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Novato is a sprawling suburb in Marin County in the San Francisco Bay Area of California. Novato is in the transition zone between the patchwork of suburban Marin County towns, long oriented towards San Francisco and the bay, and the wineries and pastureland of Sonoma County to the north.

Get in[edit]

Map of Novato

By car[edit]

Via Highway 101, the major north-south freeway or from Highway 37 which crosses marshland from Vallejo and Highway 80 or from west Marin on Hicks Valley Road/Novato Blvd.

By bus[edit]

Marin Transit offers service from other Marin County cities, and the affiliated service Golden Gate Transit goes north to Sonoma County and south to San Francisco.

By train[edit]

Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit, or SMART, connects Novato with San Rafael, Larkspur, and places in Sonoma County: Petaluma, Rohnert Park, Santa Rosa, and Sonoma County Airport. The Larkspur station allows connections to the Golden Gate Ferry to San Francisco.

SMART has three stations in Novato:

  • 1 Novato Downtown station. Right downtown, a short walk from various restaurants and shops. Novato Downtown station (Q25209449) on Wikidata Novato Downtown station on Wikipedia
  • 2 Novato Hamilton station. Close to the Marin Museum of Contemporary Art and nature walks in the nearby wetlands. Novato Hamilton station (Q23010115) on Wikidata Novato Hamilton station on Wikipedia
  • 3 Novato San Marin station. Close to nothing in particular, though it is within walking distance of Rush Creek Open Space Preserve. Novato San Marin station (Q23010116) on Wikidata Novato San Marin station on Wikipedia

Get around[edit]

Novato has tried to manufacture a "cute historic downtown" feel but alas it has not quite been successful. The small downtown area is very walkable and nicer than an outdoor mall, but it lacks the character and organic liveliness of downtown San Rafael, Petaluma, or even Larkspur.

Outside of downtown, Novato is a car-oriented community with inconsistent sidewalks and large distances.

By bike[edit]

Conditions may be too windy for bicycles to go "upwind."

By bus[edit]

There is limited Marin Transit (bus) service, which is primarily used by commuters. The bus serves a major stop "downtown" on Old Redwood Highway.



Rush Creek Open Space Preserve

Essentially a bedroom community but there are various hiking opportunities in the open space around Novato and Marin County (e.g. Mt. Burdell). Immediately west of town are rolling hills, cow farms and 60-acre-plus ranches—a pleasant, scenic ride by car or motorcycle.

  • 1 Olompali State Historic Park (just north of Novato on 101), +1 415 892-3383. W–Su 9AM–5PM. Olompali State Historic Park (Q7088515) on Wikidata Olompali State Historic Park on Wikipedia
  • 2 Mount Burdell. Nature preserve for hiking. Dogs are welcome and can be off-leash on fire roads. Mount Burdell Open Space Preserve (Q6919912) on Wikidata Mount Burdell Open Space Preserve on Wikipedia
  • 3 Rush Creek Open Space Preserve (a half-mile / 1-km walk from Novato San Marin SMART station via Redwood Blvd and Atherton Ave). Marshland and hills with gentle hiking and mountain biking trails. Trailheads on Binford Road, Saddle Wood Drive, and Bahia Drive. Good for birdwatching. In the winter, parts of the trails will be muddy after it rains. Rush Creek Open Space Preserve (Q117253481) on Wikidata Rush Creek Open Space Preserve on Wikipedia


  • 1 Vintage Oaks Shopping Center, Rowland Blvd, +1 415-897-9999. M–Sa 10AM–9PM, Su 11AM to 6PM. Mall anchored by Target and Costco. Various clothing chains like Marshalls, Ross, Nordstrom, Gap, and Old Navy, as well as other shops including DSW, Sephora, Sports Basement, and See's Candies. Various chain restaurants including local chain Hopmonk Tavern with beer and live music. Also home to the fun ice cream and frozen yogurt shop Tuttimelon (see below). Ample free parking.


  • 1 Hamilton Marketplace, 5800 Nave Drive. M–F 10AM–7PM, Sa 8AM–6PM, Su 11AM–5PM. Mall that mainly consists of a Safeway and eateries like Peet's Coffee, Super Duper Burger, and Toast.
  • 2 Pacheco Plaza, 366 Ignacio Blvd. Mall with the higher-end local grocery chain Nugget Market, a bit like Whole Foods with local produce, lots of organic foods, and a prepared foods section. Restaurants include Marin Coffee Roasters, Boca Pizzeria, Taki Japanese, and Active Culture. Lots of outdoor seating.
  • 3 Maya Palenque, 349 Enfrente Rd, +1 415 883-6292, . Mexican restaurant with great staff, great drinks, great prices. Try the desserts!
  • 4 Ayawaska Hilltop Cafe, 850 Lamont Ave, +1 415-465-1500. Peruvian.
  • 5 Rustic Bakery, 1407 Grant Ave. Local baked goods: breads, pastries, and a café menu.
  • 6 Marvin's Breakfast Club, 1112 Grant Ave. Popular breakfast spot.
  • 7 Wicked Slush, 7400 Redwood Blvd. Soft-serve ice cream with "slush" (Italian ice).
  • Active Culture, 464 Ignacio Blvd. Health food: salads, bowls, açaí.
  • 8 Tuttimelon, Vintage Oaks Shopping Center, +1 415-897-6900, . 11AM–9PM daily. Soft-serve ice cream, sorbet, and frozen yogurt with lots of fun toppings (serve yourself and pay by weight), plus other flavors sold by the scoop.


  • 1 Dr. Insomniac's, 800 Grant Ave. M–F 5:30AM–5:00PM, Sa 6:30AM–5PM, Su 6:30AM–2PM. A variety of coffee drinks and smoothies, plus pastries and other café fare. Creative menu items include "scuffins" (part scone part muffin) and unique drinks like the "Reese's-ccino". Indoor and outdoor seating.
  • 2 Finnegan's Marin Restaurant & Bar, 877 Grant Avenue, +1 415-899-1516. M–Th 3PM–9PM, F Sa 11:30AM–10PM, Su 10AM–8:30PM; bar stays open late every day. Popular bar and restaurant.


Go next[edit]

  • San Rafael, a charming city with plenty of restaurants and shopping, is a 15-minute drive south on highway 101.
  • San Francisco is about 30 minutes south on highway 101.
  • Napa, a widely-recognized wine-lovers' destination, is about 45 minutes to the northeast.
Routes through Novato
Santa RosaPetaluma  N  S  San RafaelSan Francisco
END  W  E  → Jct NVallejo
Santa RosaPetaluma  N  S  San RafaelLarkspur

This city travel guide to Novato is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.