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.
Total driving distance: 58 miles | Driving time: 2h 30min | Recommended duration: Full day
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.
Total driving distance: 120 miles | Driving time: 3h 25min | Recommended duration: Full day
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.
Total driving distance: 133 miles | Driving time: 4h | Recommended duration: Full day
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.
Total driving distance: 100 miles | Driving time: 3h 19m | Recommended duration: Full day
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.
Total driving distance: 103 miles | Driving time: 2h 57m | Recommended duration: Full day
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.
Total driving distance: 171 miles | Driving time: 3h 55m | Recommended duration: Full day
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.
Total driving distance: 57 miles | Driving time: 1h 56m | Recommended duration: Full day
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.
Total driving distance: 67 miles | Driving time: 1h 40m | Recommended duration: Full day
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.
Total driving distance: 184 miles | Driving time: 3h 57m | Recommended duration: Full day
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.
Total driving distance: 243 miles | Driving time: 1h 52m | Recommended duration: Full day