Some short day trips from San Francisco will take you to some of the most gorgeous parks in the world, complete with the world’s largest trees, deep valleys, Northern California beaches, and fascinating caverns. Swim or surf on beautiful beaches, visit the state capitol, or ride a historic train down memory lane. Take a ferry to Alcatraz Island, see one of the world’s top aquariums in Monterey, and wander through wonderfully lovely and scenic tiny towns like Carmel, Mendocino, and Sausalito.
Because there are numerous things to see in California outside of San Francisco, we’ve compiled a list of the finest San Francisco day trips to help you plan your next visit.
Sausalito: places to visit near San Francisco
Sausalito is one of the greatest day trip options from San Francisco because it is such a short distance away. This lovely town is located over the Golden Gate Strait from San Francisco, and even the ferry ride across is worth going for the breathtaking views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay Area. When you arrive in Sausalito’s harbor, you’ll be greeted with hundreds of houseboats and yachts, making for a fascinating waterfront stroll.
With a range of shopping boutiques and galleries housed inside charming pastel-painted buildings along downtown’s green avenues, shopping is a favorite activity in Sausalito and a terrific way to view the sights.
From San Francisco to Sausalito, you may take a 30-minute boat, a 20-minute bus journey, or a 15-minute car. Sausalito is also one of several destinations on a guided tour of the area.
Seaside Towns of Carmel and Monterey
The Central Coast of California is well-known for its natural beauty. Two seaside cities stand out within short driving distance of San Francisco: Carmel and Monterey. Both towns in San Francisco have beautiful natural settings and a charming old-world atmosphere. Carmel (120 miles south of San Francisco) is considered one of California’s most romantic getaway spots, nestled along the gorgeous Carmel Bay. Carmel Beach is known for its pillowy, beautiful white sand and windswept cypress trees.
Carmel has a lot of tourist attractions and activities to do. Because of its fairy-tale cottages, upmarket art galleries, adorable tiny boutiques, and fine-dining restaurants, the town itself has become an attraction. In addition, travelers can select from a large range of bed-and-breakfast and luxury hotels.
The seaside town of Monterey (115 miles south of San Francisco) is noted for its historic Cannery Row, which is less touristy and more urban in atmosphere. The vibrant tales in John Steinbeck’s novel Cannery Row were inspired by this famous waterfront fish-packing sector. The Monterey Bay Aquarium is another popular attraction in Monterey, especially among children who enjoy seeing the wonderful aquatic life, penguins, and otters.
When visiting Carmel and Monterey, the 17-Mile Drive along California’s coastal Highway One between the 2 towns should not be missed. This 17-mile stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway (California State Route 1) is regarded as one of the most scenic drives on the West Coast.
There are several magnificent overlooks and must-see nature spots along the 17-Mile Drive, such as the Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, Bird Rock Vista Point, and the famed Lone Cypress tree. The famed Pebble Beach golf courses are also located on this route.
Because there is so much to see and do, many travelers prefer to take a guided trip. A full-day Monterey and Carmel Tour from San Francisco is one suggestion, with stops in Monterey at Cannery Row and the aquarium. The 17-Mile Drive connects it to Carmel.
Golden Gate National Recreation Area
The Golden Gate National Recreation Area in the San Francisco Bay Area protects 80,002 acres of historically and ecologically significant landscapes. It is one of the world’s largest urban parks, consisting of a collection of smaller spaces stretching from southern San Mateo County to northern Marin County, with numerous areas in San Francisco.
Famous tourist sites in the park include Alcatraz, Muir Woods National Monument, the Presidio of San Francisco, and the Nike Missile Site. The park contains 1,273 animal and plant species, 59 miles of ocean and bay shoreline, and a variety of historic forts that have witnessed centuries of California history, beginning with the Spanish conquistadors. This is one of the best weekend trips from San Francisco.
Santa Cruz and the Beach Boardwalk
This idyllic seaside town on Monterey Bay oozes carefree, fun-in-the-sun feelings. Santa Cruz, located 70 miles south of San Francisco (a two-hour journey), attracts a large number of visitors during the summer to its famous Beach Boardwalk amusement park.
Main Beach (also referred as Boardwalk Beach) is located directly in front of the Beach Boardwalk and features a large shoreline with shallow seas excellent for swimming, bodyboarding, and watersports. The Main Beach is also ideal for sunbathing, sandcastle building, and beach volleyball.
More isolated beaches, such as Sunset State Beach and Natural Bridges Beach, provide solitude and tranquility. Surfers flock to Cowell Beach or, for those with more experience, Manresa Beach, which boasts massive swells that only the greatest wave-riders can handle.
Other popular tourist sites in Santa Cruz include the Santa Cruz Mission, which was established by Spanish missionaries in the late eighteenth century; the downtown area for shopping and dining; and the Santa Cruz Wharf for viewing sea lions, fishing, or dining at a seafood restaurant.
Roaring Camp Railroads train rides are a fascinating experience for families with children. Passengers are taken on train trips through redwood forests in the Santa Cruz Mountains. This should be on your family’s list of best day trips from San Francisco.
Alcatraz Island: Historical San Francisco trips
Alcatraz Island is well-known around the world for housing a secluded jail for the worst of the worst. As a result, it is among the most popular day tours from San Francisco, with travelers from all over the world eager to learn about the history of this odd tourist attraction. A guided tour of The Rock will take you around the island and inside its famed prison complex, where you will hear stories about people who worked and were incarcerated. While exploring Alcatraz Island, you’ll be able to visit its iconic lighthouse and enjoy spectacular views of the San Francisco skyline.
The boat ride from San Francisco to Alcatraz takes around 25 minutes. A visit to Alcatraz can also be combined with a guided tour of the city’s other attractions. Note this site to your list of things to do near San Francisco for the next holiday!
Point Reyes and Tomales Bay
Point Reyes Station, with its massive 71,000-acre nature park on the Pacific Coast, is a spectacular windswept terrain occupied by elephant seals, old growth Douglas-fir trees, and a 145-year-old lighthouse. Begin your journey at the Bear Valley Visitor Center to obtain trail maps, then go to Chimney Rock, where a 5-minute walk from the parking lot leads to a cliff-edge observation point. Keep a watch out for the Pacific gray whale migrations, which pass close off the coast between
Baja California and feeding areas in Alaska between January and April. Hike or take a ranger-led tour to see these gorgeous animals (rutting season is July to September), or explore the historic Pierce Point Ranch at the trailhead. If you wish to go swimming, Heart’s Desire Beach in Tomales Bay features shallower and warmer waters than that of the open ocean.
There are plenty of food alternatives in nearby Point Reyes Station, a little rustic village at the mouth of the bay. Cowgirl Creamery makes award-winning artisanal cheeses in a converted hay barn, and the Cowgirl Cantina serves creamy tomato soups, cheddar toasties, and the famous organic ham and Mount Tam sandwich. While you’re here, stop by Point Reyes Books.
This charming tiny independent bookstore has good collections on San Francisco nature and the environment, and it frequently offers events for the local artist community. Just along the bay, Hog Island Oyster Company’s farm and the Marshall Store serve classic oyster and Dungeness crab dishes with a view. This will be an interesting day trip from San Francisco you should try.
Half Moon Bay: Ideal Bay Area Day Trips
An attractive small coastal town less than 1 hour from San Francisco is famed for cultivating flowers, pumpkins, and Christmas trees, but it’s also a nice destination for a weekend trip with its picturesque protected port. There are various beautiful beaches, some of which are popular with surfers, such as Mavericks off Pillar Point.
Half Moon Bay is home to world-class golf courses, the “Colony of Coastside Artists,” renowned art galleries, and restaurants. The Methodist Episcopal Church and the Robert Mills Dairy Barn are two places worth seeing in the town’s historic district. Montara Mountain, located north of Half Moon Bay, is a great place to go hiking. History aficionados will enjoy seeing Purissima Village, or what remains of it, the area’s lone ghost town.
University Town of Berkeley
This famed university town’s campus is set on a mountaintop with views of the bay and is surrounded by a grove of redwood trees. The babbling Strawberry Creek adds to the peace.
The university’s classrooms, libraries, and research facilities are housed in impressive classical-style structures. The iconic Sather Tower is one of the world’s highest bell towers and offers breathtaking views of San Francisco Bay from its observation platform.
Tourists can get a flavor of school life by visiting Bancroft Library in the center of campus or the bustling Sproul Plaza, where students assemble to protest, listen to lecturers, and experience impromptu performances by street musicians.
Go to Telegraph Avenue to observe where students hang out off campus. This iconic street exemplifies Berkeley’s Bohemian subculture. It’s teeming with bookstores, odd shops, and casual cafés serving ethnic cuisine and quick snacks.
Berkeley is also well-known for its arts, theater, and culinary scene. Visitors can attend a Pulitzer Prize-winning show before dining in the Gourmet Ghetto, which is home to the legendary Chez Panisse café, which pioneered the local, organic farm-to-table cooking movement. Alice Waters, the owner of Chez Panisse, is credited with transforming American food culture.
Berkeley’s other popular tourist attractions are the Botanical Garden and the Lawrence Hall of Science. Tilden Park is a popular destination for families with children. The tiny working farm, steam train trip, and old-fashioned merry-go-round are children’s favorites. Remember this university town if some days your family looks for wonderful things to do around San Francisco.
Skyline Boulevard and Woodside
A San Francisco trip to escape to the cool blue mountains of Woodside through Skyline Boulevard, which provides nature paths, breathtaking ocean and valley vistas, and wine sampling without the traffic. When you get in town, look for a wooden cabin in a clearing near the junction.
This is Alice’s Restaurant, where you may enjoy burgers and BBQ while listening to the roar of Harleys. Popular among mountain bikers and cyclists, Alice’s serves breakfast till 2 p.m., Texas-style BBQ (roast beef and pulled pork smoked in-house), and cheesy (both literally and metaphorically) motorbike-themed burgers. Because this is still the Bay Area, the burgers are prepared with hormone- and antibiotic-free beef patties, and gluten-free beer is available.
Continue southeast on Skyline after lunch. Thomas Fogarty Winery is 10 minutes away, it’s short journey, but don’t miss the few unmarked vista locations along the road for panoramic views of the sea across rolling hills. Try a flight of 5 hallmark wines in the winery’s tasting area, or buy a bottle, borrow some glasses, and relax out in the charming wooden gazebo. Visit the Jikoji Zen Center for a unique kind of relaxation.
The facility, founded by Steve Jobs’ guru Kobun Chino Otogawa, encourages people to meditate in its zendos or roam it’s quiet surroundings. It’s a winding gravel track down to the main building from the front gate, so ensure your suspension is in place. To let them know this is your first time, ring the rusty bronze bell at the door. This should be one of the first road trips from San Francisco you think about for the next free day.
Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park in the Sierra Nevada mountains is an American symbol, and it served as the world’s first national park when it was established in 1864. Visiting Yosemite should be on everyone’s “San Francisco daily tour bucket list,” and it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that nobody should miss when in California. This national park is well-known for its massive sequoia trees, the breathtaking view of Bridalveil Fall, the Tunnel View, and the granite cliffs Half Dome and El Capitan.
Furthermore, it is well renowned vacations to San Francisco for its rushing rivers, old forests, towering mountains, fantastic hiking and bike paths, and the opportunity to spend some time in this huge wilderness, alone with nature, where tourists may encounter a bear, a deer, or some other wildlife that calls the park home. Yosemite Village also has restaurants, stores, motels, museums, and galleries.
Stinson Beach and Dipsea Trail Hike
On sunny days, Stinson Beach in Marin County, 23 miles north of San Francisco, is a favorite day-trip destination (allow at least one hour by car). This idyllic beach village is only six miles north of Muir Beach, yet the journey can take 30 to 45 minutes (depending on traffic) on a meandering two-lane road that follows the coastline and through the Steep Ravine Canyon.
The hairpin corners require focus, but the views of the ocean are spectacular. When you see the little sliver of heaven that is Stinson Beach, it makes all the effort worthwhile.
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, lying east of the San Joaquin Valley in the southern Sierra Nevada, are a world of massive trees, gigantic mountains, deep canyons, and huge caverns.
Over than 800 miles of well-maintained trails wind through the 800,000 acres of wilderness, allowing you to truly enjoy solitude, spend the evening under starry skies listening to coyotes, cool your tired feet into icy cold alpine lakes, and breathe air scented with pines, wild flowers, and a smell of freedom. You can enjoy the trees and fauna on short hikes on paved pathways, spend a week in one of the many campers, go on ranger-led tours, or visit the enigmatic Crystal Cave.
Stinson Beach’s 3.5 miles of sandy shoreline, which is shielded by a hillside, is perfect for picnicking, jogging, sailing, beach volleyball, and sunbathing. Swimming is feasible, although it’s not generally advised because of the perilous rip currents and the chilly seas. Wearing wetsuits, surfers and body boarders navigate the waves.
Lifeguards are on duty at the beach every day from Memorial Day through Labor Day. (Be sure to inquire about safety from lifeguards before diving into the ocean to swim.) A shaded area with picnic tables, grills, restrooms, and showers can be found just next to the beach.
There is a grocery store in the community where tourists can buy picnic supplies. Additionally, there are a variety of eateries along the oceanfront that offer casual fare on pleasant outside patios.
Travelers should start the drive as earliest in the morning during high season to avoid the crowds and ensure getting a parking spot at Stinson Beach (the lot is full quickly on weekends and during summertime.)
The Dipsea Trail is a must-see for coastal scenery. The 10-mile hiking track starts in Muir Woods National Monument and winds through the forest and rolling hills before descending a ravine to Stinson Beach, with breathtaking ocean and bay views along the way. Hikers can also begin at Stinson Beach (which has steep slopes and switchbacks) and finish a short amount of the trail.
Hiking Advice: To prevent slippage on the steps, dress in layers and wear shoes with high traction. Parts of the trail are exposed to the hot afternoon heat, so bring a hat and other sun protection. Keep an eye out for poison oak that grows along the trail. Bring bottled water and a picnic meal to Stinson Beach.
Pescadero Marsh Nature Preserve
You cannot miss day trips from San francisco, Consider visiting the Pescadero Marsh Nature Reserve for a day spent in nature with a plethora of opportunities for birdwatching. This expansive preserve has freshwater marsh, tidal estuary, and forest, with the rich birds serving as a unifying feature. Over 200 different kinds of resident and migratory birds, including the Great Blue Heron, can be seen here. Take the Sequoia Audubon Trail to stretch your legs and see the beauty of this diversified bird refuge. When you’ve had your fill of the wetlands, head over to Pescadero State Beach, a wild beach with some rough surf and craggy cliffs.
It takes around an hour to drive from San Francisco to the Pescadero Marsh Nature Reserve.
Sebastopol: Interesting San Francisco Daily Tours
You cannot miss day trips from San francisco, Sebastopol, unlike Healdsburg, is still the real, laid-back Sonoma outpost it was a generation ago. Start at Aubergine Vintage Emporium, a hangar-like facility where you may find anything from a worn-in aviator jacket to a Soviet Army-issued canvas belt. A massive live music arena and a bar with an open patio are hidden beneath the apparel racks.
If you’re more interested in spirituality than spirits, head up to Many Rivers Books & Tea, a quaint bookstore stocked with New Age and philosophical tomes and miniatures. Pick up a package of Monk’s Blend, a smooth malty blend of assam, darjeeling, keemun, and nilgiri teas, inside the tea shop at the back.
For a small lunch, visit The Barlow, a collection of refurbished warehouses that used to house an apple processing facility. Sit on the terrace at Woodfour Brewing Company and enjoy one of their Belgian farmhouse-style sours, which are mashed and cooked in the copper-plated tanks directly behind the bar. Snack on Petaluma cheese, bratwurst, or Miyagi oysters.
Across the street, the Passdoor sells Scandinavian-inspired pottery. A quick trip to adjacent Guerneville is worthwhile if only to visit the Guerneville Bank Club, a historic bank building that currently houses the INIZI wine tasting room, a corner store specialized in handmade products and the Nimble & Finn’s ice cream parlor.
If it’s available, get a cone of Bulleit Bourbon with chocolate-covered pretzels. View the Russian River Historical Society’s exhibit at the back of the structure which chronicles Guerneville’s early days as a logging community. Finish your evening with a digestif at the Hopmonk Tavern, a sprawling place with a red banquette bar, a performance stage, and a light-up Tuscan garden.
You cannot miss day trips from San francisco, The Filoli Estate is a true treasure 30 miles south of San Francisco, nestled in a pastoral landscape with the densely forested Santa Cruz Mountains in the background. The National Trust for Historic Preservation has registered the 654-acre estate.
Filoli’s splendor surpasses that of Europe’s best estates, with graceful architecture, luxurious apartments, and magnificent gardens that have made it a popular choice for film sets. Among other films, the mansion has appeared in Dynasty, Heaven Can Wait, and George of the Jungle.
Between 1915 and 1917, the exquisite Georgian Revival-style manor house was erected for William Bowers Bourn II, owner of the Empire Gold Mine in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains. The interior design, paintings, and antiques in the 54,256-square-foot estate are impressive.
Filoli is famous for its 16-acre formal gardens, which are designed in the English Renaissance style and feature carefully maintained hedges, terraces, ornate pools, fountains, flower beds, and a rose garden. Pleasant walks and parterres enable tourists to meander and observe the ever-changing collection of seasonal plants and blooming, from vivid chrysanthemums in fall to vivid tulips in early spring.
The Filoli Estate also includes a 10-acre orchard with over 500 fruit trees, many of which are heirloom kinds, and a 528-acre nature preserve with redwood forest, oak woodlands, chaparral, a pond, reservoir, creeks, and grasslands.
The Filoli Nature Preserve has 22 hiking pathways that are only available on docent-led excursions, however guests can do self-guided treks on the Nature Preserve’s one-mile loop Estate Trail.
Mount Tamalpais State Park
You cannot miss day trips from San francisco, Mount Tamalpais State Park is an excellent alternative for visitors looking for beautiful redwood trees and hiking routes. The park is situated north of the Bay Area, near to the ocean, giving visitors the option of exploring forest or seaside routes.
Mount Tamalpais State Park is reputed to have 60 miles of trails, so you will not run out of places to explore in a single day. The hardest challenge here is, of course, the trek to the summit of Mount Tamalpais, where you will be rewarded with stunning views of the coastline and the Farallon Islands at an elevation of 2,571 feet.It should be noted that the park’s trails are multiuse, which means you may explore them on mountain bikes if that is your thing.
Driving from San Francisco to the foot of Mount Tamalpais State Park takes only half an hour.
California State Railroad Museum
The California State Railroad Museum, located in Old Sacramento, is a 225,000-square-foot memorial commemorating the significance of the “iron horse” in connecting California to the rest of the country. The museum exhibits, which include several painstakingly restored locomotives and railroad cars, reflect the interesting narrative of the California railroad. The museum’s permanent exhibitions, or rolling stock, include displays built between 1874 and 1950, ranging from the caboose to the sumptuous private car, both freight and passenger.
This section of the book discusses the major events in railroad history, such as how refrigerated cars altered the American diet, romantic long-distance train excursions, and the joy of dining onboard. The Museum also features a fleet of 17 maintenance cars from 1905 to 1974, including cranes, flangers, snowplows, and a rail-mounted fire truck. Excursion train trips via closed coach cars, a first-class observation car, and open-air gondolas are also available at the museum.
San Francisco Angel Island
You cannot miss day trips from San francisco. Visitors can escape to a lonely, uninhabited island just over the bay from San Francisco. Angel Island is a state park that may be reached by ferry from Pier 41 in San Francisco or a 10-minute ferry journey from Tiburon.
Angel Island State Park is open from 8 a.m. to sunset daily. Angel Island features more than 13 miles of gorgeous hiking trails ranging from moderate to advanced difficulty, as well as nine kilometers of cycling paths. When visitors arrive on the island, they can rent bikes.
Mount Livermore, the highest peak on Angel Island at 788 feet, rewards hikers with spectacular views of San Francisco and the harbor, the Marin Headlands, and Mount Tamalpais.
A Visitor Center, public facilities, an outdoor cafeteria near the dock, boating spaces for day use or overnight, campground sites with toilets, and various picnic areas with tables, grill pits, and running water are among the island’s attractions.
Angel Island is renowned as the “Ellis Island of the West” since it was home to around 500 thousand immigrants between 1910 and 1940. Angel Island’s history as an immigration station is depicted in 2 museums: the Detention Barracks Museum (open Wednesday thru Sunday) and the Angel Island Immigration Museum (open only on weekends).
Those who begin their day early may be able to spend time at Tiburon, where the Angel Island ferry departs. (Remember to keep an eye on the San Francisco ferry tours timetable.) This delightful seaside town features picturesque yacht marinas as well as a charming downtown area. The picturesque Main Street is studded with shops, cafés, and restaurants.
On weekends, folks flock to Tiburon for brunch. The majority of the waterfront eateries have sunny patios with views of San Francisco Bay. If you’re driving, it’s also worth stopping by the 900-acre Richardson Bay Audubon Center & Sanctuary (open April until September) for bird watching and hiking and bicycling on the Tiburon Ridge Trail.
You cannot miss day trips from San francisco in Big Sur. Is it any surprise that the Big Sur is the topic of so many songs, with its winding mountainous roads, sweeping beaches, and magnificent sunsets? So it’s not quite a day trip from San Francisco, but if you leave at the crack of dawn, or close to it, the drive will be well worth it.
Furthermore, the great quality of relaxing and eating that can be done there will undoubtedly send you home humming. Take Highway 1 in, take in the insanely amazing vistas, and make your way to the beach—Pfeiffer is the strip of beachfront where you can see the arching rock that produces a stunning light tunnel at sunrise/set. Then go up to McWay Falls’ vantage point to take in the tropical island sensations before swanning off for lunch.
Sierra Mar, Post Ranch Inn’s restaurant, serves a three-course prix fixe lunch with a view of the Pacific. Or, among the trees, stop into Nepenthe for ‘The Famous Ambrosia Burger,’ a ground steak sandwich served on a French bread with homemade ambrosia sauce. After that, you’ll probably want to unwind before the long trip back, so stay at Ventana Inn, a wooden-lodge-style hotel with a spa that welcomes day guests. Before returning up the coast, don’t forget to visit the Henry Miller Memorial Library, which hosts a variety of events such as Philip Glass’s Days and Nights Festival in late September.
The Bottom Line
With these suggestions to help you, deciding how to spend your time in San Francisco should be simple. Whatever your interests are, there is bound to be at least some day trips from San francisco that piques your interest.
Above are the day trips from San francisco we suggest you should try when going travel from https://www.skyspace-la.com/. Hope you are satisfied with this information.