Stinson Beach and the surrounding area gets its name from former landowner, Nathan H. Stinson. He bought the land surrounding Stinson Beach in 1866. Most of the surrounding hills were used to raise Cattle and Milk Cows. The first road to Stinson Beach was built in 1870, the road was built along the Pacific coast from the town of Sausalito, CA. After the road was built, tent camps were built along the willow trees at the beach leading to the name of Willow Camp. Willow Camp was the town’s original name.
In 1896, the Mt. Tamalpais and Muir Woods Railway opened, making Willow Camp easier to travel to and from. Tourists could finally ride the train to West Point Inn. From there, they could walk to the beach or rent a stagecoach to take them down to the beach.
After the big San Francisco earthquake in 1906, refugees settled into the area and started some of the area’s first businesses including the Airey’s Hotel. Soon after, in 1916, the town became officially Stinson Beach in honor of Nathan Stinson, the largest landowner. The first post office opened in 1916. After the Golden Gate Bridge was built, Stinson Beach saw a steady increase of residents and tourists taking day trips from from the Bay area.
The beach was sold in 1939 to Marin County and finally ownership transferred to the State of California in 1950. After World War II, the area saw an increase of full time residents that moved there after developers built subdivisions. In 1977, the beach transferred to the National Park Service.
Find more about the history at the Stinson Beach Historical Society.