It's an open secret in Northern California that much of the coast – and especially the Point Reyes National Seashore, an hour and a half north of San Francisco – gets warmer at summer's end, especially into late September and early October. Midsummer fog dissipates by then, the cooling winds calm down, and the sunshine gets a chance to toast all those sandy beaches. At the southern end of Point Reyes, in the old hippie mecca of Bolinas, you can rent longboards and wetsuits (it's the Pacific, so while air temps are in the 70s and 80s, water's in the 60s, tops) for the town beach, where summer south swells break into perfect peelers for beginning surfers. A little farther north, on the protected shores of Tomales Bay, you can rent standup paddleboards for day-trip noodling in warmer waters or sea kayaks for backcountry camping adventures (permits required). Hog Island Oyster Company, in the nearby town of Marshall, rents picnic tables and outdoor hibachis for grilling their world-class bivalves. But maybe the biggest draw is simply the Point Reyes National Seashore itself, 111 square miles of wilderness crisscrossed by 150 miles of foot trail, where tule elk and mountain lions meander along dozens of miles of open, wild beach.
Where to stay: If you’re not up to camping, the Tomales Bay Resort offers bayside and poolside bungalows. [from $125; tomalesbayresort.com]
Best outfitter: Blue Waters Kayaking is one of the longest-running full-service outfitters in Point Reyes. They’ll rent you a kayak, paddleboard, or bike, or take you on guided hikes and wildlife-watching expeditions if you’re more comfortable on land. [bwkayak.com]