San Rafael Real Estate
A Town of Great Diversity
San Rafael, the largest city in Marin County, boasts the northernmost of the California Missions, Saint Raphael the Archangel, founded by the Franciscan Fathers in 1817.
At first appearance, San Rafael is an all-American town. Fourth Street, the main thoroughfare, has many fine restaurants and the recently restored Rafael Theater, which co-hosts the famous Mill Valley Film Festival. When you get to know central San Rafael, you’ll find many beautiful and diverse family neighborhoods. Homes are located on a great variety of flat lands, hills, and bay-front lots.
South San Rafael
The freeway corridor in southern San Rafael contains the industrial shopping area of Marin with auto dealers, body shops, plumbing supply shops, excellent hardware stores, and more. In addition, there are strip malls with a variety of shops. On the bayside of San Rafael are Home Depot, UPS, FedEx and other valuable service providers.
Tucked away in south San Rafael are unexpected neighborhoods that are rural and private. Our favorite is the Bret Harte area on the hill that separates San Rafael from Greenbrae. Heavily wooded streets without sidewalks have a variety of homes with wonderful views of San Rafael and the Bay.
East San Rafael
Just east (and north) of downtown San Rafael is the Dominican area (adjacent to the lovely campus of Dominican University) with world-class mansions on quiet, wooded streets. Further to the east is Point San Pedro Road, which winds past rolling hills of elegant older homes (the Country Club area), and the Peacock Gap area with roomy ranch-style homes on large lots, many with bay views. The light here is Mediterranean.
At the east end of Point San Pedro Road, you’ll reach McNear’s Beach looking east across the Bay and China Camp State Park, an expansive park that was once the site of a Chinese settlement and shrimp fishing enterprise.
West San Rafael
To the west of downtown San Rafael are several interesting neighborhoods, from the Victorian mansions of the Forbes area to the California cottages in Sun Valley. Up the hill, with expansive views of San Rafael and the hills to the south, is the Fairhills neighborhood with wide streets and large homes.
North San Rafael
The famous Marin County Civic Center, designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright spans three small hills in northeast San Rafael. Completed in 1961, this building is considered Wright’s last masterpiece. The citizens of Marin County provided overwhelming support to build this adventurous project in the face of disruptive political forces that would have blocked it, and are still proud of this building.Check out the tours options for this wonderful building. It is worth a visit.
Farmers Market. On Thursdays and Sundays, the Civic Center parking lots hosts the Civic Center Farmers’ Market, the largest Farmer’s Market in Marin, and attended by vendors from all over northern California. In June, 2014, Marin County voters overwhelmingly approved Measure B to create a permanent place for the local farmer’s market at the Marin Center on the Civic Center campus, including a market canopy and a market building of up to 30,000 square feet in size.
Lucas Valley Road at the north end of San Rafael leads to yet another unique setting in Marin. On its long course westward to Nicasio, Lucas Valley Road travels through wooded canyons and grassy hills that are typical of rural, coastal areas of Northern California. Once extensive ranchland, there are now scattered homes, ranches, and the Skywalker Ranch of filmmaker George Lucas. The Upper Valley neighborhood has mostly large Eichler homes set against beautiful, oak-covered hills. This is classic California Hill Country.
Northwest San Rafael
The Terra Linda and Marinwood neighborhoods in northwest San Rafael are comprised of a large number of ranch-style homes and condos set along friendly streets. Many classic Eichler homes found here are again fashionable because of their open floor plans and emphasis on outdoor living.
There are more residential neighborhoods in San Rafael than we can easily describe. Whether you want a condo or an estate with views to the water, San Rafael provides an amazing diversity of choices.
Most Expensive Homes
Least Expensive Homes
- San Rafael Chamber of Commerce
- Mission San Rafael
- Marin History Museum
- Marin Center, presenting high quality arts and lectures at the Marin Civic Auditorium
San Rafael has a large number of interesting ethnic restaurants, with food from Central America, India, China, Afghanistan, China, Japan, and more. Explore and enjoy!
- Crepevine serves wholesome and interesting food in a casual cafe setting. Good value and always busy. In the middle of 4th Street.
- Il Davide is a good downtown Italian trattoria with a nice atmosphere. Named the Best San Rafael Restaurant in 2014. 901 A Street,
- La Toscana is a Joe’s-type Italian restaurant, but one notch better. 3751 Redwood Hwy, at the North San Pedro exit from Highway 101.
- Michael’s Sourdough, named the best Marin deli.
- Sol Food provides real Puerto Rican food. This retaurant has been a hit since it opened, with almost continual lines out the front door.
- Las Camelias serves well-crafted Mexican food. Just off of Fourth Street, downtown.
- My Thai Restaurant, in the middle of Fourth St was named the best Marin Thai restaurant.
- Panama Hotel and Restaurant, just south of downtown, has charming indoor and outdoor seating, music, and good food.
- Royal Thai is consistently rated the best Thai restaurant in Marin. 610 Third St near Highway 101.
- Terrapin Crossroads, off of East Francisco Blvd, close to downtown, is a tribute to the Grateful Dead. Enjoy interesting food and drink on an inlet of the bay. There is often music on the large creekside deck — great for brunch or an afternoon meal. The attached Grate room is a major concert venue for Phil Lesh (of the Grateful Dead) and others. Off of East Francisco Blvd, close to downtown at 100 Yacht Club Drive.
Places to Visit
- China Camp State Park
- Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center. Restored Art Deco movie house, now a three-screen theater.
- Dominican University
- Downtown San Rafael Farmer’s Market
- Falkirk Cultural Center, Wonderful historic mansion and great art shows.1408 Mission, (415) 485-3228
- Gerstle Park and Playground
- Northgate Mall
Marin abounds in musical talent, and Fourth St, in San Rafael has long been home to the best live music venues. Here are the latest. Check out their calendars and fill up many enjoyable evenings.