These spots in Marin will leave you starstruck

Charlotte DeForrest

From Mount Tamalpias to Stinson Beach, the Bay Area is known for its spectacular landscapes. Residents and tourists frequently flock to overlooks like the Marin Headlands to watch the sunset, take a hike or have a picnic. But once the light is gone and most viewers have left, a new beauty emerges: the glittering night sky. Depending on the Earth’s rotation, between 2,500 and 5,000 stars are visible to the naked eye on most nights in the Bay Area. On top of that, Marin’s location and high vista points create the perfect locations to view all these stars at once. 

For the best results, avoid days when the moon is full or almost full to eliminate light pollution. Using apps such as StarView Lite and Sky Guide is also a great way for you to identify stars, planets and constellations and learn about the night sky in real time. 


Point Reyes:  

Point Reyes is considered one of the best stargazing locations in California due to its low light pollution. Recently, Point Reyes applied to become an official “international dark sky reserve,” a title currently held by less than 24 places on Earth which are considered to have optimally low light pollution and spectacular stars. While it may take up to two years for Point Reyes to be designated as an official sky reserve spot, there is no denying the quality of the stargazing there. 

As you continue past the town of Point Reyes and Tomales Bay, simply finding a shoulder to pull off of Sir Francis Drake Boulevard allows you a glimpse of an infinite number of colorful, shining stars. The closer you are to the Point Reyes Lighthouse, the better the view. Even though the drive from Southern Marin is far and especially tricky in the dark, the view is well worth it. The stillness of driving the open roads in the dark is calming and makes you feel at peace as you are surrounded by the sky. Familiar constellations like Orion’s belt, the Big Dipper and Taurus are easily identified due to their luminosity. Point Reyes and the surrounding areas are surely the best places for new stargazers to visit because even without being able to identify different constellations and planets; the view is simply like none other. 


The Marin Headlands:

The Golden Gate Bridge overlook in the Marin Headlands is the closest of the three locations to Redwood, and although the drive is easy and convenient, the abundance of stars simply does not compare with Point Reyes. Light pollution from the Golden Gate Bridge, passing cars and the city skyscrapers makes it hard to pick out the clusters of stars that are visible at Point Reyes. The bridge acts as a distraction from the sky and takes away the peaceful ambience that should be apparent when stargazing. Additionally, fog frequently hinders the view, and parking can be challenging, making it hard to “camp out” and spend time with the stars. Although this location is not the best for stargazing, it is a great place to admire the lights of the bridge and the city line of San Francisco over the Bay. 


Muir Beach Overlook

Located right off Shoreline Highway, Muir Beach Overlook is a scenic viewpoint and picnic spot. This empty parking lot provides the perfect accessible location to witness a panoramic view of the sky framed by towering Redwood trees. The drive to Muir Beach Overlook from Redwood or the Larkspur area is much shorter than Point Reyes, and while the view may not compare to West Marin, thousands of stars, as well as planets and common constellations, are visible. The elevation and unobstructed views are big pros as well. Overall, Muir Beach Overlook is the perfect place for those who want to experience a sky free of major light pollution without traveling too far. 

No matter which location you pick, stargazing is a one of a kind experience you don’t want to miss. So grab your layers, a folding chair and binoculars and get ready to take in the night sky!