North Bay

The North Bay area consists of Marin, Napa and Sonoma Counties. It is the least populated region of the Bay Area and noted for its pleasant environment and enjoyable retreats. The region’s economy is buoyed by its construction, technology and tourism industries. Napa and Sonoma Counties, in particular, draw many visitors to their world-renowned wineries. The North Bay region can be reached by commuting from San Francisco over the Golden Gate Bridge or from East Bay over the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. The area also can be accessed at Tiburon by ferry from stations located at Pier 41 or the Ferry Building in San Francisco or from Angel Island State Park.

When thinking about the county of Marin, it’s hard not to think about marinas. Indeed, Marin County offers potential residents a life of beauty by the ocean. Its stunning water views make it an ideal location for those who love outdoor recreational activities. A day at the beach doesn’t have to be a vacation in Marin County; it’s a lifestyle and one that doesn’t take much time to make into a habit.

Major Communities (2011 Population): Corte Madera (9,353), Fairfax (7,520), Kentfield (6,485), Larkspur (12,054), Mill Valley (14,051), Novato (52,456), San Anselmo (12,468), San Rafael (58,313), Sausalito (7,136) and Tiburon (9,058)

  • Population................................................256,069
  • Population Growth (2010–11)..............1.5%
  • Persons Per Square Mile......................485.1

  • School Districts: Dixie, Kentfield, Lagunitas, Larkspur, Mill Valley, Novato, Reed, Ross, Ross Valley, San Rafael, Sausalito Marin City, Shoreline and Tamalpais
  • Total Public School Enrollment (2011–12): 38,102
  • Educational Attainment (adult population)
    • High school diploma...........................92%
    • College degrees..................................54%

For more information, visit Marin County’s website at Following is an overview of the four most significant cities in Marin County.

— Corte Madera
The small town of Corte Madera is located in the green countryside of Marin County and known as the hidden jewel of the county. Breathtaking views are just a short walk or bike ride away, and the weather is almost always sunny and pleasant. With a population of less than 9,400 residents, Corte Madera is an ideal place for families looking to raise their children in a small-town environment with access to a metropolitan city. The town reflects the easy, outdoor lifestyle associated with California with its open space and parks in every direction. Residents find a magical blend if contrasts from its rural, sprawling hillsides and waterways to its cosmopolitan and fashionable homes and businesses.

The Larkspur School District and the Tamalpais Union High School District provide primary and secondary school facilities for students, but the town has a private option in the Marin County Day School. Notably, the town supports the headquarters of the national retailer Restoration Hardware and offers two shopping malls: The Village at Corte Madera and Town Center at Corte Madera.

— Mill Valley
Mill Valley is located about four miles north of San Francisco via the Golden Gate Bridge. The city’s mild Mediterranean climate typically offers wet winters and dry summers. Thanks to its accessibility to San Francisco and close proximity to Mount Tamalpais, Mill Valley has become a popular area for high-income families.

One of the more artistically inclined communities in the North Bay Area, Mill Valley is home to several art galleries that celebrate the artistic heritage of its past and present inhabitants. Some major events for the local art community include the Mill Valley Fall Arts Festival, the Mill Valley Film Festival and the Mill Valley Wine and Gourmet Food Tasting. The performing arts are represented by the 142 Throckmorton Theatre, Marin Theatre Company, The Curtain Theatre, the Sydney B. Cushing Amphitheatre and the Mountain Play Association.

Throughout the years, many writers, actors and musicians have called Mill Valley their home. Acclaimed writer Jack Kerouac and beat poet Gary Snyder shared a residence at 370 Montford Avenue in the mid-1950s, and even fictional character B.J. Hunnicutt on the TV show M*A*S*H called Mill Valley home. Actors Kathleen Quinlan and Dana Carvey have lived here, and Mill Valley was the birthplace of comedic actor Jonah Hill. Talented and influential musicians, such as Janis Joplin, Jerry Garcia, Bonnie Raitt, Huey Lewis, Sammy Hagar and Clarence Clemmons, also have resided in Mill Valley at some point. Music icons John Lennon and Yoko Ono briefly stayed in Mill Valley in the mid-1970s.

— Novato
Novato is located in northeastern Marin County and is known for its abundance of wide-open spaces. Residents can enjoy picnics and outdoor excursions in any one of the city’s 27 green spaces, including three major city parks. Just three miles north of the city is Olompali State Historic Park is made up of 900 acres that are perfect for camping trips and entire days devoted to physical exercise and sports.

The Novato business community is made up of several technology companies, numerous retail centers and biotech firms, including BioMarin Pharmaceutical and the Buck Institute for Age Research. Members of the community frequently take part in a number of annual festivities and celebrations, which include the Novato Festival of Art, Wine and Music; the Novato Farmers Market, the Classic Car Show and Friday Night Downtown Family Film Night.

Prominent private and public schools in the area include Novato High School/Marin School for the Arts, Our Lady of Loretto School, Nova Education Center and Sam Hazelton School of the Arts. The College of Marin community college in nearby Kentfield offers its more than 10,000 students 60 distinct programs in a variety of fields as they pursue their associates degrees.

— San Rafael
San Rafael is an oceanside city that also serves as Marin County’s county seat. Its enjoyable Mediterranean climate makes it a great place to live for active and nature-oriented families. The city’s most recognizable landmark is Church of Saint Raphael and Mission San Rafael Arcangel.

Since the 1970s, San Rafael has been a significant hub for the entertainment industry. At the beginning of the decade, George Lucas came to the city to direct THX 1138, and in 1971 he founded Lucas Films, which later went on to produce the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises. Despite Lucas Films moving its headquarters to San Francisco in 2005, its initial success attracted several videogame developers to the area.

San Rafael has a high concentration of public parks. China State Camp Park, named for a Chinese fishing village established here in the 1880s, is now popular among hiking and biking enthusiasts and is known for its great views of Point San Pedro Peninsula. Other parks in San Rafael include Albert Park, Gerstle Park, McNears Beach Park, Peacock Gap Park and Pickleweed Park.

Napa County is world-famous for its extensive wine industry centered in the Napa Valley, which is home to more than 300 wineries that produce some of the best vintages this side of the Atlantic. The region draws nearly 5 million visitors each year to its wine retreats and tasting venues.

Major Communities (2011 Population): American Canyon (19,690), Calistoga (5,218), Napa (77,867) and St. Helena (5,884)

  • Population................................................139,045
  • Population Growth (2010–11)..............1.9%
  • Persons Per Square Mile......................182.4

  • School Districts: Calistoga, Howell Mountain, Napa Valley, Pope Valley and St. Helena
  • Total Public School Enrollment (2011–12): 20,600
  • Educational Attainment (adult population)
    • High school diploma...........................82.6%
    • College degrees..................................30.7%

For more information, visit Napa County’s website at Following is an overview of the two most well-known communities in the county.

— Napa
Napa widely is considered one of the top travel destinations in the world. While its first-rate wine industry is certainly appealing to tourists, the city also routinely is cited as a great place to live because of its pristine environment and below-average crime rate. Its Mediterranean climate provides enjoyable weather all year, and Napa is easily accessible city and situated between the Oakland International Airport and Sacramento International Airport. Gourmands and epicureans alike appreciate Napa’s unmatched selection of fine-dining establishments. From traditional French cuisine to contemporary Japanese, there are plenty of great places to relax and enjoy great food and event better wine. The 55-mile-long Napa River is the source of many of the region’s thriving vineyards, and it also gives residents more great opportunities to enjoy the outdoors. Several parks are situated along the river, including Kennedy Park, a 350-acre open area that’s a favorite spot for all who enjoy picnicking, hiking and boating.

— St. Helena
St. Helena is a lively and charming city that gives the impression a small town. St. Helena always has had an agricultural industry, but recently it has become a significant business hub for the many wine-related industries. The city enables true country living while providing residents with all of the typical Bay Area comforts. Like every other part of Napa Valley, St. Helena draws people from far and wide to its unsurpassed culinary establishments, some of which are run by famous names in the industry, such as James Beard Award winner Cindy Pawlcyn who runs Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen. The Culinary Institute of America operates the Wine Spectator Greystone Restaurant where residents enjoy the popular pastime of taking cooking classes. Main Street is a wonderful place to shop for art, handicrafts, clothing, oils and gourmet food, and nearby wineries include Beringer Vineyards, Schramsberg Vineyards and Prager Winery & Port Works.

Sonoma County has long been synonymous with “the good life,” and it’s not hard to see why. Residents are able to enjoy 21 top-tier golf courses, more than 40 luxury spas, world-class shopping excursions, nationally acclaimed restaurants and a host of annual festivals. Sonoma County is truly a place of leisure and laidback sensibilities.

Major Communities (2011 Population): Boyes Hot Springs (6,656), Cloverdale (8,694), Cotati (7,330), Healdsburg (11,353), Petaluma (58,453), Rohnert Park (41,333), Santa Rosa (169,292), Sebastopol (7,443), Sonoma (10,741) and Windsor (27,042)

  • Population...............................................491,829
  • Population Growth (2010–11).............1.6%
  • Persons Per Square Mile.....................307.1

  • School Districts: Alexander Valley, Bellevue, Bennett Valley, Cinnabar, Cloverdale, Cotati-Rohnert Park, Dunham, Forestville, Fort Ross, Gravenstein, Guerneville, Harmony, Healdsburg, Kenwood, Liberty, Mark West, Monte Rio, Montgomery, Oak Grove, Old Adobe, Petaluma, Piner-Olivet, Rincon Valley, Roseland, Santa Rosa, Sebastopol, Sonoma Valley, Twin Hills, Two Rock, Waugh, West Side, West Sonoma County, Wilmar, Windsor and Wright
  • Total Public School Enrollment (2011–12): 71,688
  • Educational Attainment (adult population)
    • High school diploma..........................86.4%
    • College degrees..................................31.8%

For more information, visit Sonoma County’s website at Following is an overview some of the largest communities in the county.

— Petaluma
Petaluma is a popular city to shop for funky and fabulous treasures in antique galleries in its historic downtown, sample artisan cheeses at the source, savor farm-to-table wine-country cuisine or sip Sonoma County wine on a sunset cruise in the Petaluma River. Known as the portal to Sonoma County, Petaluma this ideal base for excursions to the wine country, the dramatic Sonoma Coast and the majestic redwood groves. Petaluma always has fairs and festivals that are sometimes described as “quirky,” so it’s no wonder Travel + Leisure Magazine named it one of the “Nation’s Top Ten Getaways Near a Major City.”

— Santa Rosa
The city of Santa Rosa is the fifth largest in the Bay Area and is renowned for its rich urban way of life near a bounty of undeveloped land. Santa Rosa enjoys warm summers and cool wet winters. July through September have the warmest months of the year with average daily temperatures in the mid-80s. Its proximity to the Sonoma and Napa Valley regions ensure that tourism plays a significant role in Santa Rosa’s economy. Like most of the Bay Area, it is also a beneficiary of several technology, biomedical and agricultural institutions as well as home to several performing arts organizations that provide a range of theatrical entertainment. The three principle resident companies are the Santa Rosa Junior College Summer Repertory Theatre, the Santa Rosa Symphony and the 6th Street Playhouse. Santa Rosa also has the corner on visual arts in North Bay with the Sonoma County Museum and is noted as being the long-time residence of Charles M. Schulz, the creator of the Peanuts comic strip, so you’ll find a statue of Charlie Brown and Snoopy in Railroad Square at the corner of Fourth and Wilson.

— Sonoma
After Napa Valley, Sonoma is the destination of choice for wine aficionados from all over the world; some even say it’s superior. There are more than 200 first-rate wineries in Sonoma as well as a number of interesting attractions for visitors and residents to take in and enjoy, such as the Valley of the Moon, Quarryhill Botanical Garden, Sonoma Plaza, Presidio of Sonoma and Infineon Raceway. The city also has a rich local history with three sites constructed in the 1800s and listed as California Historical Landmarks: the Mission San Francisco Solano, the residence of General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo and the Bear Flag Monument. Two local newspapers serve the Sonoma Valley: the Sonoma News, which has been cited by national magazines for its editorial excellence, and the Sonoma Valley Sun. SONOMA magazine, a glossy publication focusing on the lifestyle of the region, also is produced here on a quarterly basis.

North Bay is all about enjoying the outdoors and enjoying the wonderful wines the region has to offer while still having easy access to San Francisco’s urban center.
Buying Your New Home Thanks to a sound economy, ...
Building Your Custom Dream Home Now that you are ...
Metropolitan Living Across the Bay East Bay is the ...
Learning From Kindergarten to College California’s public education system ...
Your Guide to Financing and Mortgage Although a newcomer ...
Quality Health Services for Bay Area Residents The San ...
Protecting Your Family and Property in San Francisco Once ...
Trailing Spouses—Job Hunting in the Bay Area Many San ...
Planning and Managing Your Move It’s been a hectic ...
Staying Organized Before The Move You’ve just received exciting ...
Alternatives to Buying a Home As a newcomer to ...
San Francisco In Depth Officially named the City and ...
An Unmatched Quality of Life San Francisco is one ...
The Technology Capital of the West Coast South Bay ...
Ease of Living With A View If you ask ...