sauce and lemons.

Quick Tip:

Bring cash on the oyster trail: Each oyster farm charges differently per item (whether it’s for the table, the grill, the ice or the tools), so it’s wise to come prepared for (not-so-hidden) fees.

Nick’s Cove

North of Hog Island, Nick’s Cove is undoubtedly a date spot, with its nostalgic stilted cottages, visible from the wooden pier, boat shack and romantic dining room. But that’s not to say it’s not perfect for shellfish and photo opportunities with friends and family as well.

Quick Tip:

Be sure to take a picture on the long, wooden pier before you leave — even if it’s just a selfie beneath the sign for the boat shack.

Marshall Store

The Marshall Store is perfect if you’re traveling with a pack: The oysters come six per person, and the restaurant is ideal for seating large parties. So order a drink or two, then kick back and enjoy NorCal.

Quick Tip:

It’s a general rule that the smaller the oyster is, the sweeter it tastes (which, to many people, means it’s superior). But if you, like me, prefer your oysters plump and briny, then keep on keeping on.

Hog Island Oyster Company

Just north up the road from Tomales Bay, Hog Island Oyster Company offers a similarly bucolic setting — with the much-appreciated addition of a bar. Pay five dollars for your picnicking fee, post up at a table outside and get to work shucking. If you’re traveling with a group of five or more (or if you hate to wait in general), show up early or try to secure a reservation in advance. (This rule applies for Tomales Bay as well, which is first come, first serve.)

Saltwater Oyster Depot

This last pick isn’t exactly an oyster farm, but it is an oyster depot, and the nice restaurant is a wonderful option for dinner. After a long hard day of shucking for your shellfish, why not be wined and dined at the Saltwater Oyster Depot? If you’d rather have your food served to you on a platter, well: the world is your oyster.

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Katherine P-M is a writer living in New York City.