Aerial view of Santa Cruz

Best Day Trips From San Francisco To Take This Summer

With its iconic bridge, historic cable cars, and beautiful Victorian architecture, along the descending streets to the boardwalk and the beaches, San Francisco locals are some of the world's luckiest residents living in one of the world's great cities. Even they need a getaway from the innovation hub to the other kind of vibrant and diverse East Bay, a culturally and culinary rich area, for a change of pace and scenery. The coastline alone features various vibes, from rugged cliffs with hilltop towns and state parks overlooking the ocean to beautiful white sand beaches with calm surf and the warm waters of the protected areas. Venture slightly inland for the rolling hills dotted with vineyards through the wine country. These day trips, all equally worthy, will take under an hour and a half, in many cases right in your backyard, with a fifteen-minute drive just across the bridge.

Angel Island State Park

The Angel Island State Park in California.
The Angel Island State Park in California.

Angel Island State Park defines a perfect day trip from San Francisco, where you literally spend all your day immersing yourself in some of the state's best nature. Just 10 minutes away from the city, take a jaunty morning ferry ride into a whole otherworldly feel from the mainland. Skip loading up on food, as there are two great eateries on the island as well as live music at Cove Cantina.

Get something to eat and lounge by the bay with scenic 360-degree views over the waters and the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. This real-life oasis is also one of the best places in California to go camping when you bring a tent and a warm sleeping bag. Extend the trip or make a whole weekend's worth of hillside trail hikes with unforgettable nights under the stars.


Berkley, California
Students at a university campus in Berkeley, California.

Berkeley, one of the most famous college towns in California, makes for a top day trip getaway in the state with only a 25-minute drive from San Francisco. Check out the galore of coffee shops and bookstores, among other family-friendly attractions in town, on a fun day excursion through Berkeley's historic sights. You can stroll along the Berkeley Marina all day long for the views, hand-in-hand with your loved ones.

Admire art at the Berkeley Art Museum and take a scenic cruise around San Francisco Bay, most spectacular at sunset. Learn fascinating area facts from the Museum of Natural History before browsing through the books for a souvenir back home. Visit a cafe with a flair for making coffee for the students' minds, perfect for revving you up for more exploring or snacking before a to-go cup for a drive back.

Filoli Estate And Gardens

The gorgeous Filoli Estate And Gardens in California.
The gorgeous Filoli Estate And Gardens in California.

Just half an hour from San Francisco brings you to a place that only a few are aware is one of the most appealing destinations. Filoli, a spectacular historic estate, bursts with intriguing facts and scenery for easily the best day trip from the city in half an hour. Take a stroll around these 654 acres in the fresh air with views of the Santa Cruz Mountains, perfect for photo shoots and soaking up the sun rays over a picnic at a scenic spot.

The 16 immaculate acres of the house and garden have been beautifully maintained over the past century, with a historic feel still lingering in the air from days gone by when it catered to famous people. You are guaranteed perfect scenery no matter the time of visit, thanks to seasonal planting and carefully planned maintenance. With 14 full-time horticulturalists planting over 75,000 spring bulbs each year, Filoli's unique gardens bloom all year round.

Gerbode Valley

A highway passing through the spectacular landscape of the Gerbode Valley.

The wide-open Gerbode Valley along the Marin Headlands is an easy 25-minute drive from San Francisco. Park at the Smith Parking Lot along Bunker Road, across from the Presidio Riding Club, near the fantastic five-mile loop hike that is all rolling views. The Gerbode Valley Loop is a delightful trail for the adventurous, with its 900 feet of clambering, expansive views, and stunning wildflowers in the spring. Other trails fan out for every skill level, group, and age to meander along the gentle ups and downs all day long.

Bring something for a picnic amid the grassland or the coastal chaparral, and keep your eye out for bobcats, deer, and bush rabbits who shy away from the travelers but like to keep watch from a distance. You have a high chance of sighting them during the spring or summer—the perfect time for exploring the backcountry—and although their paw marks may be all you see, you can heighten your chances with a twilight start to a hike.

Half Moon Bay

Half Moon Bay in California.

Half Moon Bay, a small and stunning cliffside beach town, is like stepping into a postcard of faraway Ireland's rugged coastline. Visit in the spring for the remarkable display of wildflowers that decorate the landscape in a complementing contrast to the rest of the wild scenery around. Year-round, the historic downtown immerses you in a homey feel under an air of nostalgia and the best of modern-day culture with live music, parks, shops, galleries, and cafes.

The Sunday Coastline Farmers Market is a must-do in Half Moon Bay for strolls with applicable views in the sea breeze as you soak in the sun and local sights amid fresh produce and all kinds of craft. Enjoy easy access to this low-tourist coastal city in the Bay Area, just 40 minutes from San Francisco, for one of the most beautiful beaches in California. It is an oasis of solace amid the rugged cliffs for downtime, water fun with your family, or a one-of-a-kind escape with your honey.

Muir Woods

The Muir Woods National Monument.
The Muir Woods National Monument.

This epic destination trip is a unique Bay Area experience to escape the daily hustle and soot of the city for a day of hiking just under 40 minutes from San Francisco. Start by driving toward Van Ness Ave., follow the US-101 for 10 miles, and exit 445B onto the CA-1N to Muir Woods Road; the old-growth redwood groves are just on the outskirts—practically in your backyard. Take the Muir Woods National Monument Tour through these giants along a forested sanctuary that feels like a real change of pace from the rest of Northern California.

Venture out to the Cathedral and Bohemian Groves, both easy interpretive trails, while the Ben Johnson and Dipsea paths overlook the expansive views of the old-growth redwood treetops and the sparkling Pacific in the distance. The old coastal redwoods are the largest and tallest trees in the world—a breath-taking sight for strolls and absorbing their strength and wisdom, having been around for between 600 and 800 years.

Napa Valley

Hot Air Balloon Trip in Napa Valley, California
Hot Air Balloon Trip in Napa Valley, California.

Some of the best wine excursions in the country within an hour and a half of the big city sound like something out of a dream. The "wine country of the USA," with its hundreds of wineries and vineyards, the valley is a real wine lover's paradise and one of the most scenic places to stroll, sit, sip, and repeat. Find the most delicious cabernets and pinot noirs among the rolling Napa hills, right outside of San Francisco, on a day trip with a cherry on top: you can bring your whole family along for the ride, with plenty of kid-friendly activities aside from the wine tasting.

Unwind while keeping the little ones engaged with family strolls around the rich vineyards and hikes along the valley's canyons. Take in all the spectacular open vistas of Napa Valley's natural beauty on a hot air balloon ride for an unforgettable, quick getaway from San Francisco. Take the Napa Valley Wine Train for a 36-mile round-trip adventure through the valley, with fun wineries along the way, for an experience unlike any other in the US.

Point Reyes And Tomales Bay

Point Reyes National Seashore in California.
Point Reyes National Seashore in California.

Just an hour and a half away from the city, you can get away into the wild through this expansive 71,000-acre Pacific Coast nature preserve. Point Reyes is a dramatic escape along windswept land with many elephant seals and the fantastic Pacific gray whales migrating from Baja California to Alaska's feeding grounds from January through April. Take refreshing strolls through the old-growth Douglas-fir forest or the Tule Elk Reserve with ranger-led tours for glimpses of these magnificent animals from July to September during their rutting season. Venture to the shore for a picnic in front of the 145-year-old lighthouse or drive to Chimney Rock, a fantastic cliff-edge vantage point just a five-minute stroll away from the parking lot.

Feast at dinner just up the bay on classic oysters and Dungeness crab overlooking Hog Island Oyster Company's farm. Come again to lounge all day long at the protected Heart's Desire Beach, with its shallow, warm waters in neighboring Tomales Bay, until sunset. Snack your way through the nearby rustic town of Point Reyes Station, at the mouth of the bay, with award-winning artisanal cheeses at the Cowgirl Creamery in a restored hay barn and the Cowgirl Cantina with your favorite comfort food. While here, browse through Point Reyes Books, a charming independent bookstore with regular local artist events.

Santa Cruz

The aerial view of the city of Santa Cruz with its beach in Northern California on a sunny day.
The aerial view of the city of Santa Cruz with its beach in Northern California on a sunny day.

Just imagine a small, atmospheric town with surfing, a boardwalk, and an amusement park amid waterside cafes, just over an hour away from the city. Add in a fantastic beachscape, mountain ranges, and small-town appeal to catch the sun rays all day long until the most spectacular sunset takes your breath away. This top Northern California beach town getaway stays naturally scenic and blissfully crowd less during the summer when the UC Santa Cruz college students deplete the population.

Take a stroll down the lovely downtown area with fun pastime shops and a moment to savor an ice cream cone before heading to the beaches. The Santa Cruz Boardwalk Amusement Park awaits young and old with rides, games, carnival food, and a sandy beach for a siesta. Spend your day in the outdoors with treetop walks, an ecology tour, a two-hour zipline, railroad riding, or Bigfoot hunting. Check out the resident butterflies in the eucalyptus trees at Monarch Grove at Natural Bridges State Beach, and catch a local indie band concert in the evening at Moe's Alley.


The beautiful city of Sausalito in California.
The beautiful city of Sausalito in California.

This fantastic little town getaway, only a 25-minute drive from the city, is filled with shopping opportunities and feel-good pursuits for the whole family on a day trip. Sausalito feels like a whole other world, with low crowds, which makes it one of the state's most romantic getaway destinations and a perfect way to celebrate a birthday or get some peaceful solitude.

You can also access this small, sleepy town atmosphere with a Mediterranean flair via public transportation, rideshare, or biking across the Golden Gate Bridge in the morning for a coffee latte over breakfast from one of its cozy cafes. The real Bay Area gem along the seacoast is full of local boutiques, ice cream shops, and oceanfront activities, including kayaking and boat cruises.


‘Welcome to Sebastopol’ road sign with ‘Nuclear free zone’ slogan near city limit signpost location - Sebastopol, California
‘Welcome to Sebastopol’ road sign with ‘Nuclear free zone’ slogan in Sebastopol, California.

Take a fantastic day trip from the city into an authentic, laid-back town like Sonoma was a century ago, just over an hour's drive from San Francisco. Sebastopol, with a unique cultural blend, has family-friendly pursuits for every taste, like the hanger-style shop of Aubergine Vintage Emporium for aviation memorabilia and a cavernous live music venue with a bar and open patio in the back. Check out Many Rivers Books & Tea for a cozy, relaxing afternoon of browsing through New Age and philosophical tomes with a cup of Monk's Blend tea in hand. Pick up this smooth, malty mix of Assam, Darjeeling, Keemun, and Nilgiri to sip at home, along with some cool figurines that make worthy memorabilia and souvenirs.

The Barlow's restored warehouse/apple processing plant is a cool place for lunch before browsing through Passdor with Scandinavian-inspired ceramics. Check out the Woodfour Brewing Company across the street with a patio for a Belgian farmhouse-style sour, traditionally made in copper plated in front of your eyes. Head to nearby Guerneville for INIZI wine, an atmospheric winery in a former bank building, or Nimble & Finn's for ice cream.

Skyline Boulevard (Hwy 35) And Woodside Escape

Cars driving on Skyline Boulevard on a spring day, San Francisco bay area, California
Cars driving on the Skyline Boulevard on a spring day, San Francisco bay area, California.

One of the most unique getaways in the Bay Area for any type of traveler is just 45 minutes away to exchange hot steel and city soot for the cool lure of the blue mountains via Skyline Boulevard in Woodside. Abounding with outdoor pursuits, you can choose from nature trails with spectacular ocean and valley views and taste wines in the evening without tourist traffic. There's also the family-friendly Jikoji Zen, an oasis to meditate or zone out after wandering along its tranquil grounds.

Take a ten-minute drive to Thomas Fogarty Winery with its panoramic views across the rolling hills to the ocean, perfect for sunset watching after the tasting room flights in the romantic wooden gazebo. Alice's Restaurant, right at the town's entrance, is perfect to dine on burgers and BBQ among bikers and cyclists paying their respects to the surrounding mountain roads. Come for breakfast until 2 p.m., or save it for your way out with a feast on smoked on-site brisket and pulled pork or cheesy, motorcycle-themed burgers.

Stinson Beach And Bolinas

Stinson Beach, California
Stinson Beach, California.

These towns with friendly, laidback beach vibes are just an hour away from the city. Spend a day in the bookended white-sand heaven of Bolinas Bay with one-on-one views of the rugged coastline. Choose from a number of water fun activities, like surfing lessons for newbies from the 2 Mile Surf Shop, and recharge at the hillside Coast Cafe over a chunky sandwich at lunchtime or fresh seafood delights for a romantic evening.

Take a quick drive up Mesa Road to the spectacular, fresh-water Bass Lake, optimal for swimming, with a nearby three-mile hiking trail with the most rewarding views. Stop by the local favorite Smiley's Schooner Saloon for a non-alcoholic beverage before your drive back, along with games and live music, or a whole evening of good company in the town that may just compel you to stay overnight.

The Bay Area around San Francisco is one of the country's top destinations for scenery, with a varied landscape to explore. Take a pick from the 13 best day trips from San Francisco to complete the summer of your dreams with a bang. With something for everyone, choose your favorite way to get away and enjoy the finest views with low crowds for unobscured shots.

Take a scenic ferry or bike ride, and you could have breakfast and coffee at your destination. Immerse yourself in a small waterside town atmosphere with fresh produce markets, cozy cafes, inviting bookshops, and incredible local shopping and outdoor delights just steps away.

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