Most people visiting the San Francisco Bay Area often end up simply exploring the city and do not venture beyond that. Although it is true that our 49 square miles packs quite a punch, there are several Bay Area day trips that one can go on, provided a car is at their disposal. These Bay area road trips are not only easily done in a day or two, but also are mostly dog friendly! So if you have some extra time on your hand and have rented a car, I strongly suggest going on some of these day trips from San Francisco! These (mostly) dog friendly Bay Area day trips are both towards the north and south of the city and are some of the best day trips from the Bay Area that provide natural beauty, culture, scenic routes and much more. So here is a list of all the road trips from the Bay Area that we have made with our dog and hopefully they will inspire you to get going as well! If you are looking for what to do in San Francisco itself, do not miss my tons of San Francisco guides (I have been living here for 8+ years), such as budget travel, top 20 things to do in SF, cute cafes in the city, best places for cheap dining in San Francisco, best lookout points in the city and best places to view the Golden Gate Bridge!
Bay Area Day trips: Why venture out of San Francisco?
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 and thus a great excuse to go on those day trips from San Francisco. 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. 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. Some of these places can also be accessed via the ferry (leaves from SF’s Ferry building or our Embarcadero; here is the SF ferry schedule link) 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 the best day trips from the Bay Area ! I have been to all these places and can vouch for their beauty. Most of these San Francisco Bay Area day trips are dog friendly, so don’t leave your best friend behind! Read this post for family friendly day trips from San Francisco with your kids!
Day Trips from San Francisco # 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. For planning your day trip to Sausalito from San Francisco, read about our adventures in Sausalito here and a must visit secret beach in Sausalito 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 and are therefore perfect day trip destinations from 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 on Angel island. All ferry options are listed here, here and here. You can read all about the three islands that you must visit near San Francisco in this post, which are either accessible by Ferry or car.
Day trips from the Bay Area # 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 it is 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 to plan your day trip. Dogs are not allowed in most places, but you can read about our adventures in Kehoe beach, which is a dog friendly beach in Pt. Reyes. 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 National Park Services website 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.
Best Bay Area Day Trips # 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 on the National Parks Services website. Don’t forget to read my post on Muir Beach lookout, which is breathtakingly beautiful, allows dogs and is a perfect dog friendly day trip from the Bay Area! Muir beach lookout offers breathtaking vistas and has a great hiking trail, where leashed dogs are allowed.
Dog Friendly Day trips from Bay Area # 4: California wine country
No trip to the Bay Area is complete without a day trip to California 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 Mendocino in the north to Santa Barbara in the south and we have been to several destinations in California’s wine growing trail either as overnight or day trips with our dog. 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 dog friendly trips to Sebastopol (Sonoma) here and our outing to Calistoga (Napa) 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. If wine is not your thing, then may I entice you in some pet friendly glamping in Petaluma, Sonoma county? We recently stayed overnight with our dog at Hobbit Cobbin, a sustainable structure which is ideal for glamping, and loved it to bits! Read about our glamping adventure here to plan your own!
If you are looking for a perfect dog friendly Bay Area day trip to a wine destination filled with dog friendly wineries, Lodi is the perfect place to be. Nestled between San Francisco and Stockton, this place is perfect for day trip with your dog and has tons of wineries which welcome dogs and a cheap, economical tasting, unlike Napa. Most wineries do not require prior appointment for parties up to 6, unlike in Napa and Sonoma where a lot of exclusive wineries require prior reservations. Read my dog friendly wine tasting guide to Lodi here! FYI, it takes about 1hr 45 minutes to reach Lodi and so this is one of the best Bay Area day trips to make!
Day Trips From Bay Area # 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 and is a perfect getaway from the fireworks on July 4th since they are banned here. 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 in this post which includes lots of information on dog friendly attractions, dog friendly hikes in Carmel and dog friendly restaurants in Carmel, along with dog friendly Carmel hotels.
I hope this post has given you plenty of fodder for Bay Area Day trips to make on your next visit. Most of these are dog friendly Bay Area day trips and can definitely be extended to overnight for a more relaxed stay. I will keep on adding to the list as our adventures grow and so watch out for this space!
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