Oyster Adventure

By Kate Riley July 18, 2011

We had some friends over Friday night who happen to be book publishers, who brought us their latest publication: Oyster Culture.  The book is a great read, one we were happy to add to our library, all about the ecosystem and history of the famous oyster farms along California’s Highway One in West Marin.  We were so inspired by this text, we spent Saturday afternoon on an oyster adventure, in pursuit of a few dozen to bring home and enjoy on the half shell and also barbeque with friends. 

Our first stop, Tomales Bay Oyster Company, specializing in fresh farmed oysters and clams, pulled straight from the ocean water before your eyes.  

tomales bay oyster co


The place is packed with people filling up dozens of picnic tables, barbequing their shellfish fresh from the sea, with this sweet beach shack playing music while you enjoy the view.

tomales shack


Thankfully, there are 10 minute parking spots up front for those who just want to pickup like we did.  You have your choice of extra small to large, and the owner Tod even opened up a sample for us.

tomales collage


There were dozens of oysters on the grill everywhere you walk! 

bbq oysters


Next stop, Hog Island Oyster Company, where you pay to sit, and they will serve you their oysters on a tray with the tools to shuck them yourself, while you relax in front of a peaceful view of Tomales Bay.

hog island oyster co

hog island collage

hog island view

hog island buoy and nets


Last stop, Nick’s Cove, another fantastic restaurant where we’ve dined in the past, with a fantastic view and also cottages you can rent to stay overnight. 

nicks cove restaurant

nicks cove truck

fisherman and oysters to go

boat in grass


There’s a little boat shack at the end of a long dock where you can savor seafood with beer or wine, while you take in the view. 

boat shack


boat shack images

nicks cottages

wood buoy and rope

yellow life preserver


We found this was also a great place for kids to stretch their legs . . .

kids running

While you’re out here, you can always spend a half day kayaking too!

If you’d like to make this day trip from San Francisco, here’s a handy map:

hog island map



After our little Tomales Bay tour, we brought our little morsels packed on ice home for an impromptu oyster party with friends.

oyster party


We served barbequed oysters, raw oysters on the half shell with mignonette, and these Oysters Rockefeller, which were a little meal in themselves, and so delicious! 

oysters rockefeller

Recipe here.

With our feast, we served Balleto 2009 Pinot Gris from the Russian River Valley, it’s the perfect summer wine with citrus flavors, very mellow, crisp, and light.  

It was one of those enchanting afternoons that has me and my mister talking about writing our own book on the Wine Country, with all there is to see and taste.

bed of oyster shells


If you’re an oyster lover, you can savor the experience in print.  Oyster Culture by Gwendolyn Meyer teaches all about the history of the oyster farms and the fascinating ecosystem behind it, coupled with beautiful images of the life by the sea growing this culinary delicacy. 

oyster culture book

You’ll also find many of the recipes famous in these parts, from Hog Island’s Hog Wash (mignonette) to Nick’s Cove’s Oyster’s Mornay.  I’m not paid to say it, we just had such an fantastic experience inspired by the book I wanted to share it all with you, enjoy! 




  1. Okay wait….you cook your oysters? Barbecued oysters? I am originally from the Chesapeake Bay..where we eat our oysters raw or fried or we don’t eat them at all. I am intrigued by this barbecuing you speak of. Also, you should read The Big Oyster, it’s about east coast oysters. Fabulous read. I look forward to learning about oyster history on the other coast. ;)

  2. Hey Audrey, we do that too! The men in our oyster club love them raw on the half shell, especially my hub. That’s where some lemon or a fine mignonette come in handy. Fried up in Po’Boys, you betcha! Love it all! I’ll check out your east coast book recommendation!

  3. Love your blog! I’m actually a Sonoma County resident and work in the Napa Valley wine industry. My husband and I just bought our first home 2 weeks ago, so we are already busy doing a bunch of diy projects and you have so many great ideas. A friend introduced me to oysters a few months ago (I’m orginally from Michigan) and I fell in love. Next time you are out that way check out the Marshall Store on Hwy 1…its just down from Hog Island but less crowded and you can enjoy your bbq’d or raw oysters along a bench overlooking the bay. I think we might have to go soon after you got me thinking about it! Take care!

  4. So funny you mention the Marshall Store Jennifer, we LOVE that place, the best Oysters Rockefeller and what a view, so glad you mentioned it! Hope our paths cross someday in Napa!

  5. We stopped in to the Tomales Bay Oyster Company ourselves on Sunday to pick up some bivalves to go for our own backyard bbq. We add butter & Tapatilo to some, and pesto to others. Of course, we also eat them raw with mignonette. I love how laid back and unpretentious TBOC is which is why we haven’t yet been to Hog Island. I’ve been told by their folks there I need to reserve up to four months in advance for a picnic table and that’s just too far in the future for me to plan a day trip. At some point I really want to stay at the cottages at Nick’s Cove. Maybe this winter will be a good time. Lovely photos as always.

  6. I am so glad you wrote this post. We’ve been meaning to drive down to Tomales Bay for oysters for the past five years since we moved to Sonoma County. After seeing what a fun day you had, I do believe it’s time for my family to hop in the car and eat some oysters! Maybe this weekend… or next!

  7. Oh, I am making myself hungry looking at all this yummy sea fare! I also like that the day looked a little overcast/chilly, which gave me a much needed respite from our hot hot hot Colorado weather! ;)

  8. Oh YUM!!! I want to read this book. And the funny thing is that every time we head out to the Beach, we always turn right and go to Bodega Bay. I don’t think I have ever been to Tomales Bay. I just googled it and it is only 35 miles away from me. Hm…….maybe I need to talk my sweetie into taking us this weekend! I think I want to try some BBQ oysters. Thank you for the pretty pictures and the great idea.

  9. I love those oyster farms up on the California coast. I can taste the oysters just looking at the photos.

  10. Great timing. My friends and I were just planning a trip to Tomalas Bay. You saved me time researching where to get oysters!

  11. What a fun adventure – thanks to all your beautiful photos, think I’ll convince my hubby we should go on a day trip to Tomales Bay. Beautiful pictures and great write up!

  12. I am a huge oyster lover! My hubby and I love to drive up the coast on a nice Saturday or Sunday. Nick’s Cove and the Marshall Store are a couple of our favorites. Your kids are so cute, Kate.

  13. How fun … first to hang out with the Grueners :) then to have an oyster adventure. Makes me want to come tour your area!

  14. Love Hog Island….. still haven’t been this summer, thanks for the reminder!

  15. Ever been to Rocker Oysterfeller’s, in Valley Ford? They have $1 oyster happy hour on Thursdays. And maybe tacos, too? Or maybe that’s a different day? I can’t remember, because every time we go, I get carried away by the wine list, and the oysters, and ooh, let’s stay for dinner and order that fried chicken they do so well… I would say it’s more of a date-night place, but it does have that high-class food, low-brow atmosphere west Sonoma County does so well. Point being, it’s a quick drive for us to get our oyster fix if we don’t have the energy for a half-day excursion.

  16. I must put this on my bucket list! The pics are beautiful! Makes me wish for a trip to California!

    ~ Ali

  17. I would like to take a vacation and tour the oyster farms. It looks like a beautiful trip.

  18. Im so excited to hear the book inspired an adventure- and guided you to the farms along Tomales Bay – next time you are up that way stop in at the Marshall Store, Tomales Bay Oyster Company’s sister business- for oysters and other delicious dishes and a location that cant be beat! 5 of their recipes are featured in Oyster culture- so do try them at home!

  19. I LOVE this article! I found the Oyster Culture book at The Marshall Store and purchased it as a souvenir for my oyster adventure, which is so funny that it worked kind of the opposite for you. Your journey was quite a bit more extensive than the one we took last year, although I think there’s definitely something to doing a few days in SF, a few days in Napa, and a few days in Tomales Bay. Terroir, meroir, and some urban fun. The perfect trifecta. Must do again!

Leave a comment!

Keep the conversation going! Your email address will not be published.*


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Lately on Instagram (@centsationalstyle)