When I moved from San Francisco to New York, I realized that I never truly appreciated San Francisco for its amazing access to coastal escapes and inland parks. There are so gorgeous many possibilities for day-trips from San Francisco, and all of them have different flavor of activities to offer.
With Thanksgiving and Christmas around the corner, a lot of my friends are heading out to San Francisco for vacation. Even if you’ve only got a long weekend in San Francisco, I highly recommend driving out to the coast or the wine region for a taste of what locals like to do do on the weekends. Here are my 10 favorite day-trips from San Francisco.
All photo from Death to Stock Photo - they are a unique startup that offers rich imagery for brands. (And they didn't pay me to write that)
A laidback beach town with great hikes and surfs, Pacifica is a hidden gem just 20-minutes away from San Francisco. If you find yourself there, make sure to hike Mori Point, and walk the Pacifica vintage Pier, and then, of course, hike down to the Pacific State Beach. Surfers will want to check out the NorCal Surf Shop where beginners can rent equipment.
12 miles north of San Francisco is the Muir Woods National Monument, a National Park that’s part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. There’s plenty of hikes in the old growth of redwoods. It’s a great way to spend an afternoon getting lost under canopy of redwoods.
Point Reyes & Tomales Bay
One hour outside of the city is stunning Point Reyes. I’d first heard about Point Reyes because a colleague had gotten married there, and one look at the Point Reyes lighthouse and you’ll know why it’s the perfect backdrop for holy matrimony. Once again, there are plenty of hikes to be had but make sure to also stop by the many diary farms and Tomales Bay Oyster Company, very famous with SF locals for its shellfish.
Monterey and Carmel
Head down south along the coast and you’ll find yourself at Monterey Bay. Once there, you can take the scenic 17-mile drive along the coast and see the quaint town of Carmel-by-the-sea. There’s a lot of boutique shops and galleries in town, and you’re never far from white sandy beaches.
The best way to get to Sausalito is actually to bike across the Golden Gate Bridge. This town across the bridge has plenty to offer in terms of shopping and dining. Once there, wonder the art galleries and shops around Caledonia street, and browse Heath Ceramics factory store. To get back to San Francisco, you can take a ferry that goes back to Fishermen’s Wharf - this is a very popular option for tourists.
Sometimes I think East Bay doesn’t get enough love. Berkeley, home to the University, is actually a great place for the gourmet tourist. When I was living in San Francisco, my jaunts to Berkeley were all for the purpose of food. Must visit places to eat include The Cheese Collective and Love at First Bite Bakery. Of course, you really can’t go wrong with Asian cuisine in Berkeley either.
Half Moon Bay
Half Moon Bay is always first on my list when I want to take a day trip out of San Francisco. The stretch of beach there is just beautiful and there’s plenty of things to do from hiking to horseback riding. I love to stay at little Bed & Breakfasts along the coast so I can go for a run by the water first thing in the morning.
For something different from hiking and the beach, you can’t miss Napa Valley. The famous wine region of North California is home to a plethora of wineries offering tastings and tours. My favorite winery is Castello di Amorosa, an authentically-built 13th century tuscan castle and winery.
I think SF locals actually prefer to go to Sonoma Valley for their wine-tasting jaunts. Sonoma is also a major wine-producing region north of San Francisco, with beautiful rolling hills and valleys. Although Sonoma has less offerings in terms of spas and fancy limo treatments, Sonoma is preferred by locals since the area is far less crowded.
Last but certainly not least, my favorite getaway of all - Big Sur. Big Sur is a whopping 85 miles of stunning twists and turns along the coast. It’s a rugged stretch of the Californian coast line, and home to the oft-Instagrammed Bixby Bridge. Really do take your time in Big Sur, although you don't necessarily have to stay there overnight, don't be in a hurry to rush out either - the beauty is really in being in the area and taking the opportunity to enjoy the California lifestyle.
PS: Once again, all photos are Death to Stock Photo - a wonderful stock photo subscription service showed us what to do in Nashville not too long ago.