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Six Great Day Trips from San Francisco

Explore more than the City by the Bay

You’d be hard-pressed to find a bigger boomtown than San Francisco. Yet as nice as the city can be to visit, it’s the perfect base to get away from it all with a variety of perfect day trips. There’s something for everyone beyond the technology hub for which San Francisco is known. Here are six great day trips:

Big Sur

Big Sur

The drive along the famous Highway 1 on the coast is beautiful enough to justify the journey. The destination is just as good. Big Sur Village is a pleasant place to hang out and unplug. Even better are the vast number of day hikes that will take you along beaches and into mountains. The Big Sur Chamber of Commerce has a downloadable guide of what hikes to take.

The drive: Big Sur is about 150 miles south of San Francisco and takes about 3 hours to get there. It could take longer depending on traffic and how often you stop to gawk at the amazing scenery.

 

Muir Woods

Muir Woods National Monument

A trip to the region without seeing any redwood trees would be a shame. Fortunately, Muir Woods is full of old-growth redwood trees that are more than 200 feet tall. There are plenty of walking trails in the forest. Try to get there during the week because the place can get pretty busy during the weekend.

The drive: Muir Woods is a short 40-minute drive north of the city. On weekends and holidays there’s a convenient shuttle bus, but you’ll have to deal with the weekend crowds.

 

Napa Valley

Napa Valley

The world once looked down on the wine coming from the upstart Napa Valley, but critics were silenced in 1973 when a California wine unexpectedly won the Paris Wine Tasting in 1976. Since then, Napa Valley has developed a renowned reputation for the quality of its wines. It’s also a great place to visit and see the vineyards up close. The scenery is stunning and the wines are delicious. The area is upscale and offers a variety of non-drinking activities, such as spas and gourmet dining.

The drive: Napa Valley is about an 80-minute drive north of San Francisco, but there are fun ways to get there without using a car. The Napa Valley Wine Train (booking is required and tickets start at $124 per person) is one way to see the region. You can reach the starting point with the BART train.

San Simeon

Towns don’t get much smaller than San Simeon (462 people as of 2010). Don’t let its size fool you: there are some great sites in San Simeon. The most famous is the Hearst Castle. Built by newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, this serious of mansions overlooking the ocean is unlike anything else. They don’t build them like they used to! Also of interest is the elephant seal rookery where sometimes thousands of the animals gather.

The drive: Getting to San Simeon is a bit of a haul at about 4 hours. However, it’s past Big Sur and represents a great opportunity to see even more of Highway 1.

Fort Ross

Fort Ross is an interesting place to witness a somewhat obscure part of American history. This state park was once a Russian fur-trading outpost and shows the contribution Russian immigrants made to early America. The landscape is excellent and the fort itself is worth the visit for history buffs.

The drive: It takes about two hours to get to Fort Ross, and most of the drive can be done along the coastline.

Bolinas

Bolinas is a great town to get away from the action in San Francisco. It’s been rumored that the town is so beloved that locals used to remove road signs leading there in an attempt to keep tourists out. Despite their supposed efforts, this probably isn’t too effective in the age of GPS. There’s a nice beach in town with surfing, and the place has kept some of its 1960s charm.

The drive: Bolinas is a little more than an hour north of San Francisco, making it an easy place to get to whether the road signs are intact or not.

About the Author: Anum Yoon is the blogger behind Current On Currency, who enjoys sharing her travel experiences even more than writing about money management. Her favorite city in the world is her hometown of Hong Kong, but in her honest opinion, San Francisco is the next best thing.