When choosing a place to visit for our first honeymoon we discovered the beautiful mountain town of Mill Valley, California. Nestled at the foot of Mount Tamalpais, Mill Valley is a vibrant township that will appeal to foodies, outdoor enthusiasts and anyone seeking a quiet retreat from the hustle and bustle of San Francisco. The small-town pace and close proximity to Muir Woods National Monument makes Mill Valley a great place to unwind and explore the great outdoors.


Day One: Arrival

Our four-day adventure begins with an early morning flight to San Francisco, followed by a drive across the Golden Gate Bridge into Sausalito. We checked into our Airbnb before returning to Sausalito for dinner at Barrel House Tavern, just in time for sunset. Barrel House Tavern sits waterside overlooking the Bay, providing a great view of downtown San Francisco. I recommend the clam chowder – it is delicious. If you dine outside, keep your eyes on those brazen seagulls – they will literally steal your food from your plate! (True story – we saw it happen).

Our studio Airbnb in Mill Valley.
A wine bottle arrangement outside of our Airbnb.
A view of Mount Tamalpais from our Airbnb.

A view of Mount Tamalpais from our Airbnb.

The downtown San Francisco skyline, as seen from the opposite side of the bay.

Our view of Downtown San Francisco from a restaurant across the Bay.

Hillsides of California.
A waterfront restaurant on the San Francisco Bay.

Day Two: Exploring Mill Valley and the Tennessee Valley Trail

Following a leisurely morning strolling around the Mill Valley town center, we made our way to the Tennessee Valley Trailhead. You can read a more in-depth post about our trail adventure here. After a very enjoyable hike to the beach and back we visited the Gravity Tavern for some much-needed appetizers and cocktails. I enjoyed their take on the Tater Tot, but my favorite thing about Gravity Tavern is their Strawberry Lemon Drop. It was the perfect tart n’ sweet refresher after our long hike.

A neat feature of Mill Valley is the interconnected stair and pathway system. Because the town is built into a sloping hillside, destinations are within close proximity and can be accessed by a step-system. Flashlights in hand, we took the marked walkway from our Airbnb straight into the town center, where we enjoyed dinner at Bungalow 44.

Wandering around downtown Mill Valley we found this large mirror.
A brick cove located in downtown Mill Valley.
German-inspired architecture.
Lush vegetation, even in the city.
Green ferns line the walkway.
A colorful mural in between buildings.
A view of Tennessee Beach, the midpoint of the Tennessee Valley Trail.

A view of Tennessee Beach, the midpoint of the Tennessee Valley Trail.

Downtown Mill Valley.

Downtown Mill Valley

Downtown Mill Valley.
Downtown Mill Valley.
A large map mural in downtown Mill Valley.

Tasty cocktails at Bungalow44.

Day Three: Muir Woods and Urgent Care

Day three was to be the most anticipated day on our trip but it was also the day my health caught up with me. After many stressful days and sleepless nights leading up to our wedding, my body finally succumbed to sickness. I woke up that morning feeling terrible, but we had reservations at Muir Woods and sleeping in was not an option. In a mental fog I drove us to Muir Woods (missing a few turns in confusion) and we entered the park grounds.

Admiring the magnificent Redwoods. It hurt to just hold my head up, at this point.

Admiring the magnificent Redwoods. It hurt to just hold my head up, at this point.

To view the redwoods in early morning light and to beat the crowds, we selected an 8:30 AM reservation. Unfortunately those benefits ended up not mattering much to me. Visiting Muir Woods was the highlight of our trip, and I couldn’t wait to get out of there. We decided to visit an Urgent Care center and after several hours, we discovered I had Influenza A and a 103 degree fever. Because of this, we missed our visit to the Golden Gate bridge. We missed our ferry across the bay to Fisherman’s Wharf. I did not get to eat local crabs on the Bay. Instead, I was treated to a strawberry milkshake at In-N-Out Burger and slept for the rest of the day while my husband watched countless episodes of The Office (and Oceans 12, I recall in a haze).

Day Four – the Fever Dream

As it turns out, traveling across the country with the flu is miserable. My poor husband had to completely take care of me that entire day. I wasn’t able to cross the airport terminal without taking multiple stops to rest. I wasn’t able to carry my heavy photography backpack and could barely wheel around my luggage. We nearly missed our connecting flight from Denver to St. Louis after mistaking the time change. The rest of the day was a blur – and it took me several weeks to fully recover from sickness.

Despite my frustration with wrecking our last day in California, we had a great trip. I loved the beauty and leisurely pace of Mill Valley and Sausalito. San Francisco was a bit too hectic for my tastes, but I loved viewing the city skyline from across the Bay. I look forward to returning one day, to fully appreciate the splendor of Muir Woods.