Hearts Desire is a kid-friendly beach for those who enjoy a long and beautiful drive through West Marin county. (Nope, no apostrophe in the name of this hidden gem.) Located about an hour from Berkeley, near-ish the tiny town of Inverness, Hearts Desire is part of Tomales Bay State Park.
Why people go
This region of Marin is naturally beautiful and totally undeveloped. It feels like a complete escape from real life, and it's likely your cell phone won't work there. Other beaches face Tomales Bay, but you'd have to hike or paddle to them. Hearts Desire has two parking lots for easy access.
The water has no wake and remains shallow for many yards into the bay, creating a huge play space for young children to wade in. We didn't bring much beyond food and sunscreen, and I wished we had a raft or tube for our kids, 5 and 8, to flop around on. My children and their friends worked on digging a hole “to China”, and since they had no shovels (parental fail), proposed that they enter their masterpiece in a competition with special consideration for “hand-dug holes”.
There is a decent restroom and changing room right at the beach, but no changing table. My 5-year old daughter is very particular about bathrooms and this one met her standards.
What to know
It's a long and winding road to arrive here, about 20 minutes beyond Point Reyes Station, so kids prone to car sickness –or whining– may be happier spending the day at nearby Crown Beach in Alameda, which is also shallow and wave-free.
Note that on a busy day, when the parking lot is full, you'll park in the second lot, which is just a 90-second hike from the beach. However, due to the uneven ground, it's not a stroller-friendly path. Plan to carry or wear any babies.
There are no refreshments or supplies at the beach, just sand, water, picnic tables and barbecue pits. Pack a cooler or pick up food in Inverness before you head in to the State Park. Bring water toys and an umbrella for shade.
Families with older children might enjoy adding a hike to their beach outing. A pair of closed-toed shoes and long pants for Poison Oak protection are a good idea. Here's a link to instructions for an easy 2.8 mile loop.
Entrance is $8 per car via a machine that does not give change, but does take credit cards.
Where the heck is this place?
Point A, courtesy of Google Maps, represents Hearts Desire.