The Largest Small Town in Marin
Novato, Marin’s latest addition and the northernmost city, sprawls and winds along the Highway 101 corridor. Graceful oak-studded hills separate real estate from the cooler coastal climate of West Marin. To the east, it rolls gently to San Pablo Bay. Summer daytime temperatures are the highest in Marin, but the cool coastal influence penetrates inland late afternoons and evenings.
With over 90 housing subdivisions, Novato is the fastest-growing town in Marin County and covers over 70 square miles. Despite its large size, Novato has the genuine simplicity of an American town. Novato is the only town in Marin that has a significant amount of land available for new homes. The conversion of Hamilton Air Force Base into a Bayside community, the construction of the Pointe Marin subdivisions in southern Novato (Ignacio), and Atherton Ranch in northern Novato have added a large number of spacious, contemporary homes. The city has about 52,000 residents in some 20,700 households. Mean commute time is 31 minutes and average driving time to San Francisco is 45-50 minutes.
Novato provides the best home values in Marin. The tradeoff is a longer commute to San Francisco (about 30 miles), however, is just minutes from the wine country in Sonoma and Napa Counties!
Least Expensive Homes
Most Expensive Homes
- City of Novato
- Chamber of Commerce
- Novato Unified School District
- Novato Fire District
- Novato Sanitary District
- Novato Mother’s Club
- Novato history
- Golf Courses
- Stafford Lake Park
Downtown – Grant Ave
Downtown Novato began to develop in the 1880s and has served as the heart of town since. Along with City Hall and interesting shops, restaurants and boutiques, Grant Avenue is surrounded by charming bungalows, California ranch-style homes, and condo developments. The Downtown Novato Business Association has been supporting the downtown area since 1929.
To the west are widely separated, older homes in what was once ranch and farmland. There are still many horses in these neighborhoods. Further west are canyon and hilltop homes, some with views of San Francisco. Wild Horse Valley is one of our favorites, with well-built and designed older homes along wide, winding streets. Homes on Indian Valley Road have a distinctively rural setting. This area is a great escape from city life, but with all the city convenience just a few miles away.
The Ignacio neighborhood in South Novato includes the Marin Country Club and Golf Course, with substantial older homes on wide streets along the golf course and hillside homes with views of the mountains, hills, and bay. The newer Pointe Marin development along Ignacio Blvd. provides a range of well-built homes on level lots.
Pacheco Valle, at the southern edge of town, has a large complex of condos and impressive single-family homes set among oaks and dramatic hills. There are several large open space preserves, including the Pacheco Valle Preserve, with easy access to springtime wildflower displays and leisurely walks.
Eastern Novato and Bel Marin Keys
East of Highway 101, Atherton Road stretches along bayside marshes and wildlife preserves. Homes here are a mix of older ranch-style and newer contemporary, with some ridge-top-view homes set in an oak forest.
Where Atherton Road meets the Petaluma River and San Pablo Bay, the Green Point, Bahia, and Black Point neighborhoods offer a wide range of homes: elegant estates, town houses, rural hillside cottages, and ranches. Black Point is the location of the elegant Stone Tree Golf Club. Downtown Sonoma is minutes away along Hwy. 37. Downtown Novato is only minutes away, in the opposite direction, along Hwy. 37.
To the south is the unique Bel Marin Keys community, providing lagoons or open bay access to every house. The homes are mostly smaller ranches. This is the place to have a boat or simply enjoy the sunshine and views across the water. The waterways provide ever-changing light.
Hamilton Field is a unique community in southeast Novato, developed from the former Hamilton Air Force Base, with nine neighborhoods. This charming neighborhood has large open spaces, a sunlit bayside location, and re-purposed 1930’s military buildings.
For a complete tour, see our Hamilton Field page.
Northwestern Novato and Mount Burdell
Northern Novato blends into the rolling oak-covered hills of the Mt. Burdell Preserve. In the San Marin neighborhood extensive tracts of mostly single-family homes built in the ’60s and later line the streets.
The Buck Institute for Age Research on Mt. Burdell, though only 15 years old, has gained national prominence as a center for bio-medical research. The institute was founded by the Buck Foundation, which focuses on improving all aspects of life in Marin. The Leonard and Beryl Buck Foundation (Buck Trust) was created in 1975 after Beryl Buck left $9.1 million to Marin County with the provision that it be used to serve the needs of the county residents.
Novato has convenient shopping, including:
- Pacheco Plaza Shopping Center on Ignacio Blvd.
- Vintage Oaks Mall in central Novato, off of Roland Blvd, has CostCo, Target, restaurants, and much more.