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On the road from San Francisco
Though it may be small, San Francisco is full of natural, cultural, and culinary attractions — and staying put can feel like the sensible thing to do when you have a finite amount of time to explore. But what if we told you that some of California’s top vineyards were within easy driving distance of the city? Or that you could stroll along beaches, admire the Pacific Ocean, and even hike up a nearby mountain without needing to book overnight accommodation? These six day-trip destinations will tempt you to hit the road — even for just an afternoon.
Just an hour north of San Francisco, Sonoma County is a favourite of both local and visiting oenophiles. It draws upwards of 7 million visitors a year, eager to explore its award-winning vineyards and taste some of the best wines in California. On your discovery tour, sip and swirl at several local wineries — you have more than 400 to choose from, after all — and finish off your indulgent day away with a meal at one of the area’s farm-to-table restaurants.
Picturesque, charming Sausalito offers up a tremendously appealing vision of West Coast living — sans the hustle and bustle of the big city. Located just north of San Francisco in Marin County, the fishing village is now known for its colony of colourful houseboats, its scenic bike trails, its seafood restaurants, and its wonderfully relaxed pace of living.
The Mendocino coast
Three hours from San Francisco, Mendocino County is famous for its wild, beautiful coastlines, its soaring redwood forests, and the charming Mendocino Village. In fact, this destination may just encompass everything that makes northern California special. Visit the surprising glass beach at Fort Bragg, swing by the North Coast Brewing Co, and see if you can spot whales in the distance as you hike along the region’s many seaside trails.
Mt. Diablo State Park
Located in Contra Costa County, just over the hills from Oakland and Berkeley, Mt. Diablo is one of the area’s highest peaks (measuring in at 1,173 m). While it’s possible to climb to the summit, even those who don’t feel up to a trek can profit from the wild beauty of Mt. Diablo State Park. Wend your way through the golden landscape, spy fields of poppies, see if you can glimpse flocks of quails — and avoid getting too close to any native mountain lions.
Napa Valley is ground zero when it comes to California wine culture. Not only is this gorgeous tract full of hundreds of world-class wineries, but it also has more Michelin-starred restaurants per capita than any other wine region in the world (of which The French Laundry in Yountville is likely the best known). With a designated driver in the car, visit a number of local wineries, plan some exquisite meals, and otherwise enjoy California’s paradisiacal wine country.
Head out on the beautiful Pacific Coast Highway (or the PCH, as locals call it) due north. Your destination is Point Reyes National Seashore, a 71,000-acre park that encompasses beaches, rugged hiking trails, lagoons, and jaw-dropping views. Be sure to plan a stop in the town of Point Reyes Station, where you’ll find artisan cheeses at Cowgirl Creamery, pastries at the Bovine Bakery, and farmers market finds at Toby’s Feed Barn.