Belvedere may be Marin’s smallest incorporated community, but it is also one of the county’s most exclusive. Set along the Tiburon Peninsula at the southeastern base of Ring Mountain, between Richardson Bay and the town of Tiburon, Belvedere means “beautiful view” in Italian—and stays true to its name, with its spectacular views of the Bay Area, Angel Island, San Francisco, Sausalito, the Golden Gate Bridge and Mount Tamalpais.
Belvedere consists of two islands and the lagoon (Belvedere Lagoon) between them. The larger of the two islands is Belvedere Island, and the smaller one is Corinthian Island, which is shared with Tiburon. Narrow, winding roads ring the two islands, with hedges and trees lining the route before they momentarily open to majestic water views. No restaurants or stores are allowed in Belvedere.
Belvedere’s rich past is equally alluring. The first settlers arrived in the late 1800s; then the railroad came, and Tiburon was the last stop for passengers and cargo heading to San Francisco and beyond. Although both Belvedere and Tiburon have become very much alike, with their premier real estate prices motivated by spectacular views, they grew up differently. There were distinct differences between the towns; while Belvedere was home to the rich, Tiburon, in its days as home base for a railroad, was considered “the other side of the tracks.” The Belvedere Lagoon was partially filled after World War II to provide building sites for tract houses and to improve access to Belvedere Island. It was also once the home to a 9-hole golf course. Belvedere incorporated in 1896. The first post office opened in 1897. The City Hall was formerly a Presbyterian church and was moved to its present location on San Rafael Avenue in 1949. Originally a fishing-based community, Belvedere has grown into a sailing community where the San Francisco Yacht Club is located. Belvedere celebrated its 100th year as a city in 1996.
Belvedere is a treasure trove of different architectural styles, from the tremendous Queen Anne and mission revival homes of the late 1800s to more modern Japanese- and Mediterranean-style villas. The two elementary schools and one middle school in the local Reed Union School District are rated in the top 1% among California schools. The city enforces strict rules regarding house design and setbacks in order to preserve trees, views, and the town’s spacious wooded character. The adjacent town of Tiburon, however, is home to a wide range of services, shops and eateries.