Day Adventures Outside of SF (15 -90 minutes from SF)

This post includes destinations 15-90 minutes from San Francisco, including: San Francisco Bay cities, Marin County, the Peninsula, and the East Bay.

1. SAN FRANCISCO BAY: 

The Islands and Coastal Towns that share the bay with SF.

  • Alameda Island: A charming island south of Oakland that feels like a trip back to the 1950s. Home to artisanal distillery (St. George Spirits), one of the world’s best Tiki Bars (Forbidden Island), and the Pacific Pinball Museum. Like most islands, Alameda offers ample beaching opportunity and serves as a popular launch pad for kite surfing, wind surfing, and sailing. If you are in town during the first weekend of the month and are a fan of flea markets, head to Alameda on Sunday for one of the most amazing flea markets in the U.S.
    How to reach? Car over Bay Bridge, ferry from SF Ferry Building, or bus.
  • Angel Island: A California State Park boasting miles of hiking trails with majestic views of SF and Mt. Tamalpais. Once home to military forts and a US immigration inspection and detention facility, the “Ellis Island of the West” has loads of history. Plan a day trip of hiking and picnicking, or stay overnight in a campground. A small cafe is usually open, but look ahead of your trip for the operating hours. More info at angelisland.org.
    How to reach? Take a ferry from SF or Tiburon.
  • Sausalito: Just across the Golden Gate Bridge you’ll find this artsy and charming Marin waterside town. Don’t miss the houseboats, which you’ll find about 1 mile past downtown Sausalito. Favorite restaurants are Bar Bocci (where you can yes, play waterside bocci!) and Fish (enjoy sustainable seafood at waterside picnic tables. Heads up, cash only!).
    How to reach? Car, bike, bus, or ferry from SF. If you bike there, you can take the ferry back with your bike in tow.
  • Tiburon: Tiburon by the Bay…a short trip and a world apart from SF. Enjoy the breathtaking views, and delicious restaurants. Many locals and travelers alike travel to Tiburon from San Francisco via biking over the Golden Gate Bridge and then returning to San Francisco via ferry. Although a bit of a trek at about 15-20 miles depending on where you start, the ride is gorgeous and offers the unique experience of biking over the bridge. Restaurants around the Tiburon Ferry Building, like Sam’s, pack on sunny weekend days.
    How to reach? Ferry, bike, car, or sailboat.
  • Treasure Island: Home to amazing views of San Francisco, a couple of wineries, and a flea market every last weekend of the month.
    How to reach? Bus or car.

2. MARIN COUNTY

Over Golden Gate Bidge and through the fog to majestic Marin County we go! Marin’s offerings span jaw-dropping natural wonders and storybook beach towns to oyster picnics and beloved breweries. Once San Francisco hippies grow up and grow rich, they relocate to Marin to grow their all organic free-range families. How to reach? Car from SF.

  • Bolinas: Precious town surrounded by gorgeous coastline and funky architecture. Residents have fiercely protected this beautiful coastal community from tourists, and the passing of time. It’s easy to feel like you’ve been transported to 1971. In fact, all new buildings stopped in 1971, so everything you see was built before that. Surfers come from all over the area for relaxed surf sessions and the weekend population seemingly doubles. Make sure to check out the Bolinas Community Center for local events and a sample of everyday life. Just five miles away you can find my favorite Bay Area Hike, starting at the Palomarin Trail Head. How to reach? Car from SF. 
    • Directions for the hike: Park your car at Palomarin Trail Head. Head to Bass Lake (2.5 miles to lake). Lounge in the lake area or swim (surprisingly warm). It’s also fun to bring blow up pool tubes. If you’re brave, you can try out the rope swing. Continue hiking another 1.5 miles to the beach, where you’ll find Alamere Falls—one of 2 waterfalls that fall on the beach in California….beautiful!
    • Trail description here. Trailhead directions here and here.
  • Marin Headlands: Old military forts, Point Bonita Lighthouse (only open Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays from 12:30-3:30pm), hidden beaches, and loads of hiking. Marin Headlands offers the first impression of Marin County to visitors coming across Golden Gate Bridge. Drive or bike up Hawk Hill for hawk (among many raptors) spotting and unbelievable views of San Francisco.
  • Mount Tamalpais: Highest peak in Marin county, popular for hiking and biking. In fact, this is where mountain biking was invented! Discover nearby Muir Beach, Muir Woods, Stinson Beach and Point Reyes. My favorite hike? Start at Pantoll Campground, hike down to Stinson Beach, and loop back. Trail directions here.
  • Tomales Bay: A famous destination for oyster eating, Tomales Bay offers a few different oyster purveyors to choose from—buy ’em raw at one of the many oyster companies and DIY on the provided grills and enjoy atop a picnic table, or pull up at one of the several roadside cafes and let them do the work for you—either way, life is good: you’re eating oysters in a picturesque setting. My favorite DIY spot is Tomales Bay Oyster Company, where they provide waterside picnic tables and BBQs. Just bring all the picnic fixings! I recommend reserving a space ahead of time during peak season if you have a large group or event, otherwise you can stop by and usually find a spot (especially if you arrive on the earlier side!)
  • Stinson Beach: About a 40-minute drive along Highway 1 from Golden Gate Bridge, Stinson Beach hugs the Pacific Ocean coastline to create a cozy community of less than 1,000 residents. The beach of Stinson Beach is sandy, flat, and perfect for beach days. The town offers a few cafes and boutiques, but you’ll have to head to Mill Valley or San Rafael for big(ger) city amenities. My favorite restaurnt is Breakers Cafe, offering amazing Mexican food (my favorite is the vegetarian burrito) and bloody marys.
  • Muir Woods: Muir Woods National Monument comprises one of the largest redwood forests on earth, protecting 554 acres acres of land. Spectacular to see the endless height of the trees. Additionally, its only 45 minutes outside of San Francisco. Pirates Cove is a nice little hike in Muir Woods to a secluded private beach.

3. THE PENINSULA

Head south for warmer temperature and the hottest in tech. How to reach? Caltrain, bus, or car.

  • Half Moon Bay: Charming town famous for big surf and pumpkin festivities.
  • Mountain View: Home to Google, startup incubators, and suburban living.
  • Pacifica: SF’s next-door neighbor surf town and home to the world’s most gorgeous Taco Bell.
  • Palo Alto: Stanford University and tech haven. Nearby Woodside offers dense woods and cabin living.
  • Pescadero: An oceanside farming community boasting state parks, historic Pigeon Point Lighthouse (sleep at the nearby hostel!), and Pie Ranch. If you’re here on a 3rd Saturday of the month, check out Pie Ranch’s Monthly Barn Dance. If you’re looking for a campground, there’s a wonderful KOA Campground that offers a huge variety of options: regular campsites where you can pitch your tent, glamping canvas tents with heated beds, and a nice lodge. Also had restaurant and camp store on site. Downtown Pescadero highlights are famous artichoke bread and delicious tacos sold out of a gas station.
  • San Jose: Capital of Silicon Valley, transportation hub, and conference destination.

4. EAST BAY

Sunnier and less exclusive than SF, the East Bay includes the land to the east of the SF bay, containing all of Alameda and Contra Costa counties. With a population of about 2.5 million, it is the most populous subregion of the Bay Area. How to reach? BART, bus, or car from SF.

  • Alameda Island: A charming island south of Oakland that feels like a trip back to the 1950s. Home to artisanal distillery (St. George Spirits), one of the world’s best Tiki Bars (Forbidden Island), and the Pacific Pinball Museum. Like most islands, Alameda offers ample beaching opportunity and serves as a popular launch pad for kite surfing, wind surfing, and sailing. If you are in town during the first weekend of the month and are a fan of flea markets, head to Alameda on Sunday for one of the most amazing flea markets in the U.S.
  • Berkeley: U.C. Berkeley, Tilden Park, Telegraph Ave, Berkeley Marina, and Golden Gate Fields horse racing (check out their “Sunday Dollar Days”).
  • Oakland: Lake Merritt, Jack London Square, Rockridge, The Albany Bulb, and theaters (ex: the Fox Theater) galore. The busiest port in the Bay Area and the most bustling city of the East Bay, Oakland offers enough in its own right. If you’re in town for the first Friday of a month, you won’t want to miss Oakland’s First Fridays.