If you’re looking for clear boundaries to the Bay Area, you’ll find it pretty confusing as this area includes portions of nine counties and cities. This expansive area was once the target of Gold Rush prospectors and Spanish missions but is now characterized by its lifestyle and Silicon Valley. You can be sure that you will find plenty to keep you busy here. However, if you are interested in the best day trip, Bay Area, you will be spoilt for choice. Depending on your area of interest, the best day trips from Bay Area can range from wine tasting to relaxing by the sea or marveling at giant redwoods.
However, we’ve short-listed six of the best trips from the Bay Area to save you from too much confusion. You could also check our recommendations for the best day trips from San Francisco if you’re in the city.
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If you’re in the Bay Area, it goes without saying that you will either plan a day trip to wine country or a brewery in the area. One of the best day trips from the Bay Area for the zythophiles (people who love beer) is a three-brewery tour. You get to enjoy an all-inclusive brewery tour of a select region.
Choose from Tri-Valley, Oakland/Berkley, Napa, Sonoma, or a region in San Francisco where you can experience three amazing breweries. You’ll also learn how each of these breweries makes its own brew and taste. The tour includes a flight of beer at each brewery, a picnic lunch, and cold bottled water. The best part – you get to travel in style in a comfortable Mercedes Sprinter.
- Tour Duration: 7 Hours
- Distance from nearest town/city: This would depend on the area you choose to explore
- Transportation: Mercedes Sprinter
Sausalito and Muir Woods
The seaside town of Sausalito in Marin County is another of the best day trips from the Bay Area. If you’re interested in hopping onto one of the most exciting rides in the world, then the scenic ferry ride is a must. It’s not just the ride that’s special; the town has a charm of its own.
You could easily mistake the picturesque town for a Mediterranean fishing village with its community of floating homes. Like most bustling towns or cities, downtown Sausalito is where most people choose to spend their time. Victorian-era buildings that now house boutiques, cafes, and restaurants make up much of The National Historic Landmark District downtown. However, if you’re looking for a gorgeous view of the marinas, a stroll along Bridgeway will have you whipping out your cameras in a flash!
A good idea would be to combine your trip to Sausalito with a tour of Muir Woods and SF Bay Cruise. This half-day tour begins with a 90-minute stop at Muir Woods before moving on to Sausalito. Muir Woods is one of the closest redwood forests in the Bay Area. If you’re interested in seeing giant trees up close, this is one of the best day trips from the Bay Area. The tour ends with an hour’s cruise of the San Francisco Bay, where you get to sail under the Golden Gate Bridge.
- Tour Duration: 6 hours
- Distance from nearest town/city: About 45 minutes to Muir Woods from SF and another 20 minutes from there to Sausalito
- Transportation: Luxury air-conditioned coach/cruise boat
Another best day trip Bay Area is to the beach town of Santa Cruz on Monterey Bay. During summer, the town’s historic Beach Boardwalk and amusement park bring in plenty of visitors.
The Main Beach, with its shallow waters and expansive shoreline, is a popular haunt in the town. Many holidaymakers head for this stretch to sunbathe or while away their time. Since it’s just a two-and-a-half-hour drive away from San Francisco, a trip to Santa Cruz is rated as one of the best day trips from the Bay Area. However, if you would like to extend your stay, you could check into one of the best cheap hotels in Santa Cruz and take your time exploring the town.
An excellent way to discover the town is on a digital scavenger hunt. On this City Scavenger Hunt, you will get to interact with locals as you try to solve clues. From discovering hidden gems to shopping for organic herbal teas, you’ll be quite surprised by what you can find on this tour.
- Tour Duration: Flexible
- Distance from nearest town/city: Two and half hours from San Francisco Airport
- Transportation: Own vehicle
Outdoor enthusiasts will agree that the best day trip Bay Area is a trip to Yosemite. Although not a quick drive from San Francisco, the trip is worth your time. The spectacular park is a designated World Heritage site in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Granite cliffs, crystalline lakes, huge waterfalls, and giant trees characterize it.
On this guided coach tour of Yosemite Valley, you will first head east across the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. En route to the park, the tour crosses the Central Valley, renowned for its specialty fruits and nuts. Yes, you will be allowed a quick rest before entering the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas.
Through the gold rush town of Groveland and California gold country, you will eventually reach Yosemite National Park. The tour will allow you to view the valley from some excellent vantage points. An afternoon stop near the base of Yosemite Falls will leave you three hours to explore the area independently. By the end of the tour, you will understand why this is one of the best day trips from the Bay Area.
- Tour Duration: 15 hours
- Distance from nearest town/city: About 4.5 hours from San Francisco
- Transportation: Air-conditioned coach
Carmel, Monterey & Big Sur
For someone looking for a leisurely day along the gorgeous California coast, a private tour of Carmel, Monterey & Big Sur is the way to go. Stretching from Carmel-by-the-sea through the redwoods up to Hearst Castle, driving along State Route 1 to Big Sur is the perfect day trip. One of the highlights of Big Sur is Bixby Creek Bridge. The best part about this private tour is you can go at your own pace.
You can be picked up from anywhere in the Bay Area with prior intimation. If you’re starting from San Francisco, you’ll enjoy the scenic drive to Carmel and Big Sur along State Route 1. The seaside towns of Carmel and Monterey stand out for their gorgeous landscapes and old-world charm.
While Carmel, with its fairy-tale cottages, pristine beach, and windswept cypress, has a touch of romance, Monterey is more historic. It’s known for its historic waterfront fish packing district, Cannery Row. Other attractions in Monterey include Old Fisherman’s Wharf and the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
- Tour Duration: 10 hours
- Distance from nearest town/city: About 2 hours drive from San Francisco
- Transportation: Private car
Who hasn’t heard of or seen a picture of the once-notorious Alcatraz Island? Initially used as a military reservation in 1850, with troops permanently in residence by 1859, the island gained notoriety when it became a federal penitentiary. The Rock, commonly called it, was home to infamous names such as Al Capone and George “Machine Gun” Kelly. The prison eventually closed in 1963.
However, the island shot into the public eye once more when it became a sign of protest by Native Americans. It was occupied for 19 months. Today the protests have died down, and silence prevails, but the sight is one of the most popular attractions for visitors. If you’re looking for the best day trip Bay Area to Alcatraz, a good idea would be to club it with a guided tour of the city.
The Alcatraz Island and Guided City Tour will allow you to spend a few hours on the island. Later you will enjoy a guided city tour of some of the most famous neighborhoods in San Francisco.
- Tour Duration: 8 hours
- Distance from nearest town/city: It’s a short ferry ride to Alcatraz from Pier 33. About 15 minutes, to be precise.
- Transportation: Pick up from hotel or convenient location/ ferry to and from Alcatraz
Just So You Know
- The tide is so fast in the Bay that your boat could end up moving backward during peak flows. If kayakers are going in the wrong direction at peak times, they can be overpowered by tidal currents, resulting in a change of direction.
- A survey conducted a few years ago revealed that dogs outnumber children in San Francisco. So if you are an animal lover, you know which city you should be in well!
- Garlic lovers can take a day trip to Gilroy, the ‘garlic capital of the world.’ Hosting one of the largest food festivals in the US, the annual Gilroy Garlic Festival in July sees a huge footfall of visitors. You could head out to discover more of the Bay Area when you’ve explored the things to do in San Francisco.
- The largest island in the Bay Area is Angel Island, State Park. The island is accessible by ferry or private boat.