Marin's Historic Drake's Cove

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There's a wonderful piece of history in the Bay Area that's just about a secret. Up in Marin County, within the Point Reyes National Seashore, along Drakes Bay is Drake's Cove. It is here, in 1579, that Francis Drake landed, met with the Coast Miwok, repaired his ship, resupplied and then completed the first successful trip around the world.

This was before Roanoke, before Plymouth, before Jamestown.

It happened here.

As part of a "cold war" with Spain, Drake had entered the Pacific Ocean, raided Spanish towns and ships and acquired 26 tons of silver and other treasure.

Seeking a way home, he headed north looking for the Strait of Anian - the expected water passage across the top of North America. Failing that, he turned south from Oregon seeking a harbor to repair his ship. He found the Oregon and Northern California coasts treacherous to a small wooden ship. The first decent harbor he found was at Drakes Bay.


Drake and his men didn't understand the Coast Miwok culture and the Coast Miwok didn't understand the English. But, peaceful, friendly relationships formed. Processions and long ceremonies were held. Goods traded hands. Porcelains were left with the Coast Miwok. Drake left with presents including feathered baskets and a crown of feathers.

The first service of the Church of England was held here. The first English claim on what would become the United States was posted here. The first meetings of Native Americans and the English happened here. The term "Nova Albion" - New England -- was first applied here.

Since this was an area unknown to Europeans, the written narrative of the whole voyage has a focus on what was found in Marin County. After stopping at the Farallon Islands for eggs and seal meat, Drake headed across the Pacific and back to Plymouth, England.

The National Park Service and the Secretary of the Interior have declared the Drakes Bay location a National Historic Landmark, a high-level honor given relatively few historic sites.

The hike to the landing site takes an hour each way. It's best done at low tide and only in the late spring, the summer and the early fall.

Come learn about our hidden history. It's right in our own backyard.

With a Perspective, I'm Mike Von der Porten.

Mike Von der Porten teaches tourism at Santa Rosa Junior College, and lives with his wife in Santa Rosa.