Summer is around the corner and it seems that almost everyone I know is either about to visit my beautiful city or has relatives doing the same. And, for that reason I am being flooded with tons of questions on things to do while in San Francisco. Since the BayMonkey is not ubiquitous like the Almighty, I have tried, via my blog, to be your personal (virtual) concierge in every way possible, from the best dining places to some of my favorite things to do and see in my beloved fog city. I have always tried to guide folks towards a mix of touristy and non-touristy sightseeing when visiting and this and this blog post sums them all up. This post is all about 5 quick, easy and stellar Bay Area day trips that you can and should make from San Francisco, if you have some extra time with you and a love for nature.
There is a bounty full of natural beauty that lies outside of San Francisco and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention them, which are necessary to complete your travel experience. San Francisco is blessed to have such a advantageous location, since a short drive of 1-3 hrs can land you in the lap of some incredibly gorgeous landscapes that only California can offer. If you are visiting San Francisco for more than 4 days and have access to a private vehicle, I highly recommend these quick Bay Area day trips or even better, stay overnight for a more relaxed vacation. Whatever you do, you will be spoiled for choices since we abound in natural beauty in this part of the country. Finally, if you are not into driving or do not have a car at your disposal, you can still pile onto buses that ply tourists to some of these spots, but the experience will be more cookie cutter and chaotic than taking your time and savoring these destinations. Finally, some of these places can also be accessed via the ferry which I highly recommend taking since it is another cheap, effective public transportation option. So without further ado, let’s get started on my top five recommendations for Bay Area Day trips! I have been to all these places and can vouch for their beauty. Best of all, most of these places are super dog-friendly, so don’t leave your pooch behind.
Bay Area Day Trips Recommendation # 1: Sausalito/Tiburon/Angel Island
Sausalito is a quaint, European style city perched north of Golden gate bridge and is home to many artists, art galleries, beautiful beaches, good food, houseboats docked on the marina and amazing vistas. Read about our adventures in Sausalito here and here. Tiburon is another town next to Sausalito jutting out in the Tiburon peninsula and is equally beautiful with gorgeous views. Both towns are pet friendly and can be accessed via the ferry leaving from the ferry building’s main terminal in San Francisco. Tiburon’s open space preserve provided jaw dropping views of the Golden Gate Bridge overlooks the gorgeous Angel island, a California state park and wildlife preserve, which was also deemed as “Ellis island of the west” since it served as the immigration check point for many immigrants arriving via the Pacific. Angel island can be accessed by ferry as well. However, dogs are not allowed there. All ferry options are listed here, here and here
Bay Area Day Trips Recommendation # 2: Pt. Reyes National Seashore
This is one of the many gems in California’s natural beauty’s crowning glory since it showcases the best of wildlife preserves, parks, sanctuaries and the amazing California coastline with pristine beaches. A 1.5-2 hr drive from the city will land you here and its best to stay overnight to take all of the many offerings of this coastal paradise. Do not forget to visit Drake’s beach, Point Reyes lighthouse and of course, the Tule Elk reserve, the only one in the country (read my ultimate Pt. Reyes guide here). Dogs are not allowed in most places, but you can read about our adventures in Kehoe beach here. Finally, there are a lot of vehicle restrictions to most of the sites such as Drake’s beach and the lighthouse, so please follow posted signs for shuttles. The month of April is mating season for seals and so most of the area is closed down to keep the pups safe. Please read all information on the website here or on my Kehoe beach blog post and plan your trip accordingly! A must visit, if you have some time on hand and are a lover of nature.
Bay Area Day Trips Recommendation # 3: Muir Woods and Muir Beach lookout
This beautiful forest of redwoods, named after John Muir, the famous environmentalist and lover of nature, is one of the key attractions north of San Francisco and is thronged by hundreds of visitors year around. Thus finding a parking spot is a living nightmare and its best to either plan taking a shuttle or arriving really early to park. Nevertheless, this tranquil trees monument is a must visit. Read all the information here. Don’t forget to read my post on Muir Beach lookout, which is breathtakingly beautiful and is also dog-friendly!
Bay Area Day Trips Recommendation # 4: Wine country (Napa and Sonoma Valley)
No trip to the Bay Area is complete without a trip to wine country, i.e., home to the famous California wines-the reds, the rosés and the whites. Although most people flock to Napa, I favor the much less gimmicky and less touristy Sonoma for its reasonably priced and many free wine tasting spots. In the bay area, wine country stretches all the way from Sonoma county to Mendocino in the north, but you can find lots of good day time getaways dotting the two valleys. Healdsburg, St. Helena, Yountville, Sebastopol, Santa Rosa and Calistoga (the northern most point of Napa Valley) come to mind apart from the actual cities of both Napa and Sonoma. You can either get on a tour bus and do the rounds of vineyards and private wine tastings or go around on your own and enjoy the immensely picturesque scenery all around. Spring-Fall comprise the busiest season and grapes are harvested around October. Read more about out adventures in Sebastopol here and our outing to Calistoga here, the latter being known for its spas, the Old Faithful Geyser and the petrified forest. Many wineries are pet friendly, but quite a few fancy ones are not, so please plan beforehand if you are planning to travel with a pet. Consult dogtrekker.com for all wine country wineries which are pet friendly.
Bay Area Day Trips Recommendation # 5: Monterey/Carmel
Enough of the north, the Pacific coast to the south of San Francisco is equally beauty and alluring. A 2.5 hr drive from the city will land you in the sister cities of Monterey followed by Carmel, a tiny European style town which is dog friendly to boot! Lots of good places to dine Al fresco in the latter while the former is home to the famous Monterey Bay Aquarium and Conservatory. For the more adventurous ones, there is skydiving in Monterey Bay with the ocean staring below as you hurl in free fall. But of the two, Carmel is my favorite town to relax and unwind. Plus, there is the famous 17 mile drive that loops between the two cities , including the popular pebble beach and a view of the lone Cyprus. Read all about our adventures in Carmel right here and here.
I hope you get to enjoy a few or all of these places when you visit San Francisco and/or the Bay Area. Thank you so much for reading and please share your experiences with me!
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