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Best Single-Day Road Trips Around San Francisco

Bixby Creek Bridge on Highway One (credit: Thinkstock)

Among the advantages of living in the San Francisco Bay Area is the ability to take day trips to places rich in natural beauty, history, art and culture, with jaunts that offer activities from city lifestyles to nature escapes, wine country food and drink, walks along beaches and enjoying the local delicacies of dining along the seashore. The possibilities are almost endless. Read on for suggested day road trips convenient to San Francisco.

Monterey Peninsula

Highlights of the trip include Monterey, Carmel-By–The-Sea and points along the scenic 17-Mile Drive. Monterey, the hub of its eponymous peninsula, was until 1849 the California State capital. Continually known as a maritime city, Monterey offers perpetual charm with something for everyone in the family: literary history and Cannery Row, science and art venues and events, sightseeing amid natural beauty, plus great spots for dining, snacking, and drinking along the way. Carmel, a lovely seaside town, is forever a romantic idyllic spot to stroll and window-shop, and the sunset at the beach is a great way to usher in nighttime activities, beginning of course with a delicious meal. Don't miss the 17-Mile Drive's postcard-like scenic road through Pebble Beach and Pacific Grove on the Monterey Peninsula that winds the Pacific coastline.

Point Reyes Seashore

Point Reyes Seashore is just a 40-mile drive north from San Francisco across the Golden Gate Bridge, but what an about-face you will find. With so much to see and beach towns to explore, Point Reyes is a perfect get-away-yet-close day trip that you just may want to extend it to a weekend and spend the night in an Inn or Bed and Breakfast in Olema, Inverness, or Point Reyes Station. Tomales Bay is the place for oysters, and produces fresh-farmed oysters, clams and mussels that you can enjoy outdoors overlooking the Bay. Stretches of beaches abound, such as Limantour Beach, Hearts Desire Beach, and sheltered Shell Beach. Point Reyes is the windiest place on the Pacific Coast and number two for the foggiest spot on the North American continent, giving good reason for the famed Point Reyes Lighthouse, which for 100 years warned mariners of the imminent danger of the Point Reyes Headlands.

Diablo Valley and Mount Diablo State Park
96 Mitchell Canyon Road
Clayton, CA 94517
(925) 837-2525

Not too far yet packed with so much to do and see, and yet many San Franciscans have not explored the area much at all. Diablo Valley includes towns Clayton, Concord, Martinez, Pacheco, Pleasant Hill, and most of Walnut Creek. The highlight of the area is incredible Mount Diablo State Park, home of the Bay Area's stunning ecological gem, Mount Diablo. This environmental jewel is recognized as a rarity in nature for its panorama at its peak. Mount Diablo claims exquisite vistas, natural beauty and a variety of plant life. Rich in offerings for outdoor activities, including extensive hiking and biking trails, horseback riding and more, Mount Diablo is a perfect adventure land within the dynamic Diablo Valley region.

John Muir National Historical Site
4202 Alhambra Ave
Martinez, CA 94553
(925) 228-8860

This beautiful nine-acre park lies in Martinez, and offers its brilliant pathways to wander the fruit orchards that bloom throughout the season. Begin at the Visitor Center to learn more about John Muir, the Scottish-American author and wilderness preservationist whose life and ideals continue to influence our environmental actions today. With family and friends in tow, be sure to pack a picnic basket lunch to enjoy while relaxing under the lofty trees. This year help celebrate the Centennial of the nation's National Park Service, which turns 100 on August 26, 2016.

Mendocino County

Both a city and a county, the Mendocino Coast offers fun places to spend a day, with a variety of spots and activities to explore. Surrounded by California nature of redwood forests, north coast beaches and tide pools to explore, Mendocino county offers the best of nature's beautiful landscapes close enough to enjoy for a day yet far enough from the everyday city routine. If relaxation and rejuvenation are what you seek, along with an amazing array of varied restaurants, then Mendocino is waiting for you. Plus, this coastal region is a kid and dog friendly place, so definitely a family fit. A sampling of Mendocino "things to do" include the historic Skunk Train, Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, Mendocino Headlands State Park, Point Cabrillo Light Station Historic Park, City of 10,000 Buddhas, forests and woods boasting giant redwoods and tons of beaches. Click here for the Mendocino County Events Calendar.

Sonoma County

Sonoma County is a place to unwind, with miles of rugged Pacific coastline, more than 425 wineries, redwood forests, the best farm-fresh locally grown produce, world-class spas and resorts, outdoor activities including more than 50 regional and state parks, beautiful golf courses, boutiques, winery gift shops and outlet malls. Stop by Healdsburg, the ultimate Wine Country destination in the heart of Sonoma County. And all this perfection is close to San Francisco, just 67 miles over the Golden Gate Bridge.

Melanie Graysmith is a writer, artist and educator based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She writes on adult education, art and culture, business, and lifestyle topics, and enjoys writing short stories and poetry. She is also a part of the Bay Area independent film community. Her work can be found at


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