Getaways: A coastal escape at Nick's Cove

My wife and I wanted to get away. We just didn’t want to go very far.

So we headed to the coast for a weekend that included an otherworldly hike at Point Reyes National Seashore, a sublime dinner and overnight at Nick’s Cove in Marshall, and a stroll along the windswept Kortum Trail just north of Bodega Bay.

We often visit the coast for hikes or beach days, but staying overnight makes the trip far richer, a 28-hour getaway that left us feeling refreshed and exhilarated, ready for the week ahead.

Our jaunt started with a 45-minute drive from Petaluma to a trailhead just below the Point Reyes Hostel (it’s easy to park there). The 5-mile loop starts on the Laguna Trail toward Coast Camp.

Forested areas filled with birdsong give way to expansive valleys where (in March) a rainbow of wildflowers carpeted the hills. The terrain is relatively gentle though a few hills will give your legs a workout.

Just below Coast Camp is a somewhat steep trail down to the beach, but it’s well worth the descent. We brought turkey and bacon sandwiches from Ray’s Deli in Petaluma and picnicked on the sand as envious seagulls silently implored us to share.

The sounds of the crashing waves soothed our souls; the brisk wind carried the salty scent of the sea. We walked the tide line then dozed on our blanket.

The Coast Trail parallels the beach for about a mile, some of the most gorgeous hiking in California, and if you walk during the late afternoon you can watch the sun slide toward the horizon, casting ever-longer shadows.

The trail then cuts inland to return to the hostel, which is where we might have stayed a decade or two ago. But since we only had one night, I wanted to live it up.

We pulled into Nick’s Cove just before sunset and got the keys to our bungalow, so close to Tomales that we almost felt like we were floating.

Music drifted toward us from a shack at the end of Nick’s pier. The next day we identified the source - an old piano. The shack is open to hotel guests and is a perfect place to enjoy a cocktail at sunset.

Our home for the night was named Bandit’s Bungalow for a Hollywood bank heist movie shot at Nick’s Cove.

We raided the honor bar and popped a split of sparkling wine. From the deck, we took in the impressionistic views of Point Reyes and Tomales Bay.

As we unpacked, someone knocked on our door. I opened it to find a shimmering plate of a half dozen barbecued oysters embedded in rock salt, a welcome taste of Marshall delivered to all guests. They were plump and flavorful, the ideal complement to the half bottle of Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noirs.

Our bungalow was so cozy it was hard to leave, but we had never dined at Nick’s Cove and were eager to see if chef Austin Perkins, a Petaluman, would live up to the glowing reviews.

The restaurant has a nautical feel, with thick ropes encircling the base of the mahogany bar and wooden beams overhead.

There’s a chef’s tasting menu, but we opted to dine a la carte. The salad was so fresh I asked the server where they sourced their greens. Just up the hill in the “croft,” she said, which is what Nick’s Cove calls its on-property garden.

For mains, I opted for the roasted beef short ribs; my wife ordered the Kurobota pork chop. Both were divine. And because I didn’t have to worry about driving, I had a couple of glasses of pinot before we strolled back to our cabin.

The sounds of the sea lulled us to sleep. When high tide came in, I realized our cabin really was on the water, supported by pillars over the bay.

We woke to a foggy morning and from our deck saw about 100 western willets, mottled brown shorebirds with long, narrow beaks dipping industriously into the sand.

Hotel guests are invited to tour the croft, so we spent a few minutes with Lucas Shapiro (no relation), who showed us rows of dino kale, red chard and strawberries. By late April, he said, about half the restaurant’s produce comes from the garden.

We had planned to kayak on Tomales Bay (you can rent kayaks at Blue Waters, 4 miles south of Nick’s Cove,, but the forecast predicted brisk winds.

So we opted for another favorite hike, the Kortum Trail south of Jenner (park at Shell Beach). The trail follows the coast’s rugged contours and plunges down toward beaches, then up to the bluffs. We paused often to watch waves crash against big rocks in the ocean.

“I wonder if we can see whales from here,” my wife said as we looked out on the Pacific. A moment later, almost as if on cue, we saw a misty spout in the far distance. The whales were too far out to clearly view, but we saw several plumes that could only have come from them.

Soaking in the last rays of the afternoon sun, we felt our weekend was everything we had wanted. And in less than an hour we would be home.

Michael Shapiro is author of “A Sense of Place.” Contact him through

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