For the past 24 years, the Angel Island-Tiburon Ferry has held an annual 4th of July Fireworks Cruise. Scores of people — families, couples, singles, visitors and natives — load onto the boat and at 8:30 PM set forth from the Tiburon Ferry Terminal hoping for unsurpassed views of San Francisco’s July 4 fireworks. Unfortunately, this year instead of “oohing” and “aahing” at a brilliant fireworks display, passengers were treated to a scene all too familiar in San Francisco on July 4 and New Year’s: a low, white sky vaguely turning color as each round of pyrotechnics tries in vain to pierce the city’s trademark coat of impenetrable fog.
Nevertheless, the passengers went home happy. Their boat, after all, docked in Tiburon, where the night sky is clear and starry, Main Street is small in scale but enormous in charm, neighbors greet each other by name and the median price for a single-family home is $2.4 million.
The third-safest city (trailing Hillsborough and Monte Sereno) in the nine-county Bay Area is known for all of these things, for its natural beauty and incredible views of San Francisco and the bay, for its excellent public schools and civic-minded population, for its hiking trails, its yacht clubs and for Ark Row, an oh-so-precious row of once floating, now landlocked vintage houseboats converted into shops and restaurants. Tiburon is one of the most desirable addresses in Marin County and the Bay Area, perhaps even in the entire U.S. It’s not by accident that Coastal Living Magazine named Tiburon one of “America’s Happiest Seaside Towns” in 2012.
Tiburon and its all-residential neighbor Belvedere have a combined population of less than 11,000. Once the site of canneries and ship-repair facilities, Tiburon has become a genteel town, a place where celebrities mingle with business icons and tech giants — that is to say they move among their neighbors with a certain comfortable level of anonymity — and where the perks of small town living are alive and well, wrapped up in a high-end package. Belvedere, with its dazzling collection of pre-war homes with water views, was once a favored weekend home destination for wealthy San Franciscans. A century later residents now live on the island year-round and with no less elegance and grace.
Incorporated in 1964, Tiburon gained its stellar reputation quickly after that as careful development emphasized smaller numbers of spacious, luxurious homes (many maximizing their views) over cookie-cutter subdivisions. Today it’s known not only for everything mentioned above but also for the annual Tiburon International Film Festival, for the Tiburon Wine Festival, for an annual Holiday Festival and for the influx of visitors who come by car, bicycle and ferry each weekend to stroll the charming downtown, have cocktails with a bay view at Sam’s Anchor Cafe, to stroll through Shoreline Park and to dream of a life in this picture-perfect, picturesque small town.