35 Great Day Trips from San Francisco

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While San Francisco is amazing & packed with tons of fun things to do, there’s even more to see beyond the city’s borders. Whether you’re looking to explore Wine Country, the other cities of the Bay Area, or the coast, there’s guaranteed to be a fun day trip itinerary that you will enjoy. While all of these San Francisco day trips can be accessed if you rent a car, many are also available through organized tours or even public transportation. Here are 35 great day trips from San Francisco, showcasing the best of California.

Take a Wine Country day trip

Northern California is home to one of the best wine regions in the world. While it’s nice to be able to take a weekend trip from San Francisco to Wine Country, it’s also possible to visit Napa Valley or Sonoma in just one day. Napa & Sonoma are only an hour or two away & have some of the best wine & food in the world. If you’re not able to spend the night there (or if you go into shock once you see just how expensive Napa & Sonoma hotels can be), a Wine Country tour from San Francisco is potentially a cheaper option, or you can also just book private transportation for the day. Either way, someone else then does all the driving, letting you properly enjoy the wine.

Napa day trip

The city of Napa is the main hub of Napa Valley, with a downtown packed with restaurants, bars, & hotels. The Napa Valley Wine Train is another tour option, running from Napa to St. Helena & back.

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Yountville day trip

In addition to wineries, Yountville has great restaurants, including The French Laundry. It’s also home to the Napa Valley Museum.

St. Helena day trip

St. Helena is a small Napa Valley town with art galleries, shops, restaurants, and of course, wineries. Gott’s Roadside is a small local burger chain that got its start in St. Helena. In addition to burgers, they also have great sandwiches, salads, & shakes.

Calistoga day trip

Calistoga is famous for its hot springs. Since the 1800s, day-trippers & weekend visitors from San Francisco & beyond have flocked to the area’s mineral-rich waters. Located at the northern end of Napa Valley, it tends to be quieter than Napa. Robert Lewis Stevenson State Park has hiking and spectacular views. For an even higher look at the vineyards of Napa Valley, you can take a hot air balloon ride.

Sonoma day trip

Like Napa County, Sonoma County is also dotted with wineries. While Napa Valley’s tourist trail mostly follows CA-29 & the nearby communities, Sonoma’s highlights are more spread out, allowing for more hidden gems as well as more diverse landscapes. The closest wineries to San Francisco are located in the southern parts of the county near Sonoma, or you can continue further all the way to the coast.

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Santa Rosa day trip

Santa Rosa is home to some of the best craft breweries in the world, including the famed Russian River Brewing Company. It’s also a convenient location within Sonoma for wine tasting, plus it hosts a museum dedicated to Peanuts creator Charles Schulz, who lived there.

Sebastopol day trip

Sebastopol is everything you’d expect from a Northern California small town: A bit of a hippie atmosphere, with art at the forefront & small artisanal shops lining the streets. Everything here is produced nearby, including wine, beer, & agricultural products, all of which you can also find at the great local restaurants.

Healdsburg day trip

Healdsburg is another cute Sonoma town, with all of the wineries, breweries, shops, & restaurants you’d expect in the area.

Guerneville day trip

Guerneville is where Wine Country meets the outdoors. Located along the Russian River, the town is a popular getaway from San Francisco. Long popular as a destination for the LGBT community, Guerneville is a welcoming & relaxing place for everyone. In addition to the area’s wineries & restaurants, outdoor activities include hiking, camping, & floating on the river. In town, Johnson’s Beach is a great place to be out on the river, or take a short drive to the coast for more beaches & ocean views.

Bodega Bay day trip

Bodega Bay has excellent fishing & other water activities. Or you can leave the fishing to the pros & just eat fresh seafood at a local restaurant. Bodega Bay was also one of the filming locations for Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds.” From Bodega Bay, you can see migrating whales & Point Reyes in the distance.

Take a Bay Area day trip

You don’t have to go far on your day trip from San Francisco. There are plenty of great Bay Area day trips nearby, including several just across the water in the East Bay that can even be done by public transportation.

Berkeley day trip

Berkeley is an East Bay city that’s just a short BART ride away from San Francisco. It’s the home of the University of California Berkeley, famous as a center of protest movements from the 1960s to now. The campus is a nice place to explore. High in the Berkeley hills, the Greek Theater is one of the most beautiful concert venues you’ll ever see. Even further up are the University of California Botanical Garden & the Lawrence Hall of Science. The areas surrounding UC Berkeley also have lots of excellent restaurants & bars. Berkeley Rep is a great place for theater, with plays & musicals often starting there before heading to Broadway.

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Oakland day trip

Oakland is another option for anyone looking for day trips from San Francisco without a car. It’s easily accessed by BART, or for a more picturesque journey, take a ferry from the Ferry Building in SF. Oakland’s Jack London Square is steeped with history, along with food & drink. Further north, downtown & uptown Oakland are the centers of the city’s nightlife. Go see a show at the Fox Theater, or check out one of the area’s great bars & restaurants. Nearby Lake Merritt is a lovely place to go for a walk.

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Alameda day trip

Alameda Island can also be reached by ferry from San Francisco. The island is a mixture of a former naval air base & a retro-feeling downtown. The western end of the island is slowly being transformed, with breweries, wineries, & distilleries filling the former aviation hangars. There is also the USS Hornet, an aircraft carrier that has now been turned into a museum. In the older town sections of Alameda, you’ll find shops, restaurants, & the Pacific Pinball Museum, which is a fun place to spend an afternoon.

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Livermore day trip

Livermore is home to yet more wineries (yes, there are a lot of potential San Francisco wine day trips). Compared to Napa & Sonoma, it’s a more relaxed atmosphere, as the area is less well-known. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t plenty of excellent wine, as there are over 50 wineries in Livermore, which can also be visited as part of a bike route.

San Jose day trip

San Jose is the largest city in the Bay Area. Its most unique attraction is the Winchester Mystery House, a quirky mansion built by heiress Sarah Winchester. The city is also home to museums, sports, & other events.

Saratoga day trip

Saratoga is a rich Silicon Valley suburb with wineries & outdoor spaces. Mountain Winery not only has wine tastings, but also an outdoor amphitheater that holds concerts during the summer months. The area is also home to Villa Montalvo & Arboretum, as well as hiking trails. Other South Bay towns such as Los Gatos & Woodside have a similar vibe & wine tours.

Take a North Bay day trip

Sausalito day trip

Sausalito is a relaxed waterside town just across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco. With plenty of shops & restaurants, it makes for a nice day out, whether you’ve rented a bicycle & ridden across the bridge or taken the ferry over from Fisherman’s Wharf (you can do both & bring the bike back on the boat).

Muir Woods day trip

Muir Woods National Monument is often visited in conjunction with Sausalito. The towering old-growth coast redwoods are magnificent. It’s amazing just how close they are to San Francisco. There are also loads of hiking trails in the area, along with beaches & other coastal communities. Parking is difficult to non-existent at Muir Woods, so you’ll need to take a shuttle bus from Mill Valley or go as part of an organized tour. For even more hiking, head to nearby Mount Tamalpais, and for ocean views, Muir Beach is just a few miles away.

Stinson Beach & Bolinas day trip

Stinson Beach & Bolinas are 2 small beach towns located a short drive away from Muir Woods & Sausalito. The towns have cafes, shops, and the usual water activities. As with many of the spots on this list, the area can get busy with people making weekend trips from San Francisco, so head there on a weekday if you can.

Point Reyes day trip

Point Reyes is one of the most beautiful areas of the California coast. The unique geography has been shaped by the sea & the San Andreas Fault, which slices through the area. You can see the effects of this on the Earthquake Trail from the Bear Valley Visitor Center. At the north & south ends of Point Reyes National Seashore are Tomales Point & Point Reyes. Both are fantastic hikes with gorgeous views including wildlife. Along Tomales Bay & in Point Reyes Station, you’ll find oysters, cheese, & drinks. It all combines for one of the best San Francisco days out.

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Tiburon & Angel Island day trip

If you’re looking for another day trip from SF that can be done without a car, Tiburon & Angel Island are just a ferry ride away from San Francisco. Tiburon is a quiet town with shops & restaurants. Angel Island is an island in San Francisco Bay that’s great for hiking, cycling & camping. It was formerly home to an immigration station that was the West Coast equivalent of Ellis Island. The building is now a National Historic Landmark.

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Marin Headlands day trip

From anywhere along the northern coast of San Francisco, you can see the Marin Headlands just across the Golden Gate Bridge. Part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, the Marin Headlands are a great place for hiking, cycling, history, and wildlife viewing. You can get there easily by renting a bike from San Francisco.

Take a Central Coast day trip

Some of the best day trips from San Francisco are south of the city along the coast. From San Francisco, the Pacific Coast Highway hugs the edge of California while winding its way through beachside towns. Some are just outside of SF, or you can continue further to Santa Cruz, Monterey, Carmel, and Big Sur. Be prepared to be amazed by some of the most stunning views you’ll ever see (as long as it’s not a foggy day).

Pacifica day trip

Pacifica is located just 15 minutes away from the southern edge of San Francisco. The coastal hikes there are not to be missed. From the highest bluffs, you can even spot whales migrating. There are also beaches, restaurants, and some great breweries. Oh, and it’s also home to the most picturesque Taco Bell in the world.

Half Moon Bay day trip

Half Moon Bay is a beach town that’s less than an hour away from San Francisco along the Pacific Coast Highway. It’s home to the legendary Mavericks, some of the best & most treacherous surfing waves in the world. Half Moon Bay also has great seafood, hiking, & wildlife viewing.

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Santa Cruz day trip

Beachside Santa Cruz is a relaxing place for a day trip from SF. The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk has amusement park rides & all the fun foods that go along with them. The Santa Cruz Wharf is filled with shops & restaurants. Those who are more adventurous can spend the day surfing, while everyone else can watch from the shore. Away from the water, the Santa Cruz Mountains are home to redwood trees, hiking, and wine tasting. Check out these Santa Cruz activities & tours.

Gilroy day trip

Gilroy is the Garlic Capital of the World (and therefore it is also the least popular day trip from San Francisco for vampires). Each summer, the city holds the Gilroy Garlic Festival, but there are other garlic-themed shops & restaurants open year-round. It’s also a popular shopping destination thanks to the Gilroy Premium Outlets. As with most Bay Area destinations, there are also several wineries in the area.

San Juan Bautista day trip

Mission San Juan Bautista was founded by the Spanish in 1797. Today the Mission is part of a state historic park that also includes the plaza & surrounding area. Movie fans may recognize San Juan Bautista as one of the filming locations of Alfred Hitchcock’s “Vertigo,” which was also filmed in San Francisco & other Bay Area towns. The small agricultural town is also home to El Teatro Campesino, as well as shops, restaurants, & bars, including a couple of breweries.

Monterey day trip

Monterey is home to the world-famous Monterey Bay Aquarium. But the aquatic adventures don’t stop there. If you want to see even more wildlife in its natural habitat, a whale-watching cruise is a Monterey day trip you’ll never forget, especially during peak migration seasons. If staying on land is more your style, Fisherman’s Wharf & the rest of downtown have plenty of shops & restaurants, including the famed Cannery Row of John Steinbeck fame. There’s also a nice local craft beer scene, including Alvarado Street. Check out more Monterey tours & activities here.

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Carmel day trip

Carmel-by-the-Sea is a beach town located just south of Monterey. One of the area’s highlights is the 17-Mile Drive at Pebble Beach in between Monterey & Carmel, a beautiful drive where you can take in the coastal views & also resent the rich. Carmel itself is a cute village that’s filled with shops, restaurants, and arts & cultural spots. Check out Carmel tour options here.

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Big Sur day trip

The Pacific Coast Highway is one of the most beautiful drives in the world. Depending on how many stops you make, Big Sur can be a full day trip. It’s easy to want to stop at all of the turnoffs along the highway, but Bixby Creek Bridge, Gamboa Point, Hearst Castle, & Piedras Blancas are a few of the many highlights. Just south of Piedras Blancas, an elephant seal colony has a permanent home. After a short walk, you can see these majestic-but-awkward animals in their natural habitat. All along the drive, there are state parks & other wilderness areas with hiking, waterfalls, and of course, more coastal views. Check the road conditions before you go, especially during the winter. In 2017, a mudslide near Mud Creek not only closed the PCH & required it to be rebuilt, but it was also so big that it expanded the state of California as it slid into the ocean. This beautiful coast is always changing.

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Pinnacles National Park day trip

Pinnacles National Park is a bit off-the-radar since it only became a national park in 2013. It’s located just over 2 hours south of San Francisco. The park protects an ancient volcanic field near the San Andreas Fault. In this unique landscape that’s filled with interesting rock formations & caves, you’ll find plenty of hiking & rock climbing. There are also wineries in the area, & it can be combined with some of the other nearby day trips along the Pacific coast.

Paso Robles day trip

Paso Robles is just over 3 hours away from San Francisco. It’s home to excellent craft beer & wineries. If you take a day trip along the Pacific Coast Highway through Big Sur, you could then potentially stop in Paso Robles in the afternoon on the way back.

Longer day trips from San Francisco

Yosemite day trip

First things first. Yosemite National Park is about a 3-4 hour drive away from San Francisco. However, Yosemite tours from San Francisco are available, so at least you can leave the driving to someone else. While it’s preferable to spend several days in Yosemite, that’s not possible for everyone. If you want to see one of the most beautiful places in the world, even for just a few hours, check out these Yosemite tours.

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Sacramento day trip

Despite being located a couple of hours away, Sacramento is another San Francisco day trip that can be done without a car, thanks to its great rail connection via the Capitol Corridor. In Sacramento, you’ll find lots of history, much of it within walking distance of downtown. The Old Sacramento Waterfront, Sutter’s Fort, California State Railroad Museum, and Crocker Art Museum are some of the city’s highlights. Check out more Sacramento tours & activities here.

Gold Country day trip

In 1848, gold was discovered at Sutter’s Mill in the Sierra Nevada foothills. The ensuing Gold Rush led to hundreds of thousands of people heading to California to seek fortune, setting the state on a path toward what it has become today. Historic sites relating to the Gold Rush dot Northern California. Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park in Coloma in El Dorado County is home to Sutter’s Mill. Other former gold mining towns such as Sonora, Placerville, Nevada City, Grass Valley, Jamestown, & Auburn also retain their old charm & history, with plenty of museums, art, shops, plus food & drink to check out.

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Lake Tahoe day trip

As with Yosemite, Lake Tahoe is another place that would be best visited as a weekend trip from San Francisco. However, since it’s only a 3-4 hour drive away from San Francisco (depending on traffic and weather conditions), it’s possible to visit Tahoe in one very long day. If you’re looking for some great skiing & snowboarding, or if you want to spend a warm summer day on the blue water, Lake Tahoe is there waiting, high in the Sierra Nevada.

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Last updated on February 6, 2022

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