25 Fun Day Trips From Oakland, California (Under 2 hours)

Home » 25 Fun Day Trips From Oakland, California (Under 2 hours)

Last Updated on April 21, 2024 by Paroma

If you’re looking for some fun day trips from Oakland, California for weekend getaways, then this is the post for you! I am here to spill the beans on 25 amazing destinations (towns, landmarks and attractions) that are under 2 hours drive from Oakland for a rolicking day trip! Continue reading to find the best places to visit for epic Oakland day trips!

 

Day trips from Oakland, Bay area day trips

 

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The vibrant city of Oakland is located on the East Bay in the San Francisco Bay Area metropolitan area and is served by the Oakland International Airport (OAK). This third largest city in Bay Area is home to a bustling downtown and uptown with tons of museums, restaurants and galleries, the beautiful Lake Merritt, Redwood parks, a trendy Jack London Square along the water, art deco theatres of Fox and Paramount and a tiny Chinatown that holds its own against its more popular counterpart in San Francisco. 

 

Oakland is a terrific weekend getaway destination from San Francisco in itself but you could just as easily explore many beautiful destinations in and around Bay Area from this city on the East Bay, thanks to its favorable location. From Northern California beach towns to warm winter destinations, popular wine country destinations to lesser known wine regions, there are so many day trips from Oakland that you can make to explore Bay Area and beyond!

 

This post covers 25 terrific ideas for day trips from Oakland based on my 12+ years of travel all over Northern California. I live in San Francisco, which is about 10-12 miles west of Oakland and have curated this list with a 2 hour drive time each way (traffic permitting) for you to make the best of your weekend getaways. So, without further ado, let’s get started!

 

Day trips from Oakland, where to go from Oakland on Day trips

 

 

DAY TRIPS FROM OAKLAND (EAST BAY AND SACRAMENTO)

ALAMEDA

Distance: 2.3 miles

A day trip from Oakland can from literally from your very own backyard, aka a trip to the tiny island of Alameda right across the Oakland Inner Harbor. When in Alameda, have some fun in the sun at the Robert Crown Memorial Beach nestled along the San Francisco Bay, hike the Bay Farm Island Loop Trail and visit the USS Hornet Sea, Air and Space Museum which is a ship and floating museum docked in Alameda! Other places of interest are the Alameda Museum and the skinny “Spite House” on Broadway Street.

 

Downtown Alameda  and Webster streets are both great places to shop and eat and see some amazing Victorian Houses like Brehaut House (the most photographed home in Alameda and reminded me of those we saw in Humboldt County on our Redwoods Trip). You can get a full list of where to eat and drink in Alameda and what to do in Alameda during your day trip by clicking on these links.

 

Day trips from Oakland

Photo credit

BENICIA AND MARTINEZ

Distance: 30 miles

Nestled along the shores of North Bay overlooking the San Pablo Bay, Benicia is one of the most underrated cities of the Bay Area and used to be California’s capital for 13 short months before the legislators packed their bags to Sacramento! Located just 30 miles north of Oakland, this makes for a super fun and easy day trip and should definitely be on your Bay Area exploration bucket list for several reasons.

 

Besides the Raymond J. Bordoni Public Access Beach and the State Historic Park, a visit to the the Capitol building (the oldest in the state) is a must (they offer tours but dogs are not allowed inside). Stroll down first street which doubles up as downtown for shopping and good eats. I highly recommend visiting on October when they have a local scarecrow festival. 

 

Martinez is right across the Bay from Benicia and is home to John Muir National Historic Site, where stands the home of famous conservationist John Muir (after whom Muir Woods is named). Visiting the beautiful three storey house is a must as is a walk around the estate to see the fruit trees planted by him. Downtown Martinez is super cute with some adorable stores like Market & Main (food court), Five Suns Brewing, Knots and Found (Plant Nursery) and States Coffee. 

 

John Muir house in Martinez : where to go on a day trip from Oakland

 

LIVERMORE WINE COUNTRY

Distance: 38 miles

Napa and Sonoma, the two gems of California wine country may be bit much of a stretch when it comes to day trips from San Jose but why go all the way north when you have Livermore wine country on the East Bay that is darn close to Oakland? 

 

If you’re a wine enthusiast looking to taste some refreshing, crisp Chardonnay-then head to Livermore Valley wineries which produce this grape in abundance. Livermore valley AVA is one of the best wine regions in California and has been growing wine grapes since the 19th century (the first grapes were planted in 1840s). Cresta Blanca Winery (founded in 1882) was one of the earliest wineries in this region with its first vintage (1884) winning Grand Prix at the 1889 Paris Exposition, becoming the first California wine to win a competition in France much before the 1976 Judgement of Paris. 

 

Livermore has over 50 spectacular wineries, of which the the biggest and most famous wineries are Concannon and Wente, the only two that were in operation during the infamous Prohibition. The other notable wineries to visit are Murrieta’s Well, McGrail Vineyards, Rodrigue Molyneaux and Wood Family.

 

Livermore wine country-visit as a day trip from Oakland

 

LODI

Distance: 78 miles

Although I have an entire section on day trips from Oakland to wine country (Napa and Sonoma), Lodi is the perfect, under the radar hidden gem to explore if you love wine, specially Zinfandel and wine tasting on a budget. I highly recommend Toasted Toad Cellars in downtown and Bokisch Vineyards for wine tasting in Lodi. 

 

When in Lodi, not only do a round of its gorgeous wineries but also go for a walk around Lake Lodi, explore the charming downtown and definitely get some dinner at the uber romantic Towne House Restaurant. Read my guide to Lodi to plan your trip pronto!

 

Day trips from Oakland-visit Lodi

 

SACRAMENTO

Distance: 82 miles

California’s capital city is often overlooked in favor of the more glamorous or popular coastal counterparts of Los Angeles or San Francisco, but trust me when I say that Sacramento is perfect as a weekend getaway destination or day trip from Oakland in so many ways and is a terrific choice as a low key winter destination in California. 

 

With the largest number of farm to table restaurants, a charming mid-town and bustling downtown and dazzling murals that will make your jaw drop, Sacramento is perfect as the northernmost day trip destination from Oakland. If you’re looking to explore more of Northern California, Sacramento can serve as an excellent base since of the best destinations in this part of the state can be combined as day trips from Sacramento owing to its location.

 

Besides the charm of Old Town and a relaxing walk along the banks of the Sacramento river, visitors can enjoy learning about our state’s history at the California museum, savor delicious farm to table cuisine at one of the many restaurants and cafes and admire the dozens of murals scattered all over town. Sacramento is dog friendly too and you can read my dog friendly Sacramento guide for all the details.

 

Visit Sacramento as a day trip from Oakland

 

 

WEEKEND GETAWAYS FROM OAKLAND (WINE COUNTRY)

NAPA VALLEY

Distance: 41 miles

When people think of California wine country, they automatically think of Napa-a term which actually encompasses both the county, the city and the actual Napa Valley wine region (that also includes the city of Napa if I haven’t confused you enough at this point). If you’re a food and wine lover, this is where you need to head to on a day trip from Oakland.

 

Napa Valley is one long stretch of 20 miles spread around CA-128 starting from Oak Knoll in the south to Calistoga in the north with cities like Napa, Yountville, Rutherford and St. Helena in between that are world class destinations for food and wine. Since a day trip from Oakland does not entail a lot of time, I recommend picking one or two of these towns to explore if you are a first time visitor since they are within close proximity of one another. 

 

I have visited Napa many times over these 12 years and have several posts guiding you the best wineries to visit for first time visitors, dog friendly Napa wineries ,15 fun filled things to do in Calistoga and how to get to Napa Valley from San Francisco if you’re in no mood to drive.

 

Based on my multiple visits to Napa, I recommend spending sometime in downtown Napa to explore Oxbow market and checking out the nearby wineries, visiting Rutherford, St. Helena and Yountville (all within 15-30 mins from downtown Napa towards the north) for their world famous restaurants and boutique wineries and finally staying at least one night in Calistoga for wine, food, geothermal spas and a visit to the Petrified Forest if you are thinking of a weekend getaway from Oakland. 

 

Visit Napa Valley from oakland on a day trip, wineries in Napa

 

SONOMA COUNTY (SO MANY OPTIONS FOR DAY TRIPS FROM OAKLAND)

CITY OF SONOMA

Distance: 49 miles

The city of Sonoma should definitely be on your San Francisco road trip itinerary when visiting wine country. Not only is downtown Sonoma known for its restaurants and myriad tasting rooms, but the San Francisco Solano (Mission Sonoma) is also located here which happens to be the very last California Mission built in 1823. Check out the Sonoma Valley Museum of art or go hiking on the scenic Sonoma Valley Overlook trail after you’ve had your fill of wine tasting.

 

Day trips from Oakland-visit Sonoma

 

PETALUMA

Distance: 43 miles

Petaluma is one of the most charming towns located in the southern part of Sonoma county and is an easy day trip from Oakland. The best time to visit Petaluma is end of October/early November to witness the vibrant Dia de Los Muertos celebration (thanks to a sizeable Oaxacan population that calls this part of Sonoma county home).

 

If you are in the mood for a glamping adventure, Petaluma offers that as well in as a unique stay in a “Hobbit Cobbin” (you can read all about it in our experience here). Petaluma has some really good food options such as Della Fattoria, Stellina Pronto (must visit Italian cafe) and Wild Goat Bistro. Add to it lots of antique stores to shop (stop by the Moroccan store Beyti to pick up beautiful home accents and everything Moroccan) and some tranquil hiking trails and you’re all set for spending a lovely day here.

 

Petaluma, Sonoma County

 

SEBASTOPOL

Distance: 59 miles

Sebastopol is one of the most charming, yet underrated towns in Western Sonoma and is only 15 miles east of the Sonoma Coast. Beside its many wineries and lavender fields, Sebastopol also has a cute downtown, a sprawling outdoor promenade named Barlow (for dining and shopping) and some really cool artwork lining Florence Avenue.

 

If you are in the mood to hike, get on the West county and Joe Rodota trail or spend some time at the Ragle Ranch Regional Park. You can read my Sebastopol guide to find out more.

 

Visit Lavender fields of Sebastopol as day trips from Oakland

 

SANTA ROSA

Distance: 61 miles

Santa Rosa is the largest city in Sonoma County is perfect for a day trip from Oakland. With plenty of things to keep you busy, Santa Rosa should definitely be on your radar if you’re planning to visit Sonoma. The major attraction of Santa Rosa is undoubtedly the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center dedicated to the famous cartoonist and creator of “Peanuts” who was born and raised here.

 

A weekend at Santa Rosa means exploring some of the most beautiful wineries in Sonoma, going for a horticultural tour of Luther Burbank Home and Gardens, hiking in its many state parks (Trione-Annadel State Park, Spring Lake Regional Park, Jack London State Historic Park), exploring the historic Railroad Square, visiting the lavender fields at Matanzas Creek Winery and doing a taco crawl from the many taco trucks along Sebastopol Road.

 

Santa Rosa, California

 

HEALDSBURG

Distance: 73 miles

One of the best day trips from Oakland to Wine Country is undoubtedly to Healdsburg. This glamorous town in Sonoma County is the perfect winter getaway in California and is home to some of the best wineries and restaurants in Sonoma (including the 3 Michelin star restaurant Single Thread, my absolute favorite fine dining place in Northern California).

 

When in Healdsburg, explore the many wineries along the Russian River Valley and Dry Creek Road, stop by downtown Healdsburg for delicious meals and antique shopping, spend some time at Lake Sonoma Outlook or hike the Healdsburg ridge open space preserve. I also recommend checking out “Little Saint”-the food and drink emporium which is open from breakfast to dinner (the inside is divided into separate sections like a cafe, wine bar, restaurant, grocery area  and is really beautiful with lots of good things to eat).

 

Healdsburg-great day trip from Oakland

 

GEYSERVILLE

Distance: 82 miles

Geyserville has always been a favorite stop of ours while returning home from Mendocino or simply as a weekend getaway to Sonoma County. When in this town, check out the amazing wineries and places to eat, such as the Francis Ford Coppola winery for a tour and tasting and the Michelin star restaurant Cyrus.

 

Geyserville is equidistant from Cloverdale in the north and Healdsburg to the south, both of which are awesome places to visit for wine tasting as well. Stop by the sculpture garden to see local artists make funky statues out of recycled parts and definitely get a slice of pizza at Diavola Pizzeria and Salumeria.

 

Geyserville Francis ford Coppola winery

 

BODEGA BAY (SONOMA COAST)

Distance: 71 miles

Often described as the Gateway to the Sonoma coast, Bodega Bay encompasses its namesake bay and the sleepy town of Bodega, the filming location for Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece “The Birds”. Bodega Bay also  boasts of excellent beaches, roadside shacks selling amazing chowder and scenic hiking trails leading to gorgeous views of the coast.

 

I recommend stopping by the pint sized town of Bodega to see landmarks such as Potter High School and St. Teresa of Avila Church, enjoying a day out at Doran Regional Park and Beach, stopping by the many beaches between Bodega and Jenner and hiking the Bodega Bay Head. You can read about all the best things to do in Bodega right here for where to stay, what to do, eat and drink.

 

Day trips from Oakland under 2 hours drive-Visit Bodega Bay

 

 

OAKLAND DAY TRIPS (MARIN COUNTY AND SAN FRANCISCO)

 

POINT REYES NATIONAL SEASHORE (ONE OF THE BEST DAY TRIPS FROM OAKLAND)

Distance: 46 miles

Pt. Reyes National Seashore is that ecologically preserved part of Northern California that juts out into the Pacific, surrounded by the water of Tomales Bay on the east and Drake’s Bay to the north. It is one of the best places to go whale watching in California, especially during gray whale migration season (Jan-April). This is one of the most beautiful stops to visit on a San Francisco to Mendocino road trip.

 

This part of California is actually a National Park and is a nature lover/hiker/photographer/wilderness lover’s paradise all rolled in one. Point Reyes is also one of the best romantic getaways in Northern California for nature loving and outdoorsy couples and one of the most charming beach towns in Northern California. This part of California is just like no other and makes for one of the best day trips from Oakland if you want to escape to someplace tranquil.

 

If you are visiting Point Reyes on a day trip from Oakland, stop at Olema or Point Reyes station on the mainland to fuel up and to load up on food and drinks. Due West Market in Olema is a great deli and specialty grocery store for packing in a picnic basket and Cafe reyes, Toby’s Coffee Bar, Bovine Bakery and Station House Cafe in Point Reyes Station are great for coffee or food.

 

Further up north of Point Reyes, you’ll find plenty of oyster bars in Marshalls thanks to the saline rich waters of Tomales Bay that is a hotbed for these tasty molluscs.Hog Island oyster shack and farm, Tony’s Seafood restaurant and Nick’s Cove are our favorite stops here for oysters and seafood.

 

Finally, Point Reyes National Seashore itself is a magical place and a day trip from Oakland is just not enough to see it all. You can spend an entire weekend here exploring the pristine beaches, watching elephant seals at Chimney Rock, visiting the one of a kind Tule Elk Reserve, snapping a photo at the Cypress tree tunnel and enjoying the views from Point Reyes Lighthouse. You can read my Point Reyes guide here and my Kehoe beach guide here (one of the few dog friendly beaches in the area).

 

Point Reyes National Seashore

 

MILL VALLEY

Distance: 26 miles

If you are craving to get your fix of Redwood trees just casually scattered all around a chilled out town north of Golden Gate Bridge, then Mill Valley is where you should be for a day trip from Oakland.

 

Mill Valley is that cute as a button town in Marin County where we often find ourselves when we’re in the mood to either explore a gurgling waterfall (yes, Mill Valley is home to Cascade Falls that is a short drive from downtown), hiking the DipSea Trail, admiring the Redwoods at Old Mill Park (these are dog friendly Redwoods) or simply noshing some yum food in downtown Mill Valley (home to boutique stores and art galleries along Throckmorton Avenue). It is also home to the world famous Muir Woods Redwood Grove which visitors flock to from all over the world.

 

When in Mill Valley, I recommend getting a bite to eat at either Avatar’s Punjabi Burritos or Boo Koo and grabbing baked goods from Flour Craft Bakery at Mill Valley Lumber Yard now refashioned into a beautiful outdoor mall with lots of local stores and restaurants. Also, please stop by Poet and the Bench, my favorite store in Mill Valley selling jewelry, artwork and ceramics by my favorite local ceramicist Judith Lemmens.

 

Mill Valley is an excellent day trip from Oakland

 

MARIN HEADLANDS AND SAUSALITO

Distance: 28 miles

One of the best day trips from Oakland to see some of the sweeping views of the Golden Gate Bridge is to visit the Marin Headlands and of course the adjacent charming town of Sausalito. Marin headlands provides some of the most unobstructing views of the bridge and you can read my post on where to find these panoramic Golden Gate Bridge views that are way better than those in San Francisco!

 

Sausalito is the very first town in Marin county that you’ll find yourselves in once you cross the Golden Gate Bridge. This artsy town boasts of art galleries, restaurants overlooking the Richardson bay, boutique gift shops and of course and a cute harborfront with boats docked and bobbing up and down on the water. Visiting Sausalito is one of the most relaxing day trips from Oakland that you’ll get to have, thanks to its laid back, mellow vibe and excellent food.

 

A day out in Sausalito can mean hanging out at the beaches with plenty to choose from, such as Rodeo Beach, this secret Black Sands Beach and Kirby Cove Beach with fantastic views of Bridge. Downtown Sausalito is bustling with restaurants, cafes and many art galleries (Galerie Elektra is my favorite) with fabulous views from the harborfront that is home to a Sea Lion sculpture by Al Sybrian.

 

My favorite places to eat out in Sausalito are Sushi Ran, The Spinnaker (on the very edge with marvellous views of the coast), Bar Bocce and Scoma’s (they have the freshest seafood). Fans of Herge’s Tintin comics can stop by Sausalito Ferry Co. Novelty Toy and Gift Store to pick up some Tintin merchandise.

 

P.S. Tiburon and Larkspur are two of my other favorite towns in Marin County that are pretty close to Sausalito and make for great day trip destinations for those into hikes with gorgeous views or waterfalls. Read my dog friendly hike in Tiburon guide or the Dawn Falls trail hike in Larkspur for details!

 

Sausalito

 

 

SAN FRANCISCO (MOST POPULAR DAY TRIP FROM OAKLAND)

Distance: 11 miles

The famous “City by the Bay” or “Fog City” lies only 11-12 miles west of Oakland and is perfect for a day trip to get a taste of all the mind boggling possibilities that it packs within its tiny 49 square miles. I have been living in San Francisco for the last 12 years and let me tell you one thing: a day trip from Oakland to San Francisco is definitely not enough to see everything! 

 

However, if you only have a day to spare in the city, I recommend two things: a) treat this day trip as a layover of 6-8 hours and read my San Francisco layover post to maximize your limited time in the city by seeing the major attractions (if this is your very first time) and b) try not to drive into the city if you can help it (because our parking is crazy expensive and difficult to find) and take the BART from anywhere in Oakland to save on the parking fees and hassle.

 

If this is not your first rodeo in the city, then boy do I have a ton of posts for you to explore my home a bit more! Find out where to find the best hidden gems in San Francisco, the best San Francisco neighborhoods, best photo spots in SF, free things to do in San Francisco (your wallet/purse will thank you), where to eat for cheap in the city, foodie experiences in San Francisco-including vegetarian and vegan restaurants, best dessert spots, artisan chocolate stores and fancy afternoon tearooms.

 

San Francisco is one of those cities where urban hiking is a thing, with lots of tranquil and coastal hikes revealing panoramic views of the rugged California coast and the Bridge. You can read my guide to the best hiking trails in San Francisco, hidden beaches in San Francisco, the best viewpoints in San Francisco and the best things to do in Golden Gate Park if you love to explore the outdoors.

 

Visiting San Francisco with your pup? I have you covered with all my dog friendly San Francisco guidesdog friendly parks, dog friendly beaches and the best dog friendly hikes in the city for a fun day trip to SF with your best friend.

 

Resident’s tip: San Francisco is almost always cold and chilly, even in summer! Read my what to wear in San Francisco guide or find this handy packing list to dress appropriately for our crazy microclimates.

 

 

San Francisco from Bernal Hill

 

WHERE TO GO FROM OAKLAND ON A DAY TRIP (PENINSULA AND CENTRAL COAST)

PACIFICA

Distance: 26 miles

This charming coastal town with pristine beaches and gorgeous hikes is one of the must visit stops along Highway 1 if you’re driving from San Francisco to Carmel and makes for an excellent day trip from Oakland. When in Pacifica stop by the popular Mazzetti’s bakery or get yourself a “wellness latte” at Saltwater Bakery in Downtown Pacifica (which is so cute!). 

 

A day out in Pacifica means getting your fill of the sun and sand at one of its many beaches such as Esplanade beach, Pacifica State Beach, Pacifica Beach View Park, Rockaway Beach, San Pedro beach and Gray Whale Cove Beach (between Pacifica and Montara), to name a few. I highly recommend either Pacifica State Beach (say hi to the surfers and playful pups on the sand) or Gray Whale Cove Beach.

 

Pacifica has tons of amazing coastal hikes revealing dramatic views of the ocean. Since you cannot get to all of them on a day trip, just take my word for it and get on the Mori Point Loop Trail for its ease and views. The other easy hike is on the Devil’s Slide trail (paved trail which used to be a part of Highway 1) or the Pedro Point Headlands trail. See all the Pacifica hiking trails right here.

 

Mori Point, Pacifica

 

HALF MOON BAY

Distance: 39 miles

Half Moon Bay is the oldest town in San Mateo County and saddled right along Highway 1. A day trip from Oakland to Half Moon Bay means chilling on one of its many popular beaches (many of which are dog friendly) and gulping down some of the best chowder that you can find in Northern California!

 

Home to the world famous Mavericks beach (where surfers compete annually at the Big Wave competition) is here but it is a bit off route from Highway 1, Half Moon Bay also boasts of several beaches right off Highway 1 such as Redondo Beach, Pillar Point Beach, Poplar Beach, Mirada Surf Beach, Dunes beach, Roosevelt beach, Surfer’s Beach and Miramar Beach. My favorite? Pillar Point Beach – it is right next to the harbor and Sam’s Chowder House.

 

Come October, residents all over the Bay Area head over to Half Moon Bay for its famous pumpkin festival, which is one of the premier fall festivals in this Bay Area. Come in early and enjoy the pumpkin patches, food trucks and a day of fun and games in this small town.

 

I’d be remiss if I did not include the many beautiful coastal trails that Half Moon Bay is blessed with. The most scenic one is undoubtedly the California Coastal Trail, a 1200 mile trail stretching from Oregon to Mexico along the coast that passes through Half Moon Bay, revealing spectacular views. Get on this dog friendly trail from the Poplar Beach parking lot and walk towards Pillar Point Beach in the north.

 

If you love seafood, check out the offerings at Sam’s Chowder House or Miramar Beach Restaurant which are famous for their fresh catches and chowder. Downtown Half Moon Bay is super nice with lots of restaurants and cute stores to keep you busy.

 

Half Moon Bay

 

SANTA CRUZ 

Distance: 72 miles

One of the best day trips to make from Oakland is undoubtedly exploring Santa Cruz on the Central Coast. This coastal town boasts of world famous beaches, lots of surfing action, whale watching activities from the harbor, scenic hikes, lighthouses perched on the coast, a bustling downtown, tons of good restaurants and cafes and a mind blowing wine region in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

 

The geographical diversity of Santa Cruz is pretty impressive and one that begs for repeat visits. From beaches to misty mountains to Coastal Redwood groves (Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park), Santa Cruz has something for everyone. The year round mild weather makes it a fantastic winter getaway in California and one that you can visit with family members of all ages.

 

Santa Cruz is also a great dog friendly getaway in Northern California, thanks to its dog friendly hikes, beaches and restaurants. You can read my Santa Cruz guide (dog friendly) and where to eat in Santa Cruz for your trip inspiration.

 

I personally recommend visiting Santa Cruz in winter (Nov-Feb) to catch the Monarch butterflies flock to the Eucalyptus grove next to Natural bridges State Beach for their wintering ritual. Also, Winter and Spring are (Dec-April) are perfect to see the migratory whales from boats and trailers departing the Santa Cruz harbor. If you’re visiting California in December, just stop by Santa Cruz for these two unique events.

 

For a day of fun, hop onto the Roaring Camp train for the time of your life! The train has two routes-one that takes you through the Henry Cowell Redwoods up to Bear mountain and the other being a coastal route from the Santa Cruz mountains to the beach boardwalk. 

 

santa Cruz is an excellent day trip option from Oakland

 

CAPITOLA, SOQUEL, APTOS

Distance: 73 miles

There are several tiny beach towns in Santa Cruz county that lie just outside the city of Santa Cruz and are so much fun to explore as day trips from Oakland. Of these, Capitola is famous for the row of colorful homes, aptly titled “The Venetians” that line one end of Monterey Bay and form a pretty sight when viewed from the Capitola State Beach or the boardwalk. 

 

Capitola Wharf is a lively place with restaurants and stores showcasing local artists. I highly recommend checking two stores on Capitola Avenue: Lumen art gallery featuring eclectic, local California art and home decor as well the Ethos Santa Cruz shop dedicated to helping people move towards a zero waste lifestyle and less plastic usage.

 

Soquel and Aptos are two other nearby towns in Santa Cruz county that have some really good restaurants and wineries. In fact, Soquel is home to Bargetto winery which is the oldest one in Santa Cruz county while Aptos has some splendid beaches such as Seacliff State Beach.

 

Day trips from Oakland : Capitola

 

BIG BASIN REDWOODS STATE PARK

Distance: 75 miles

Big Basin Redwoods State Park is California’s oldest state park and is home to the largest continuous stand of ancient redwoods, with 18,000 acres of old growth and recovering Redwood forests to be found south of San Francisco. Elevations in the park vary quite a bit from the sea level to over 2,000 feet. Beside a day of hiking and relaxing at Waddell beach, you could also tack the fascinating Rancho del Oso Nature and History Center to your list of attractions.

 

Like the Giant Coastal Redwoods in Humboldt County that you’ll encounter on a Northern California road trip, some of the trees here are more than 300 feet tall and 50 feet in circumference, with some as ancient as 1,000 to 2,500 years. The park was partially open in  2022 but is scheduled for a complete re-opening in 2023 as it continues to recover from the devastating California wildfires of 2020. 

 

Big Basin Redwoods State park

Photo Credit

 

MONTEREY (ONE OF THE BEST DAY TRIPS FROM OAKLAND FOR WHALE WATCHING)

Distance: 111 miles

Capping the 2 hour one way time limit, the beautiful Monterey Peninsula jutting out into the Pacific Ocean is the very last destination that I have for you in this guide on the best day trips from Oakland. The peninsula is home to some of the most beautiful California beach towns on the Central Coast such as Carmel by the Sea, Monterey and Pacific Grove with plenty of attractions, so please start off early from Oakland for this day trip.

 

The largest and most popular town on the Peninsula here is undoubtedly the erstwhile fish canning town of Monterey, made famous in the novel “Cannery Row” of John Steinbeck ( the author was born and raised in nearby Salinas which is home to a museum dedicated to him).

 

The other must do things in Monterey are strolling the historic Old Fisherman’s Wharf, visiting the world famous Monterey Bay Aquarium, dipping your feet in the sand at its many beaches (Monterey state beach, Del Monte Beach or San Carlos Beach at Monterey harbor) and doing some serious whale watching throughout the year via Monterey Bay Whale Watch that departs from the Wharf! 

 

Monterey has a thriving dining scene replete with the freshest seafood, bakeries and even a vegan Mexican restaurant on the waterfront! My favorites are Parker Lusseau pastries, Alta Bakery and Cafe, Old Fisherman’s Grotto and Monterey’s Fish House

 

monterey

 

PACIFIC GROVE

Distance: 112 miles

Pacific Grove is right next to Monterey and is another coastal town on the Peninsula that deserves a day trip of its own to explore. My number one recommendation would be to visit Pacific Grove in late spring (aka April-May) when the coast gets covered by a purple blanket of blooming ice plant flowers. This sea of purple is a sight to behold as you walk along the coast. You can read details on my Pacific Grove post here.

 

My other recommendations for enjoying Pacific Grove are walking down Ocean View Boulevard starting from Lover’s Point Park, visiting Point Pinos Lighthouse (the oldest continuously operated lighthouse in California), dipping your toes in the sand at Asilomar State Beach, checking out the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary (Dec-Feb), admiring the colorful Victorian houses in downtown and enjoying some tasty seafood at Passion Fish. If you’re a nature lover, stop by the Natural history museum in downtown to learn more about the flora and fauna of the central coast, especially the migratory Monarch butterflies.

 

Visit Pacific grove in Monterey county as a weekend getaway from Oakland

 

CARMEL-BY-THE SEA

Distance: 114 miles

Carmel by the Sea is a mere 10 minute drive from Monterey but feels like a totally different world! This coastal town feels like a fairy tale European village with Tudor style homes and cottages all around, not to mention the cute as heck downtown where you can easily get lost in the flower ladled cobbled bylanes. For those of you couples coming in from Oakland, Carmel also doubles up as an excellent Northern California romantic getaway.

 

A Oakland day trip to Carmel is actually very doable if you start in early so that you can have ample time to park and explore downtown. Since I have visited Carmel at least a dozen times over my 12 years of living in San Francisco, you can read my crazy detailed guide to Carmel to plan your trip.

 

When in Carmel, explore the charming downtown, walk down Ocean Avenue to Carmel Beach, discover the whimsical fairytale cottages, explore the art galleries and enjoy the food and wine in one of the many cafes, restaurants and tasting rooms in downtown. I recommend my favorite La Bicyclette, Stationery (great for brunch), La Balena and Cultura Comida y Bebida as must visits. 

 

When in Carmel (or Monterey or Pacific Grove), try to squeeze in a few hours to explore the iconic 17 mile drive looping between these towns. This drive takes you through several scenic stops, viewpoints and beaches-the most famous being the Lone Cypress and Pebble Beach.

 

Right outside of Carmel lies the magical Point Lobos State Natural Reserve which deserves a day trip of its own, thanks to its pristine beauty, beaches and hikes. You could spend a few hours in downtown Carmel, stop by the famous Carmel Mission and then enter the Reserve ($10/vehicle) for hiking and scenic views.

 

Pro tip: Fireworks are prohibited in Carmel over the July 4 weekend. So if you’re wondering where to take your dog on 4th July, escape to this seaside town.

 

If you are planning to make an entire weekend trip from Oakland to visit Monterey county, read my guide to wine tasting in Carmel ValleyBig Sur guide (with a special romantic version for those on their honeymoon) and how to plan an overnight trip to Pinnacles National Park for more ideas.

 

Carmel by the Sea, Carmel Mission

 

I hope you enjoyed reading this guide on how to go on fun day trips from Oakland to spice up your weekends by exploring your own so called “backyard”. Thanks so much for stopping by and keep following my blog for more California adventures (that are dog friendly too).

 

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Looking for day trips from Oakland, California? Here are 25 fun day or weekend trip ideas that are all driveable under 2 hours! Pin this to your USA board now! #bayarea #daytrips #oakland #bayareadaytrips #USA #California #SFbayarea

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