Marin: A Hop, Skip, and a Jump Away from San Francisco

Head for the picturesque Golden Gate Bridge. Within the hour, you can gaze up at ancient, majestic trees among the tallest on earth; dangle your toes in the sand at the Pacific Ocean’s edge; drive along a windy road up and down pine-scented Mount Tamalpais; and finally, wind up in a quaint English tavern.

Sir Francis Drake and the Pelican

Explorer Francis Drake, eldest of 12 sons, was born in Devon in England’s west country. Schoolchildren are taught that he was first to successfully circumnavigate the globe, then awarded a knighthood for his troubles in 1581 by his benefactor, Elizabeth I. “Golden Hinde” was the famous 70-foot vessel of Sir Francis; however, upon setting out from Plymouth on its voyage in 1577, this ship was actually called “Pelican.” It is widely accepted that in 1579, Drake did reach the area that is present-day Marin County, California.

Just Outside San Francisco

Historians and explorers aside, you can certainly discover Muir Beach and Muir Woods in Marin County a lot easier than Sir Francis Drake did.

Between the Woods and the Beach

Only 10 miles from the city, we spent the morning at Muir Woods National Monument in awe of the 1,000-year-old giant redwood trees and learning about the rare, perfectly balanced eco-system. Adult entry is $7 (although the website still says $5), including an interesting hour-long park ranger guided tour that starts at 11 a.m. and at 1 p.m. Open every day from 8 a.m.; no pets.

A Winding Mountain Road

Follow signs on Shoreline Highway (Route 1) from Muir Woods to Muir Beach, less than three miles away. There is a parking lot, barbeque grills, picnic tables and benches, a pay phone, and restrooms. A gorgeous and clean small beach, there is plenty of opportunity for hiking, fishing, nature appreciation, and bird-watching around the beach, the lagoon, and Redwood Creek.

Work up a thirst and an appetite, for five minutes’ walk from here, you stumble upon pretty Pelican Inn. This truly English-style pub and inn is a wonderful discovery for Anglophiles – indeed, for anyone who discovers it while in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Genuine English Hospitality

Boom, you’re in Britain. White-washed stucco and timbered walls with leaded windows overlooking a sloping lawn, horseshoes hanging on the rafters, a conservatory garden to the rear, a fireplace in the snug room, and a dartboard on the tiny pub’s wall. We enjoyed a pint of Fuller’s London Pride, brewed in my former neighborhood in West London, and traditional pub fayre, bangers and mash and some fish and chips. Reserve for an English tea with scones, finger sandwiches, and Prince William’s favorite, McVitie’s digestive biscuits, served on weekday afternoons. Friday and Saturday evenings feature live music. Sunday afternoons feature a pub roast carvery.

Stay On for an English Breakfast

Plan ahead for an overnight stay in one of seven quaint rooms upstairs at the inn, all with low ceilings and old Persian rugs, none with televisions, three with a four-poster bed. Rates from $190-$275 plus tax, full English breakfast for two is included. Note that Pelican Inn is phone-free, and the management reminds that cell phone usage is precluded by the coastal hills.

Thought for the Day from Pelican Inn

“There is nothing which has yet been contrived by man, by which so much happiness is produced as a good tavern or inn.” – Samuel Johnson (1709-1784).

Pelican Inn
10 Pacific Way
Muir Beach, CA 94965

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