The San Francisco Bay Area might be best known for its urban sprawl and technology industry, but it also features amazing natural beauty and countless charming destinations across its many microclimates. You just need to know where to look. This list will help you uncover and experience the best Bay Area day trips with detailed suggestions on where to stop, what to do, and where to eat.

As lockdowns ease up and we finally get some of our freedom of movement back, what better way to celebrate than to hop in your car and explore local highlights that we might have overlooked in recent years?

Kimkim has designed 10 Bay Area day trips, each of which will surely fulfill your zest for travel and adventure. Each trip has suggested stops at highlights, as well as local coffee shops, wineries, restaurants, and more who can use our help to regain their footing in these challenging times. 

The trips are designed from the closest city (San Francisco for trips in the north and San Jose for trips in the south), but you can of course take them from any starting point in the region.

Have more time? Check out the best weeklong road trips in Northern California.

Day Trip #1: Mt Tamalpais, Stinson Beach, and Muir Woods

Mt. Tam (Mount Tamalpais) offers some of the best views in the Bay Area. Even better, the drive there is scenic and varied. When combined with Stinson Beach and Muir Woods, this makes the perfect North Bay day trip.

View of the Bay and Angel Island from Mt. Tam

Total driving distance: 58 miles  |  Driving time: 2h 30min  |  Recommended duration: Full day

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Day Trip #2: Dillon Beach and Tomales Bay

Head north over the Golden Gate Bridge and explore this hidden beach town, just 1 hour and 20 minutes from San Francisco. In addition to cool beach vibes at Dillon Beach, you'll visit Sausalito and drive along Tomales Bay with a stop for oysters, the local specialty. 

Kitesurfers at Dillon Beach

Total driving distance: 120 miles  |  Driving time: 3h 25min  |  Recommended duration: Full day

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Day Trip #3: Point Reyes National Seashore

One and a half hours north of San Francisco, geological forces created a peninsula with unique natural features and wildlife. See tule elk and shuck oysters while enjoying rugged nature. 

Tule Elk at Point Reyes

Total driving distance: 133 miles  |  Driving time: 4h  |  Recommended duration: Full day

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Day Trip #4: Mt. Diablo and the Berkeley Hills

This adventure is ideal for families: cross the Bay Bridge from San Francisco and head east toward Mount Diablo, one of the highest peaks in the Bay Area at 3,849 ft. Let the kids enjoy climbing on boulders in Rock City and take in the panoramic views. Then head to the Berkeley Hills for more nature and amazing vistas, ending your day with pizza at a local favorite in Oakland's hip Rockridge neighborhood. 

Mount Diablo towering over green hills

Total driving distance: 100 miles  |  Driving time: 3h 19m  |  Recommended duration: Full day

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Day Trip #5: Santa Cruz Mountains Winery Tour

Although not as well known as its cousins in Napa and Sonoma, the Santa Cruz Mountains wine region can be explored via scenic routes with plenty of worthwhile stops along the way. 

Vineyards in the foothills of the Santa Cruz mountains

Total driving distance: 103 miles  |  Driving time: 2h 57m  |  Recommended duration: Full day

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Day Trip #6: Santa Cruz Mountains and Slow Coast

This is an adventurous day trip packed with stops in charming small towns, rugged beaches, and towering redwoods. You will also visit a winery and Japanese gardens while driving incredibly scenic roads. 

Shark Fin Cove

Total driving distance: 171 miles  |  Driving time: 3h 55m  |  Recommended duration: Full day

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Day Trip #7: Woodside, La Honda, and Pescadero

This trip takes you to some amazingly scenic parts of the peninsula: quaint towns, rugged beaches, and dense redwoods. Start in Woodside, then head over the coastal hills to hit some beaches along Highway 1, returning along Alpine Road. End this adventurous day in the garden of local favorite Alpine Inn. 

Pescadero State Beach

Total driving distance: 57 miles  |  Driving time: 1h 56m  |  Recommended duration: Full day

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Day Trip #8: Fremont Peak State Park and San Juan Bautista

Few people know about—let alone have visited—Fremont Peak, just over an hour south of San Jose. It's highly worth the trip for the amazing views from the top, which can be accessed by a short spectacular hike. After Fremont Peak, explore the mission of San Juan Bautista for a day filled with nature and California history. 

View from Fremont Peak

Total driving distance: 67 miles  |  Driving time: 1h 40m  |  Recommended duration: Full day

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Day Trip #9: Pinnacles National Park

Less than 2 hours south of San Jose, you'll find an amazing national park that punches way above its weight. The rock formations are spectacular, and although you could view them from afar, hiking trails will get you up close and personal (and even take you through caves). Explore the trails for a few hours, then head back to the Bay Area to make this a great day away from the hustle and bustle of Silicon Valley.

Rock formations at Pinnacles

Total driving distance: 184 miles  |  Driving time: 3h 57m  |  Recommended duration: Full day

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Day Trip #10: Monterey, Pacific Grove, and Carmel

The Monterey Peninsula feels a world away from the Bay Area and makes for a relaxing day trip. Spot sea otters as you bike or e-bike along the scenic coastline, picnic on beautiful Asilomar State Beach, and explore the artist's colony of Carmel-by-the-Sea.

Point Pinos Lighthouse

Total driving distance: 243 miles  |  Driving time: 1h 52m  |  Recommended duration: Full day

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Map of Top Day Trips in the Bay Area - Explore the Best Backroads, Beaches and Towns
Map of Top Day Trips in the Bay Area - Explore the Best Backroads, Beaches and Towns