There are dozens of waterfront meeting destinations in the San Francisco Bay area, but perhaps none so bucolic as Tiburon, a picturesque community in Marin County, just across Richardson Bay from Sausalito and within sight of the Golden Gate Bridge. The walkable, single-story downtown is loaded with cute shops and sophisticated eateries, but the attraction that draws most out-of-town visitors is Angel Island—a rolling, 740-acre state park and nature refuge just one nautical mile offshore.
“There’s no other place close to the city that lets you escape so entirely,” says Brittany Haning, a spokesperson for the Angel Island Conservancy. “It’s hard to believe that something with so much historical value and significance is often overlooked, even by people who look out at the island every day.”
The Angel Island Tiburon Ferry Co. operates three vessels crossing back and forth from Tiburon to Angel Island, which are all available for group gatherings. “We can arrange all kinds of private charters—corporate events, cocktail hours, birthday parties—just about any type of party on the water you can think of,” says Ashley Kristensen, a manager with the ferry company.
The standard ride from Tiburon to the island’s Ayala Cove Marina is just 15 to 20 minutes, with passengers dropped off at a landing area with restrooms and an excellent restaurant, Cove Cafe, that can cater picnics on a grassy lawn area nearby.
Some 13 miles of hiking trails and 8 miles of bike trails provide lots of options for exploring on your own. Many groups opt for a narrated tram tour that covers the cultural and historic aspects of the island, from its early days as a home to the Coastal Miwok, to its role during the Civil War, World War II, and the Cold War, as well as its status as a quarantine and immigration station nicknamed the “Ellis Island of the West.” More than half a million immigrants, mostly European, from over 80 nations were processed there between 1910 and 1940. Immigrants from China were initially detained, and visitors can take a self-guided or group tour of the Barracks Museum to learn more about the history of immigrant detention and exclusion.
Back on the mainland, the Lodge at Tiburon is a beautifully renovated 104-room property just a block from the water- front and ferry terminal—it is a favorite with groups, from academic gatherings to corporate events, says Sauline Gulbiniene, the lodge’s director of food and beverage. Event spaces ranging from nooks and crannies to a trio of ballrooms and spacious pool and patio areas can accommodate groups of up to 200.
There are many benefits to being off the beaten track, Gulbiniene says. “Besides being a lot less congested than San Francisco, we are warmer and sunnier, too. And, we have free parking,” she says. With overnight parking in San Francisco topping $80 a night these days, that’s a Bay Area plus that planners and attendees will appreciate. And, athletic attendees have another transportation option: biking over the Golden Gate Bridge and arriving at Tiburon via the Tiburon Peninsula Path.