Dillon Beach Resort, nestled where California's Marin County meets Sonoma County, has charming tiny homes, including a slew of brand-new ones.
Even though the unofficial mascot of Dillon Beach, California, a bronze figure dubbed "Captain Dillon," suggests this Northern California enclave has a sense of humor, the team behind Dillon Beach Resort takes its role seriously.
"The history is still here," said Mike Goebel, the resort's co-owner, pointing to the original hotel building from the 19th century that houses the General Store. Reimagining this laid-back coastal hospitality destination and privately owned family- and dog-friendly beach required a delicate approach. "We're stewards of the land," he added.
The cartoonish Captain Dillon statue gesturing toward the ocean with a sword raised in one hand and a tucked away double-barreled pistol is actually a relatively recent addition. The previous owners installed Capitan Dillon on his hillside perch during the early aughts. (That said, thinking critically about most aged bronze monuments is still always a good idea.) What's constant, however, is the singular character of this beloved one-mile stretch of the Pacific situated at the northern tip of Marin County, essentially bridging Tomales Bay to the south and Bodega Bay just across the Sonoma County border.
"You see the RVs passing by and the guys fishing," Goebel explained. "That's what drew me to the region — it was so raw." The RV park perched above Dillon Beach had fallen into significant disrepair and was under-utilized in 2018 when Goebel, a Marin County–based restaurateur, and a group of local partners developed a vision to revitalize the property anchored by its approximately 130-year-old building. In an off-the-beaten-path, environmentally sensitive, and rightfully protective community like Dillon Beach with just a few hundred residents, change can be, well, hard. Thankfully, the results seen across Dillon Beach Resort's 55 acres were worth the effort.
Partnering with Eugene, Oregon-based Tru Form Tiny, a prefabricated home design and build company, Goebel found an aesthetic and practical solution for the site's next chapter. In 2021, Dillon Beach Resort opened its 15 fully-equipped, self-contained compact "tiny homes" that seamlessly plug into the previously existing RV footprints. It's the ultimate in surf shack living. Natural light-flooded cabins and patios are ideally set up to take in the chill beachside vibes. Goebel customized the interiors and finishes in a boho-chic sensibility, selecting shiplap paneling and retro-inspired kitchen appliances in pastel shades, a mix of earthy textures, and on-theme art. And no one is ever mad at having an electric fireplace in the room to ward off chillier temps when ocean breezes kick in.
The overall attitude, atmosphere, and setup mean Dillon Beach Resort is a come-as-you-are kind of place, whether it’s as a solo traveler working remotely for a few days or multigenerational family groups. Shared outdoor spaces (plus a grill area) encourage socializing among the guests for those who want to mingle, and the tiny homes are cozy retreats for those who crave privacy. Three two-bedroom cabins that were built during the 1940s have also been stylishly overhauled and updated with quasi-private yards.
It's a formula that works. This past summer, Dillon Beach Resort debuted 13 new units better positioned to embrace the southwest-facing vista. Five Coho style accommodations, complete with sleeping lofts contained in 360 square feet, sleep up to five; 280-square-foot Sweetwater homes comfortably fit four; and the three, 150-square-feet Osprey models are snug and chic, where two can take in the ocean views from the efficiently designed interior outfitted with foldaway beds.
The General Store, which remained in operation during the revamp, retains the charm of the original historic hotel structure with seriously upgraded merch. Guests can stock up on top-quality ingredients to bring back to their kitchens, thereby avoiding the pomp and circumstance — and costs — of a luxury hotel. Local beachgoers drop in to fuel up on Equator Coffees, buy beach essentials, rent surf gear, pick up grab-and-go meals made using organic ingredients, and indulge in pastry chef Tara Saldana's stellar cookies and pastries. The inventory anticipates every need, like bottles by Sonoma County's finest winemakers (think Scribe and Lioco), s'mores kits for bonfire nights, locally made candles and ceramics, and irresistibly adorable kids' gifts.
When the on-site Coastal Kitchen restaurant is open for lunch and dinner four days a week, feasting on executive chef Brady Hemenway's locally sourced fare that highlights comfort classics such as clam chowder and a serious burger will switch you right into vacation mode. Visitors are also well-advised to wander farther afield to fill up at Marshall Store on Tomales Bay, where owner Shannon Gregory serves fresh raw and grilled Tomales Bay Oyster Company goods from his family farm four miles south, along soul-satisfying seafood dishes and sandwiches on bread from Route One Bakery in Tomales. The simpatico nature of this supportive community is also palpable at Toluma Farms and Tomales Farmstead Creamery, open by appointment for tours and tastings.
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