Marin County piers
Fort Baker Pier
Overview: This 358-foot-long, l-shaped asphalt structure is homely, but nobody notices because of the staggering visuals.
Background: A pier was first built here in 1937, and it has since been rehabbed several times. The Fort Baker complex is part of the Golden Gate Recreation Area, though the Army continues to have an active presence on the grounds.
Notable views: From the pier’s wide end, this may be the most spectacular view inside San Francisco Bay. The San Francisco skyline, Alcatraz, Angel Island and the Marin headlands are on display, albeit from a distance. But the clincher is the Golden Gate Bridge, which seems to zoom overhead like some massive 3-D effect. It’s well worth experiencing on even a raw day when the fog rolls in. It is breezy on this exposed point that extends over the bay, but the chill in the air is quickly forgotten.
Directions: From either side of U.S. 101, take the Alexander Avenue exit, which is the closest exit to the Golden Gate Bridge entrance on the Marin side. Follow Alexander as it descends to the coast, and turn left onto Bunker Road and follow the signs to the pier.
Elephant Rock Pier
Overview: The cutest pier in the state. This 75-foot span, made of slatted metal, extends slightly from the Tiburon shore to encircle a good-sized rock that is indeed elephant-shaped. Locals fish from it, but it makes for a quirky five-minute walk. You may get wet; the occasional small wave splashes over the steel framework.
Notable views: Angel Island is to the left, much of the San Francisco skyline is straight ahead and the Golden Gate Bridge is visible in the distance to the right.
Parking: Two-hour free parking in the lot across Paradise Drive at Mar West Street.
Directions: From U.S. 101 take the Tiburon Boulevard exit and head east for 4 miles. Drive through the roundabout. Keep an eye out for the Caprice Restaurant, which is at the foot of the pier.
Paradise Beach Park Pier
Overview: This T-shaped pier is 300 feet long and has an almost 200-foot-wide span at its end. The pier is at the foot of a green hillside with some paved pathways from the parking lot above. With the seemingly manicured grounds and a small rock beach, the 19-acre park comes close to living up to its name.
Notable views: The pier is on the northern side of the Tiburon peninsula, so the views here aren’t of San Francisco but of the San Leandro Bridge to the left.
Parking: In a lot near the top of the hill. $8 all-day usage fee.
Directions: Exit Highway 101 at Highway 131/Tiburon Boulevard. Take Tiburon Boulevard to Trestle Glen Boulevard and turn left to Paradise Drive. Turn right for the short drive to the park entrance. ¿
McNear Beach Fishing Pier
Overview: This 190-foot concrete pier was partly destroyed by a storm in 2008 but has since been rebuilt. It sits in a large park named after former property owner John McNear, who donated 52 acres of this location.
Notable views: Mostly just water views of San Pablo Bay and the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge.
Parking: $8 fee to enter the grounds, with parking in the beach lot.
Directions: Exit Highway 1 at Point San Pedro Road and drive east about eight miles.
Overview: There is a decrepit wood pier here, but it’s perhaps the least notable thing about Lawson’s Landing, a private fishing and boating resort and campground at the mouth of Tomales Bay. It has a semi-hippie, semi-redneck, semi-last chance and semi-anything-goes vibe.
Background: Owned and operated by the Lawson family since 1926.
Parking: Free upon paid $8 day-use admission; if you visit for half an hour or less it’s $1. The balance will be refunded if you present a time-stamped admission receipt.
Directions: Take Highway 1 into Tomales. Take the first left on Dillon Beach Road 4 miles to Dillon Beach. Lawson’s Landing is at the end of the county road south of Dillon Beach.
-- Christopher Smith