San Francisco is an urban hub at the center of the thriving Bay Area. Connected by bridges to the East Bay and Marin County and by freeways to the South Bay, aka Silicon Valley, there is so much to do and see you will be spoiled for choice. Whether you want to explore wine country, spend time in a beach town or take in dazzling views, it’s a short drive away. Choose one of the following five destinations for a quick trip – or visit them all!
Bolinas is the kind of Bohemian beach town you might think of when you think of California. With a population of around 2,000, it sits in Marin Country, along the California Coast. Bolinas is known for its chill vibe, so head to the beach, sign up for surf lessons, or explore Point Reyes. When the sun, salt, and surf leave you parched and tired, head to Smiley’s Schooner Saloon, order a beverage and listen to some live music. Around the corner, you’ll find the Bolinas Gallery and Bolinas Museum where you can take in local art and culture. Bolinas is unique, quirky and one visit might not be enough.
Near Monterey, Carmel is a restful spot with a sandy beach, a quaint town center, great dining, and wonderful accommodations. Clint Eastwood was mayor of Carmel, which has a population of less than 4,000. It is home to Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo, which was founded by the Spanish. In the early 1900s, Carmel was known for its art colony, the Carmel Arts and Crafts Club. Big Sur and its dazzling coast are a short drive away, as is the Monterey Bay Aquarium. For a restful retreat, make a reservation at the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center. Situated in the peaceful Carmel Valley, it offers daily meditation sessions, cozy accommodations, and delicious bread.
California’s wine country is rich and varied and spans at least three counties: Mendocino, Napa and Sonoma. Guerneville, in Sonoma County, offers a taste of much of what is wonderful about Northern California. Long a getaway spot for San Francisco natives, Guerneville has a population of 4,500. Rent a canoe or kayak and explore the Russian River. Hike in a forest of giant redwoods or stroll down its laid-back “Main Street.” Pack a picnic and head to a wine tasting at one of the hundreds of vineyards within a 30-minute drive. And stop at retro-kitschy Pee-Wee Golf & Arcade for a fun round of miniature golf.
4. Half Moon Bay
Half Moon Bay is a great place for a relaxing, fun excursion. South of San Francisco, in San Mateo County, this area is known for its natural landscape and creative community. Stay overnight at a local bed and breakfast and try a wine tasting at La Nebbia Vineyard. You can walk, bike, or horseback ride along the Coastal California Trail—a 1,200-mile trail that traverses 15 counties. Visit Half Moon Bay Distillery to see where local gin and vodka are made. Rent a kayak and hang out with some seals or hike among the Purisima Creek Redwoods and get a panoramic view of the bay.
Located in the city of Oakland, near the border of the town of Berkeley, Rockridge is a wonderful area. Food lovers will rejoice at the dining options and plentiful cafes with great coffee. Once here, you are a short trip from Oakland’s Grand Lake and the Grand Lake Theatre—an old movie palace that features performances of its Mighty Wurlitzer on Friday and Saturdays. There is plenty of hiking to be done in Berkeley’s Tilden Park or take a swim in Lake Anza. The Berkeley Rose Garden has stunning views and beautiful blooms in season. When you are ready for some pampering, head over to Claremont Club & Spa for some deep relaxation and fantastic views of San Francisco.