Welcome to Point Richmond, known to locals simply as “The Point” Point Richmond was originally a tiny village known as East Yards, surrounded by abandoned farmlands. As the East side of the bay grew from the late 19th century to the early 20th century, this area on the coast became the town center of Richmond. As the town expanded, a planned downtown area supplanted the Point as the busiest part of town. These days, the historic buildings on Richmond and Washington Avenues are occupied by locally-owned shops and restaurants, offering neighborhood residents a walkable town center without having to cross the freeway.
As you cruise through town, you’ll pass the Santa Fe Market, a locally-owned grocer, on your left. The residents of Point Richmond pride themselves on hosting locally-owned businesses. You won’t find a Starbucks in this part of town, but you can stop by Kaleidoscope Coffee for a pick-me-up and a chat with the neighbors. If you’re in the mood for a stronger libation, the Up and Under Pub, in the upcoming red building on your left, is the local watering hole. They also host parties in their rentable banquet room and cater events throughout the town.
You’ll pass a different sort of “watering hole” as you make a right onto Garrard Boulevard. The Richmond Plunge is the local swim club that originally opened in 1926, and underwent a nine-year renovation from 2001 to 2010. The indoor heated pool is the size of two standard Olympic lap pools!
Once you’re on Garrard, you’ll head through the Point Richmond Tunnel out onto the peninsula that gives the town its name. The tunnel has been here for over a hundred years, built in the early 1900s to link Point Richmond with the ferry pier at the end of the peninsula. Although the north end of the tunnel is a lively neighborhood, the other side is quite the opposite. Head on through to the Miller Knox Regional Shoreline to see what I mean.
The 307 acres of Miller Knox Regional Shoreline occupy the southern end of Point Richmond, with tons of space for hiking, cycling, and picnics. On the right side of the road lies Miller Knox Lagoon, a man-made lake that was dug as a quarry during World War Two. Richmond was a principal center of manufacturing during that time, and the war effort ramped up production. I’ll tell you a little more about that period a bit farther down the road.
Another fun spot to see in the park is the Golden State Model Railroad Museum on your left. Richmond was, and still is, a major terminal for freight rail, with the Santa Fe train yards still operating today. In fact, it was the rail company that built the tunnel you drove through earlier, to make accessing the ferry easier for its employees in town. The Model Railroad Museum celebrates the history of rail travel in America, from its vital importance in connecting the coasts back in the 19th century to its benefits for freight transit in the modern day. Though the Museum is only 40 years old, the model train society that runs it has been together since 1930!
At the end of the park is an area called Brickyard Cove, which, unsurprisingly, used to be home to the Richmond Brick Company. Many of the brick buildings along the east bay were supplied with materials from this very site. Today, however, Brickyard Cove is home to the Richmond Yacht Club and Richmond Boardwalk, where the area’s boat enthusiasts make port. The hills above have been transformed into residential communities, where the homes offer stunning sunset views across the bay.
Keep following this road through those neighborhoods to get a good glimpse of residential life in this part of town. Further along, you’ll take canal road past the railyards and through an industrial area before arriving at the next neighborhood on our tour.
Up ahead, take a left on Regatta Boulevard and head toward the Marina Bay neighborhood. Though we won’t head all the way down there today, the end of this street, Marina Way is home to a couple of interesting spots.
Most notable among them is the Richmond Ferry Terminal, which occupies a building once operated as a factory by the Ford Motor Company. The complex sits in the middle of Rosie the Riveter State Park, which celebrates the hosiery of this area during the Second World War.
As many of you know, Rosie the Riveter is one of the most iconic symbols of home front life during the WWII Era. The image of a woman hard at work, stepping up to keep production moving while the men were away fighting, was instrumental in encouraging thousands of women to seek employment. Her image is still used to this day to promote the idea of working together for a common cause and to celebrate women in the workforce.
The state park and museum include exhibits relating to the Kaiser Richmond Shipyards and the SS Red Oak Victory ship. You can also see a tank factory, housing developments, and other facilities used to support America as it entered the war.
The centerpiece of the state park is a statue of the titular Rosie the Riveter; though she was not a single, real person, the character was first popularized in a wartime song by John Jacob Loeb, and then in a Norman Rockwell illustration on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post. Today, the definitive image of Rosie comes from an illustration done for Westinghouse by Pittsburgh artist J. Howard Miller. The motivational poster, where “Rosie” flexes her bicep in front of a yellow background beneath the words “We Can Do It” wasn’t a widely-shared image until its resurgence in the 1980s as a feminist symbol.
The shoreline is also home to the local elementary school and the Richmond Charter Academy.
By now, you should be heading down Regatta past Marina Park, the centerpiece of the upscale neighborhood called Marina Bay. In addition to acres of green space with views of the marina, the park is a great place to hop on the San Francisco Bay Trail, a multi-use walking and cycling path that loops around the entire bay area, covering over 500 miles.
Keep heading down this way to get a good look at the neighborhood!
We’re now on the jutting peninsula that creates the natural harbor known as Marina Bay. feel free to make a U-turn and head back the way we came or continue on to the end of this road at Barbara and Jay Vincent Park.
The neighborhood was master planned in the 1980s as part of a Bay Area initiative to clean up the industrial yards left over from the WWII days. The Marina Bay ecosystem had been all but destroyed by a shipbuilding operation that had left the land and water polluted. By combining environmental efforts with the construction of an upscale residential neighborhood, the Marina Bay plan created a place where humans and nature could coexist in a healthy manner.
In addition to the Marina Park we passed a while back, the area has two other designated green spaces; Vincent Park at the end of this road, and Shimada Friends Park, just south of it. The three parks are linked by a paved walking trail that encircles the neighborhood, part of which belongs to the aforementioned San Francisco Bay Trail.
Of course, an area called Marina Bay is also known for its marinas. There are several docks along the coast of the harbor, operated by various clubs and organizations. One of these, Tradewinds Sailing Club, offers monthly memberships and publicly available classes. You can even take a Celestial Navigation course that will have you learning your way around the open waters with the position of the sun, moon, and stars.
As you head back up the Marina Bay Parkway, you’ll pass through a small commercial center before getting on the freeway toward our next stop. This area, on your left at the intersection of the parkway and Meeker Avenue, contains a few restaurants, a yoga studio, a Starbucks, and a CVS. You’ll also find the taproom and beer garden of the Armistice Brewing Company.
From here, our route takes us through the denser residential areas of the Richmond Annex and parts of the city of El Cerrito before climbing uphill to the winding streets of Kensington.
The ridgeline that forms the eastern border of Oakland, Berkeley, and El Cerrito contains the most desirable places to live east of the bay, and Kensington is no exception. Although Kensington isn’t an officially incorporated city, it has its own community board that oversees public safety, parks, and refuse collection separate from the greater Contra Costa County government.
Turn around when you get the chance and head north on Arlington Boulevard. This route will take you past the Kensington Community Center and the Kensington branch of the Contra Costa County Public Library.
The community is fully residential, with almost no commercial zoning at all. Though residents have to head down the hill to do their shopping, this zoning keeps the streets of Kensington quiet and mostly free from through traffic.
Some of the more interesting spots in Kensington are the various houses of worship: Arlington Community Church, Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley, and the Carmelite monastery. The Arlington Community Church, a United Church of Christ, was completed and dedicated in 1948. The Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley moved from its original home in Berkeley to its current home in Kensington in 1961.
A must-see while in Kensington is the Blake Garden, a 10.6-acre laboratory and public garden, located just off to the left of Arlington Boulevard. This teaching facility for Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning at the University of California Berkeley is also the location of the Blake house, which houses the president of the University of California. Blake Garden is open to the public on weekdays with no admission cost.
Continuing up Arlington Boulevard will take us through the hillside neighborhoods of El Cerrito.
El Cerrito, Spanish for the Little Hill, was incorporated in 1917 as a village with 1,500 residents.
The 1906 San Francisco earthquake caused quite a stir as the refugees found sanctuary in El Cerrito, making it their home when they had nowhere else to go. In 1917 El Cerrito was incorporated, combining the former refugee communities of Stege Junction, Rust, Schmidtville, and Schindle.
The section of the city that spans the hillside is similar to Kensington and the other Berkeley Hills neighborhoods in the East Bay area. Quiet, winding streets and single-family homes are interspersed with parks and natural areas that preserve the beauty of the hillside. Just on the other side of the ridge is the Tilden Nature Area, part of a massive complex of regional parkland and protected wilderness that stretches from El Sobrante in the north to Fremont in the south.
On this side of the hills, El Cerrito has some beautiful parks and open spaces available for its residents. For instance, you just passed Arlington Park on your right, with a public clubhouse available for parties and events.
The city’s largest park is located just down the hill to your left. The Hillside Natural Area is a great place to hike, with trails leading to gorgeous views of the bay and the city below. It’s also a popular spot for dog walking, with trail entrances on several residential streets.
Speaking of hiking, one of the best and most challenging trails in town is just on your left after you pass the golf course. Motorcycle Hill climbs the steep ridge through a wild area in the center of the neighborhood. The hill is named for the Motorcycle Hill Climb, a national contest held in the early 20th century to test the limits of early machines. The steep hill allowed stunt bikers to see just how far their motorcycles could go.
The golf course, on the right side of the road, is part of the Berkeley Country Club, which has been part of the landscape of the Berkeley Hills since 1920. The goal was to build a course with gorgeous views on all sides, and the designers Robert Hunter and Willie Watson accomplished just that. Sitting on top of the ridge, the club overlooks the bay to the west and Wildcat Canyon to the east.
Up ahead, Arlington Boulevard leaves El Cerrito and enters the third and final hillside community on today’s trip: East Richmond Heights.
Although it shares a name with, and is surrounded on three sides by, the city of Richmond, East Richmond Heights operates as an autonomous community within Contra Costa County. It covers the northern end of the Berkeley Hills ridge, where Wildcat Creek leaves the valley and winds its way to the bay.
Arlington Boulevard will take you past the Arlington Market, a locally-owned grocer for convenient organic produce, dry goods, and spirits. Along this path you’ll also see the local schools - Mira Vista Elementary is part of the Contra Costa County public school system, while the Crestmont School school just down the road is a cooperative institution focused on inclusive, diverse education and a commitment to social justice.
Passing the schools, you’ll take a left onto McBryde Avenue. This is where you’ll find the trailhead for Wildcat Canyon Regional Park, the northernmost of the parks that span the valley east of the hills. This portion of the valley is largely empty, allowing hikers to truly enjoy the quiet splendor of the redwood forests. The park includes the former site of the Belgium Sanitarium, a luxury lockup for wealthy people struggling with their mental health. Unlike some of the famously cruel sanitariums and asylums of the early 20th century, this place was the forerunner of many of today’s rehab clinics and mental health retreats. It was destroyed by arson in 1965 and the ruins have been reclaimed by the forest.
Having such easy access to Wildcat Canyon is certainly one of the major perks of life in East Richmond Heights. Whether you’re a serious nature lover, bird watcher, or just a casual enjoyer of nature, this is one of the best neighborhoods in the Richmond area to experience the great outdoors.
Leaving the hills, we’ll head down into the city of San Pablo.
San Pablo was one of the oldest Spanish settlements on this side of the bay; the land grant that became Rancho San Pablo was claimed by Spain in 1772. Fransisco Castro, a soldier who fought in the Mexican War of Independence, was granted the area by the newly-formed Mexican government in 1823. The street you’re on now, San Pablo Avenue, follows one of the oldest roads from the Spanish colonial era, which connected the various forts, missions, and ranches on the bay’s east side.
Though once used for farming, San Pablo is now almost entirely residential, its 2.6 square miles taken up almost entirely by single-family homes. The only real commercial street in the city is San Pablo Avenue, which is lined with the necessities – supermarkets, a few restaurants, pharmacies, and other businesses that help facilitate daily life.
Worth mentioning is the San Pablo Farmers Market, which is held every Sunday. Each week the market brings fresh, organic produce to the people of San Pablo. It’s located just across the street from the San Pablo Public Library.
Another town landmark is the Lytton Casino, which sits on sovereign land belonging to the Lytton Band of Pomo Indians. The land was claimed after the destruction of the San Pablo Medical Center.
We’ll move pretty quickly through this part of town, making a right turn up ahead onto El Portal Drive, at the campus of Contra Costa College.
The westernmost campus in the Contra Costa Community College District, Contra Costa College was founded in 1949, as part of the effort to provide public education to GIs following the second world war. In fact, their first classes were held in the abandoned factory buildings of the Kaiser Shipyards that were no longer needed in peacetime.
El Portal Drive will take us out of San Pablo and through a few Richmond neighborhoods before we arrive at the next city on our itinerary. Along the way, you’ll pass Rollingwood, a tiny enclave of just a few square blocks that operates independently of both Richmond and San Pablo. The neighborhood, located off to your left, is home to almost 3,000 people in just 0.2 square miles.
Behind Rollingwood is the Hilltop neighborhood of Richmond, where you can find larger homes on more spacious lots. This trend will continue as we head up into the foothill city of El Sobrante.
El Sobrante is Spanish for “the surplus”, meaning it was the extra land left over after Rancho San Pablo and other surrounding grants were parceled out.
The main road in town is called the Appian Way, named for the famous Roman road that connected the city-states of southern Italy in the early days of the Republic. The road runs through a valley created by the many hills that dot the landscape. Although it’s one of the main routes through town, it’s largely residential; the only major shopping centers in town are located on San Pablo Dam road, which you saw on your way here, and at the border with Pinole at the north end of town.
This focus on residential life is part of what makes living here great – the hillsides provide many of the homes with large yards and outdoor spaces to stretch your legs. These hills have been called home by people for eons – some of the earliest settlers of the area, the Huichin people, had a permanent village along the San Pablo Creek, near the site of the El Sobrante Library, during California's prehistoric period between 5,000 and 10,000 BCE.
These days, El Sob, as the locals call it, balances suburban life with a more laid-back rural feel. In fact, there are still several operating ranches in the town, such as Cloverfield Organic Farm, where locals can pick up delicious natural produce.
Any metalheads on the tour today? El Sobrante was the childhood home of Metallica’s Kirk Hammet, Blind Illusion’s Marc Biederman and Les Claypool, and Ler Lalonde of Claypool’s other band, Primus.
Appian Way will take us to Valley View Road, where we’ll turn right. This road will take us past the local high school and along San Pablo Creek into the neighborhoods that line the road to the San Pablo Dam. Hidden back among the slopes of Sobrante Ridge and Kennedy Grove Regional Parks, we’ll see some of the most beautiful neighborhoods the Richmond area has to offer. Continue following your GPS to our last stop of the day, the Richmond neighborhoods of Greenbriar and Carriage Hills.
We’ve made it to the last stop of our tour, Greenbriar. This beautiful community provides its residents with a semi-suburban feel, despite its relative isolation from the rest of the city of Richmond. Home mainly to families and retirees, Greenbrier is one of the top-rated places to live in the east bay, according to Niche.com.
You can see for yourself why the homes in Greenbriar are so desirable. As you come down Amend Road, you’ll be treated to sweeping views of Kennedy Grove and miles of undeveloped land beyond. The homes are spacious, and the opportunities for recreation abound. Just a short drive from the neighborhood is the Lakeridge Athletic Club, an upscale neighborhood fitness facility, and the trailheads for the San Pablo Dam trails that lead up to the mountains beyond.
The dam itself creates the vast San Pablo reservoir, which provides much of the municipal water used by Oakland and the East Bay Area. The reservoir is stocked with trout and catfish, and you can even take a boat or inner tube out onto the lake for a relaxing day in the sun.
Up ahead, take a left on Castro Ranch Road to our last spot of the day.
Carriage Hills is a stunning residential development just a few minutes down this road. The Spanish architecture uses white stucco walls and red-tiled roofs to create a classically Californian feel on its quiet neighborhood streets. Make a left on Conestoga way to enter the neighborhood and see for yourself why it's the perfect place to end our tour of the greater Richmond area’s best neighborhoods.
Well, folks, that’s all I’ve got to show you today! The east bay is a beautiful place to live for city slickers and nature lovers alike, and I hope you’ve enjoyed getting to know its different neighborhoods. If you’re looking for a home anywhere in Contra Costa or Alameda Counties, make sure to call Barbara Brodrick, our local expert Realtor, at 925-403-1213 or send her an email at email@example.com. If you’re interested in seeing more of the East Bay Area, check out Barbara's tours of Berkeley, East Oakland, or the many towns and cities in Central Contra Costa County, all available on her UCPlaces profile. Thank you so much for taking this UCPlaces tour – have a great day!