Novato township lies west of San Pablo Bay, north of San Rafael, and east of the townships of San Antonio and Nicasio. San Antonio creek defines the northern edge of Novato at the Sonoma County border. At one time, the area was planted with pear, fig and apple orchards; today's Novato feels country cool with an upscale edge.
The mood in Novato remains laid-back and mellow. Compared with San Francisco 30 miles to the south, Novato proves to be downright pastoral.
Major employers in the Novato area include the Fireman's Fund insurance company, Isagenix International, SPG Solar and BioMarin Pharmaceutical.
Restaurants & Nightlife
Tuck into a scrumptious breakfast of eggs Benedict with spicy hollandaise, thick sourdough toast and a side of sirloin hash at Marvin's Restaurant. The local breakfast favorite can be found on Grant Avenue.
JJ's Burger Joint serves up all-American cuisine with a Marin County twist. For a belly-busting experience, try the charbroiled Big Blue cheeseburger with a side of crispy sweet potato fries, a basket of beer-battered onion rings and a thick, chocolate shake. Find JJ's on Novato Boulevard just west of Wilson Avenue.
For a five-star dining experience, make reservations at Boca Tavern. Executive chefs Matthew Curry and Sam Ramadan prepare accolade-worthy New American dishes as wonderful to look at as they are to eat. Start with walnut-encrusted baked brie with roasted garlic and crostini or a small plate of oysters Rockefeller made with oysters from Drakes Bay in nearby Sonoma County. For a main course, try the ahi tuna tartare served with minted pear, pine nuts, quail egg and habañero oil. Find Boca Tavern on Ignacio Boulevard.
In a mood for butter chicken, aloo gobi and something straight out of the tandoori? Visit Batika India Bistro on Grant Avenue between Machin Avenue and Redwood Boulevard. Enjoy a pickled veggie appetizer and a bowl of mulligatawny soup while Chef Anil Shahu prepares your order of fragrant paneer pika masala. Chana and other vegetarian options remain available. Batika Indian Bistro's heated outdoor dining area provides a comfortable spot to enjoy an evening meal.
To experience Novato after dark, drop by HopMonk Tavern on Vintage Way. The bar menu at HopMonk includes such late-night delights as tomato soup with four-cheese sandwich, Reuben sandwiches and sweet potato fries. The specialty of the house is live music served up nightly.
History & Culture
The first house built by non-indigenous people north of San Francisco was an adobe structure in the northern part of Novato, a structure now occupied by Olompali State Historic Park. Early settlers of the region were Don Pablo de la Guerra, John Cooper, Fernando Feliz and Ignacio Pacheco.
The exhibition spaces, art classes and artist studios at the Marin Museum of Contemporary Art prove well worth an afternoon's exploration. Admission remains free for everyone. Find the museum on Palm Drive in Novato.
Space cadets of all ages enjoy the hands-on exhibits in the Space Shuttle Museum in Pacheco Plaza between Boca Pizzeria and Marin Coffee Roasters. As a bonus, enjoy free admission and parking.
Aside from the hilly woodland areas, the township of Novato proves mostly flat and easy to walk. The weather in Novato is rarely too cold for a bike ride, and many streets in the downtown area have demarcated bicycle lanes and places to lock up your bike.
U.S. Route 101, alternately known as El Camino Real or Highway 101, acts as the north-south thoroughfare that runs south to San Francisco and San Diego and northward through Oregon and into the state of Washington.
Marin Transit offers a range of ride services. These include city buses, West Marin Stagecoach buses, a shuttle to and from Muir Woods, and a dial-a-ride service. Safari Taxi, Taxi Express, Marin Green Cab and Bubba's Cab Company provide in-town and intercity services. If you want a cab in Novato, contact the company directly.
Locating a parking space in downtown Novato can be frustrating, so allow yourself plenty of time when planning a shopping expedition. Uber ride service offers an affordable option in Novato and throughout Marin County.
The cost of living in Novato sits 20 percent higher than most of California and 61 percent more than the rest of the nation. The average cost for a one-bedroom apartment sits at $1,500 a month.
A gallon of gas costs around 5 percent more than the national average. Expect to pay $7 for a 16-ounce beer. A one-way ride across town on a Marin Transit bus costs $2, and an all-day pass costs $5.
Pacheco Plaza Shopping Center comprises a clever collection of retail stores where Novatonians buy everything from pet food to picture frames. In the plaza, you can get an eye exam and glasses, have your shoes repaired, and enjoy a pampering pedicure, too.
Nugget Markets in Pacheco Plaza offers an extensive array of everyday groceries and specialty foods along with every sort of sundry. Nugget Markets boasts a full-service delicatessen, an espresso bar, a health and body section, and a floral department.
Taki Japanese restaurant in Pacheco Plaza has been Novato's go-to sushi joint for more than 20 years. For a light lunch, try the wakame seaweed salad and saba shoyaki. Find Pacheco Plaza Shopping Center on Ignacio Boulevard in Novato.
Upscale ladies clothes can be purchased at Carolina Boutique. The charming clothier in Ignacio Boulevard presents a sweet selection of designer duds for days and nights in Marin County.
Fresh fruit and veggie lovers find plenty to tempt their palates at the downtown Novato Farmers Market. Locals and people from all around Marin County come to the market for locally grown organic produce, ready-roasted chickens, Thai food and freshly baked bread. Find pony rides and a bouncy house for the kids. Novato Farmers Market opens every Tuesday from May through October at the intersection of Delong Avenue and Sherman Avenue, between Highway 101 and Redwood Boulevard.
Mountain bikers, off-road hikers, runners, joggers and birdwatchers enjoy many wild areas in and around the township of Novato. Miles of marked trails meander through Novato foothills, marshlands, wetlands and wilderness areas.
Rush Creek Preserve remains one of the best bird-watching areas in Northern California. The Audubon Society notes more than 190 bird species here. Bring your binoculars to view a variety of wading shorebirds, waterfowl and white pelicans. The main trailhead lies just off Highway 101 at Pinheiro Fire Road.
Stafford Grove Park has swings, sandboxes, monkey bars and slides. Make use of picnic tables, a gazebo and plenty of shady areas. Find the park on Seventh Street and Marion Avenue.
Indian Valley Open Space Preserve lies about 3.5 miles west of central Novato on Ignacio Boulevard. Indian Valley offers marked hiking trails for every fitness level and provides a great place to take a dog for an off-leash run. Seasonal creeks run through the preserve. On hot summer days, Indian Valley stays cooler than most of Marin.
Every summer, folks from all around the Bay Area gather to celebrate the Novato Festival of Art, Wine & Music. The all-ages Grant Avenue street festival features award-winning microbrews and regional wines, handcrafted art, gourmet food, live music, and ample amusement for the kids.