San Rafael: The Jewel by San Pablo Bay

List makers looking to highlight the newest or trendiest spots in Marin County sometimes overlook San Rafael. However, this venerable town has plenty to offer both tourists and residents. It also has two things that none of the hip and trendy places can offer: history and San Pablo Bay.


San Rafael is the oldest city in Marin County, and one of the oldest in California. Long before any Europeans arrived on the scene, several villages of the Coastal Miwok Indians thrived here. The original occupants enjoyed the bountiful waters of both San Pablo Bay and the Sacramento River Delta.

While the English and Russians valued the strategic importance of modern day Marin County, it was the Spanish who first got a toehold in the area with the establishment of Mission San Rafael Arcangel. Over time that mission would grow into the beautiful and modern city of San Rafael.

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Others from all over the world would make this area home. The China Camp area was once the site of an important and bustling Chinese shrimp-fishing village.


As you would expect, San Rafael has many historical museums and buildings that are interesting and fun places to visit. Wandering around Old Town San Rafael is a great way to get a feel for what the area was like for the first residents. But, San Rafael has much more to offer than just its history.

Just shy of 33% of the land in the San Rafael area is open space and parks. It may be Marin County’s largest city, but it still has the feel of a small town where nature lovers are never far from a great hike.

China Camp offers everything from fishing in the waters of San Pablo Bay to hiking and camping. There is also a swimming pool, volleyball, and a nearby golf course.

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Close to San Rafael is the secretive and exclusive Skywalker Ranch. This sprawling movie studio in the wilderness has its own fire department as well as its own lake and security force. Those lucky enough to be invited in are treated to a Lucasfilm movie studio that functions more like an artistic retreat or resort than a traditional Hollywood studio.

San Pablo Bay

San Rafael sits right on the beautiful San Pablo Bay. Because of San Rafael’s geographic location on the Bay and near the Sacramento River Delta, boats of all shapes and sizes can be seen sailing in the waters around the town,

The beautiful Loch Lomond Marina area is home to new multi-million dollar homes that offer residents one-of—kind views of the water and the magnificent yachts that regularly dock there.

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San Rafael Real Estate

In real estate circles San Rafael is known as a solid investment, with homes increasing in value as much as 22% since 2012. The average price of a home in the San Rafael area is $930,000. Homes are available anywhere from the high $500,000’s to over $5 million for a luxurious estate.

But, most people are drawn to San Rafael not because of the financial possibilities, but because of the quality of life. Here you are never far from a stunning hike or a breathtaking view. Whether you are drawn to the town’s history, or the magnificent San Pablo Bay, there are plenty of great reasons to make San Rafael your home.

A version of this article was published on Inman.Com: Exploring the oldest city in Marin County

Behzad Zandinejad

Broker Associate

Decker Bullock Sotheby’s International Realty


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