Having read quite a bit about how lovely San Rafael was, we were pretty excited to be spending a week in town caring for 6 year old Julian the poodle. So we headed straight up from our house sit in San Francisco by taxi arriving at the owners home the night before they flew out for their holiday. Julian was a great pup and joined us for coffee downtown, took us on his favourite walks in the hills looking over San Rafael and had the most amazing trip to the beach were he just couldn’t contain his excitement.
Tip: To give yourself the best chance of getting some amazing sits like this one in San Rafael take a look at our post on Joining Trusted House Sitters, full of tips on how to stand out above the crowds!
We had the use of the owners lovely home in the hills overlooking San Rafael, just a 20 minute walk from the centre of town, supermarkets and cafes. The owners were kind enough to leave us their car so we could explore the area further and take Julian to the beach.
San Rafael is a bustling town and has a relaxing feel in the town centre with a great selection of boutique shops, coffee houses, restaurants, as well as Wholefoods, Safeway and Trader Joe’s Supermarkets. A popular commute to San Francisco and Oakland its roads can be really busy at rush hour times, but the town itself never felt crowded.
Our regular coffee house for the week was Aroma Cafe, where we could sit outside with Julian, people watching in the main street. Good food and coffee, it was always really busy which was a good sign that we picked one of the best day time eateries in town.
If you’re looking to dine out in the evening, check out Sol Food serving some really good Puerto Rican dishes and highly recommended by the home owners.
We found a great place for dog walking was up in the hills at Mountain Park which had beautiful views over the town and out towards Richmond Bridge the gateway to Oakland. Boyd Memorial Park is also a nice place for a walk or just to relax if the sun is shining.
We had the opportunity to take Julian on a day trip to the beach. We headed up into the hills past Fairfax, Nicasio and through to Point Reyes Station, a lovely drive in itself with mountain, lake and forest views on route. From Point Reyes we took Highway 1 down to beautiful Stinson Beach where we took Julian for a long walk and he absolutely loved it. We then took a sunset drive further down Highway 1 past Muir Beach and back to 101 just above Marin City and headed back north to San Raphael.
If you have the opportunity to travel further afield than just San Raphael town, then we highly recommend a trip out to Sausalito. Head just 15 minutes south on Highway 101 to this beautiful coastal town, which has some lovely restaurants, good coffee and deli shops and a range of unique shops. A great place for a stroll along the waterfront. You can also catch a ferry to San Francisco from here too.
In summary we found San Raphael a nice place to spend a week. We recommend you have the opportunity to explore the surrounding area to really benefit from a stay in this location. The downside for us was the traffic, the 101 does get very congested and was a bit of a pain when we came back from the beach and when we visited Sausalito.