10 Most Iconic Day Trips from San Francisco

10 Most Iconic Day Trips from San Francisco

Ah, San Francisco. This fog-covered city of wonderland is the ideal vacation spot for open minds and free spirits to escape reality. People travel from around the country to San Francisco to marvel at its beauty and embrace the west coast lifestyle. The Golden Gate Bridge and colorful row homes are seen in Full House seem like something out of a TV show (pun intended). But to the locals, it’s just another day in the life. Even people who live in a vacation spot need a vacation, and lucky for you, your next day trip is just a short drive away.

Are you looking to escape the bustling city of San Francisco, even just for the day? Well, we have you covered! Below is a carefully curated guide to the 10 most iconic day trips from San Francisco.


  1. Sausalito / 35 minutes from SF

Is exploring California on your bucket list? San Francisco local or not, Sausalito is a must see when visiting bear country. Charming and full of rich history, Sausalito is located at the northern end of the Golden Gate Bridge. The best way to get a feel for the city and absorb the panoramic breathtaking views is by taking a ferry. Known as the hotspot for early morning athletes, Sausalito has a variety of running and biking routes as well as sailing, kayaking, rowing, and swimming clubs. If you’re more interested in the food than the athletics (like some of us), this city is full of quaint cafes and restaurants such as The Trident or Fred’s Place. Sure, San Francisco is a sight in itself, but sometimes a day trip is just what you need.

2. Oakland / 30 minutes from SF

Coachella on your mind? For all the festival lovers that wait patiently (or not so patiently) for Coachella to come around once a year, you might want to take a trip to Oakland. With concerts, festivals, and other events happening almost every weekend, Oakland is the ultimate destination for music connoisseurs to escape from reality. Destress from a long work week with a trip to Oakland’s First Friday Festival, which is a celebration of music, art, and food on the first Friday of every month. What gave it away? Oakland combines eclectic music with authentic food, making for an unforgettable weekend getaway. Weekend events include famous farmer’s markets like Jack London Square Farmers Market as well as the highly anticipated Bacon and the Beer Festival. Bacon, beer, and music? What else could you possibly ask for?

Half Moon Bay

3. Half Moon Bay / 45 minutes from SF

Looking to hang ten without flying five hours to Hawaii? Grab your board and head over to Half Moon Bay, home of the awe-inspiring Titans of Maverick’s big wave surf event. There, you’ll see some of the biggest waves in California, all while showing off your skills to the judges. Not much of a surfer? Not a problem! Half Moon Bay is jam-packed with world-class golf courses and historic art galleries, not to mention amazing seafood restaurants around every corner. The miles and miles of white sand beaches make for the perfect destination to escape reality and find your own paradise. Whether you’re an adrenaline junkie looking to catch the next wave, or you’re just craving some much-needed relaxation, Half Moon Bay will be sure to provide a laid-back atmosphere for your next day trip.

Napa Valley

4. Napa Valley / 1 hour and 15 minutes from SF

Nothing makes for a more relaxing day trip than a visit to wine country. We can picture it now; miles of breathtaking vineyards, a glass (or bottle) of wine in your hand, and an afternoon picnic under the sun. Need we go on? Napa Valley is a world-famous wine producing region with hundreds of wineries and stunning vineyards. Whether you’re seeking a taste of the indulgent or a more casual experience, Napa Valley offers the perfect winery for any occasion. Not much of a drinker? There is so much more to wine country than just wine, including cycling, kayaking, seal viewing, hot air ballooning, and exploring the vibrant botanical gardens. Whatever your guilty pleasure, your Napa Valley trip will be sure to shower you in luxury even if just for the day. Oh and remember to put the wine glass down before you go off exploring!  

Santa Cruz

5. Santa Cruz / 1 hour and 30 minutes from SF

How far would you drive for a slice of pizza? If you’re anything like us, an hour and a half is well worth it! Known for great waves and even better pizza, Santa Cruz is a beautiful beach town located outside of San Francisco. With dozens of iconic surf spots along its miles of beautiful coastlines, you won’t have to travel far to catch the perfect wave. Once you’re finished shredding it up in the water, what better way to recharge than with a slice of pizza from one of the many shops in Santa Cruz? Okay, maybe two slices but you get the point. Head over to Woodstock’s Pizza Santa Cruz, Pizza my Heart, or Engfer Pizza Works and taste test your way through the city. If that doesn’t sound like the perfect day trip then we don’t know what does!

Monterey Bay Aquarium

6. Monterey Bay Aquarium / 2 hours and 50 minutes from SF

You’ll be sure to score some major mom points with a day trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Perched on the edge of the ocean, this aquarium allows you to get up close and personal with some of the ocean’s greatest wonders without strapping on scuba gear. Your kids will be in their own paradise wandering through the fascinating and interactive exhibits, which house over 550 animal species. Monterey Bay Aquarium is world-famous for its dedication to the conservation and research of marine ecosystems, as well as its magnificent displays. Some of the most jaw dropping exhibits are the Kelp Forest, the Splash Zone, and the Open Sea Gallery, that will be sure to leave your kids, and yourself, awestruck. Who are we kidding. Kids or not, this day trip will be one for the books.

7. Marin Headlands / 40 minutes from SF

Don’t worry nature enthusiasts, we didn’t forget about you! If camping is your ideal version of luxury, take a trip to Marin Headlands and get those marshmallows toasting. The Marin Headlands is a peninsula just north of San Francisco that is considered a spectacle for the location. After all, it’s rare to see such a magnificent wilderness so close to a major city. As part of the Golden Gate National Park Conservancy, the Marin Headlands is full of beautiful multi-use trails and spacious camp grounds. Whether you prefer hiking, biking, or just relaxing by a campfire, the Headlands will provide the ultimate nature experience just a short drive from the bustling city. After all, there’s nothing like being surrounded by wilderness but still having a spectacular view of the Golden Gate Bridge, right?


8. Alcatraz / 20 minutes from SF

Nothing screams luxury quite like a once forbidden federal penitentiary deemed to be haunted, right? Okay, if you’re looking for glitz and glam, this probably isn’t the day trip for you. However, besides being the sight of the infamous penitentiary, there’s more to Alcatraz Island than meets the eye. Did you know the island was also the site of the first American lighthouse? It’s also the home of natural tide pools, gardens, and bird colonies all overlooking a stunning view of the Bay. Any history buff would be in their prime exploring this island, complete with a tour of the cellhouse. You’ll be able to walk through the untouched penitentiary that will be sure to make you feel as if you traveled back in time. Just a warning, don’t go if you’re scared of ghosts!

Point Reyes National Seashore

9. Point Reyes National Seashore/ 1 hour and 25 minutes from SF

On a brighter note, have you ever felt the ground move right under your feet? At Point Reyes National Seashore, you just might be able to! That is if you stand there for about a year. This national park is the place where the San Andreas Fault Zone separates the Pacific plate from the North American plate. What does this mean? Well, the Pacific plate is slowly moving about two inches per year! Despite the brief history lesson, Point Reyes is a 71,028-acre park preserve that stretches from the rocky headlands to miles of sandy white beaches. This park is home to more than 1,500 species of plants and animals, making for the ultimate nature lover’s paradise. This trip will give you some major bragging rights because after all, how many people can say they stood on separating tectonic plates?

10. Stinson Beach / 50 minutes from SF

If you’re looking to sit back, relax, and get your tan on in the white sand, then Stinson Beach is the place for you. This destination makes for the perfect beach day, equipped with beach volleyball courts, picnic areas, and lifeguards on duty. It’s also dog-friendly so don’t forget to bring your pup along! After you take a much-needed nap in the sand, get your adrenaline flowing with some watersports. Stinson Beach is a popular spot for surfing, hang gliding, windsurfing, and even kayaking. The best part is you won’t have to bring along your own equipment because may local surf shops will be happy to rent it out, and even offer lessons. And if you’re anything like us, you’ll definitely need the lessons.

Whether you’re looking to relax on the beach, explore a new place, dance the night away, or even get a little scared, your next day trip is just a short drive away. Do you prefer to lounge on the beach? Or maybe you’re a nature lover looking to explore the mountains on your own terms. Whatever your guilty pleasure, San Francisco is the perfect centerpiece submerged in a state of diversity.

Do you need help planning your day trip from San Francisco? Leave the planning to us! Contact us at info@chloejohnston.com and we will create a customized itinerary for your next getaway.