Go Beyond San Francisco Overview
San Francisco offers plenty of attractions and entertainment to keep you busy during your stay, but trips beyond the city include many more world-class destinations within a relatively short drive (usually four hours or less).
You can enjoy some of the country’s best wine and culinary delights in Napa and Sonoma; play golf at Pebble Beach in Carmel; explore California’s mountains and see the world’s tallest redwood trees, Yosemite’s amazing waterfalls, and beautiful lakes like Tahoe and Shasta.
Here is a list of nearby destinations that you might also be interested in during your trip to San Francisco:
One of California’s most beautiful areas, Monterey County is a destination filled with a variety of activities. Enjoy a scenic drive or bicycle ride on Monterey’s famous 17-Mile Drive, winding along the breathtaking coastal area between Monterey and Carmel. Or, play golf at one of the area’s internationally renowned courses including Pebble Beach, the host of five U.S. Opens, and Spyglass Hill, rated one of the toughest courses in the world. Monterey is also home to the historic Cannery Row and the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Located between the Pacific Ocean and the heart of the California’s agricultural country, Monterey is a wine and food lover’s destination. Enjoy a meal where fresh seafood meets fine food in the Central Coast’s Wine Country.
Getting there: Monterey is about a two-hour drive (depending on traffic) along the scenic Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1). There are also options for travelling from San Francisco to Monterey by bus, train and even boat.
Just over an hour’s drive north of San Francisco, the Napa Valley is one of the world’s most celebrated wine countries. With more than 400 wineries, 95 percent of which are family owned and operated, this region offers many different tasting opportunities. Enjoy a trip on the Napa Valley Wine Train, a top-dining establishment housed in an antique train that runs on 25 miles of track through the heart of the valley and offers guests hard-to-find wines and great regional food. Or, dine at one of Napa’s amazing restaurants featuring farm-to-table cuisine and some of the world’s best chefs. Napa is also a great place for relaxing—enjoy one of its many luxury spas or take a hike or bike ride and enjoy its beautiful landscape.
Getting there: About one hour via car, Napa is also accessible by ferry and the local VINE bus system. Or, you can schedule a tour from a local tour or charter company (group and private options are available).
A must-see destination for nature lovers, Mt. Shasta offers many opportunities for outdoor adventures — including camping, hiking, skiing, fishing, rafting, snowboarding and mountaineering — all within the beautiful landscape of Lake Shasta and the towering 14,000-foot-tall (4,267 meter) Mt. Shasta.
Getting there: A five-hour drive from San Francisco on Highway 5, Mt. Shasta is also accessible by Amtrak train and Greyhound bus.
A short drive over the Golden Gate Bridge, Sonoma County represents some of the best of Northern California—with premium wine, farm-to-table dining, organic farms and orchards, breweries and distilleries, artisan cheese producers, all surrounded by incredible natural beauty. Explore one of its 400 wineries or follow the Cheese Trail and sample artisan cheese from some of the best farmstead cheesemakers in the country. Or, enjoy outdoor recreation like hiking or kayaking to see the breathtaking Pacific coastline and redwood forests.
Getting there: You can take the Larkspur Ferry from the SF Ferry Building, Golden Gate Transit or Sonoma County Airport Express from the San Francisco International Airport, or take a short drive over the Golden Gate Bridge and north along the Pacific Coast Highway.
California’s iconic Highway 1, known as the Pacific Coast Highway, is one of the most scenic roadways in the entire country. Tracing the cliff-lined shores of the Pacific, Highway 1 connects a string of beach communities, each with its own quaint selection of surf shops, fishing stands, restaurants-with-a-view and attractions. On the northern end, Half Moon Bay is a charming artists colony with a famous golf course. On the southern end, Santa Cruz has a distinct surfer vibe and a beloved, century-old, beachside amusement park.
Getting there: Half Moon Bay is about a 50-minute drive from San Francisco. To reach Santa Cruz, it is about 1 hour and 15 minutes by car from San Francisco. Alternate options via bus and train exist as well if you won’t be renting a car.
To the east of San Francisco is a series of cities and towns that offer exceptional dining, beautiful nature trails, scenic wine country and a famous college town. Oakland is home to a fast-growing creative community of artists, chefs and musicians, as well as several professional sports teams, such as the Oakland Raiders (American football), Oakland Athletics (baseball) and the Golden State Warriors (basketball). Nearby, Berkeley is well known for its fine dining scene and prominent University of California campus. In the Tri-Valley, Livermore is a wine region that produces many tasty varietals.
Getting there: The East Bay is accessible via the Bay Bridge, which connects San Francisco to Oakland and points beyond. Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) offers additional public transportation options.
Yosemite’s iconic natural landmarks are astonishingly accessible. A quick drive through Yosemite Valley reveals awe-inspiring waterfalls, including Yosemite Falls, one of the country’s tallest, and takes you right next to the base of the imposing granite cliff, El Capitan, providing excellent views of Yosemite’s iconic Half Dome. This national park also has many opportunities for outdoor activities including hiking, rock climbing, mountain biking, skiing and rafting down the Merced River. After a day outdoors, enjoy dining and relaxing at The Ahwahnee, a historic luxury hotel in the heart of Yosemite.
Getting there: About a three to four hour drive east from San Francisco on Highway 140 (more scenic) or Highway 120. Yosemite is also accessible by Amtrak train or via numerous tour companies (including group and private options).
The largest alpine lake in North America, Lake Tahoe is famous for its crystal clear waters and snowcapped mountains. Sitting on the border of California and Nevada, the area offers a wide variety of outdoor activities for every season. In summer, enjoy kayaking and hiking amidst pristine scenery. In winter, Lake Tahoe turns into a top skiing destination and features Olympic-caliber downhill and cross country trails as well as snowmobiling and ice skating. Lake Tahoe is also home to a number of top casinos on its Nevada side, which can be enjoyed all seasons.
Getting there: About a four-hour drive from San Francisco, Lake Tahoe is also accessible by train, bus and plane.
One of the world’s most famous areas for high-tech entrepreneurship and web-based startups is found just a short trip south from San Francisco. The headquarters for companies like Apple and Google, among others, are located within a short distance of San Jose, where travelers will find fun museums, unique dining, historic sites and natural beauty. Just beyond lie charming destinations like Gilroy, which known for its famous garlic crops, amusement park and outlet shopping.
Getting there: It’s about an hour’s drive south of San Francisco (depending on traffic) to reach San Jose, the hub of the Silicon Valley. Public transportation including train and bus options exist as well.
Cross the Golden Gate Bridge heading north from San Francisco to discover two nearby destinations with plenty of appeal. Marin County includes a variety of parks and trails with stunning views of the Golden Gate Bridge and city skyline. More rugged beauty awaits at Muir Woods, Point Reyes National Seashore and Mount Tamalpais. Communities like Sausalito and Tiburon offer charming Main Streets with fine dining, shopping and waterfront views.
Getting there: With a car, just head north across the Golden Gate Bridge to enjoy time in Marin County. Or you can ride a bike across the bridge. There are also options for buses and shuttles, or ferries, if you prefer to travel across the bay rather than the bridge.