Frequently Asked Questions: What is a Marin County?
We get this question a lot: why is this area referred to as Marin County? It’s kind of odd to refer to an entire county vs. a specific town or city, right? What is a Marin, anyway?
Let’s try this for an answer:
When the Golden Gate Bridge opened in 1937, the 828 square mile area known as Marin County was forever linked with the San Francisco Peninsula, literally paving the way for 260,000 current residents and millions of visitors every year.
There are now 27 communities in Marin, with populations as small as 96 people and as large as 59,000. A few of those are unincorporated areas, and the rest are stand-alone cities and towns with their own city councils, regulations, and schools. The majority of the population is clustered around Highway 101 — the two largest cities are Novato and San Rafael, each with over 55,000 residents each.
The towns and cities can almost be thought of as large neighborhoods in a mid-sized city called Marin County. When you live in Marin you’re all over the county all the time. You may work in Novato, live in Corte Madera, get your hair cut in Mill Valley, go to the dentist in Sausalito, take a hike in the Marin Headlands, and go to San Rafael for dinner. All in one day! Sure, your house is in Corte Madera but you easily use the entire county, and your own personal map extends beyond the place where your house is located.
Many of these towns are linked together (thanks to the railroad back in the day), so you may not feel where one ends and the other starts. Most have their own downtown, and their own unique vibe. Some are fairly well-known — Sausalito and Mill Valley; and some would rather not be — like maybe Bolinas. All are charming in our opinion!
As charming as the towns are, Marin magic happens in nature.
The vast majority of Marin County is comprised of protected open space and farmland — about 80% of the county — and that is the defining feature of Marin County: the unspoiled beauty in all of that open space that essentially is the county.
Muir Woods and Stinson Beach and Point Reyes National Seashore and the Marin Headlands are the crown jewels of the National Park system and they’re all right here in Marin County. Combined with California State Parks (hello Mt. Tam and Angel Island), Marin County Parks (please go to Tiburon Ridge for the most amazing photos), and protected farmland and you can see how that 80% happens
Add in food from the area that pioneered the farm-to-table movement, local experiences like the ones we write about on this blog, and close proximity to San Francisco and you can see why people from all over the world come here to soak up the singular Marin County vibe.
See you out there!