beyond San Francisco, visitors experience a subtle transition. From lush
vineyards to a rugged coastline, surrounding communities complement The
City's many virtues.
North Just across the world-famous Golden Gate Bridge lies Marin
County, a hill-coated haven combining the quaint and alluring with the
mighty and majestic. The Alexander Avenue exit off Highway 101 leads to
Sausalito, a charming Mediterranean look-alike nestled along an inviting
shoreline eight miles north of San Francisco. Rustic houses cascade down
deep slopes to the bay, overlooking shops and open-air restaurants. Ferries
from San Francisco make frequent crossings to Sausalito, as well as the
nearby towns of Tiburon and Larkspur.
San Rafael, Marin's largest city, is 17 miles from San Francisco. Points
of interest include the Marin Civic Center, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
The terrain becomes more challenging at Mt. Tamalpais State Park, a 6,220-acre
adventure 15 miles from San Francisco off Highway 101. Two miles beyond
Mt. Tam, off Highway 1, rests Muir Woods National Monument, a 550-acre
preserve of old growth coast redwoods, some as high as 252 feet and dating
back 1,000 years. It's another 18 miles along Highway 1 to Point Reyes
National Seashore, a 67,000-acre ocean park packed with diversions. The
visitor center at Bear Valley is a good starting point for seashore explorations
and features a life-size model of a Miwok Indian village.
Farther north, stretching 400 miles to the Oregon border, the small
seaside towns of Bodega Bay, Jenner by the Sea, Sea Ranch, Fort Ross,
Mendocino and Fort Bragg recall bygone eras. Many a glass has been raised
amid the sprawling countryside of the historic Sonoma and Napa wine country,
one hour north of San Francisco. The incessant sipping can be traced to
more than 300 wineries.
Three routes make for pleasant exploration: U.S. 101 north from Santa
Rosa, Highways 12 and 121 through Sonoma County, and Highway 29 north
from Napa. While traveling 101 north, be sure and stop in Petaluma, home
to charming Victorians, Adobe State Park (California's largest) and paddlewheeler
The East Bay communities of Oakland, Berkeley and Alameda spring up across
the eight-mile San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, offering a fascinating
mix of culture and history. Jack London Square and Village is a captivating
collection of shops and restaurants on Oakland's western waterfront. Lake
Merritt in The City's downtown corridor is ideal for jogging enthusiasts
and midday daydreamers. Berkeley, a well-known liberal stronghold, is
home to the University of California, offers unique shopping, trend-setting
restaurants and world-renowned cultural and performing arts. Joe DiMaggio's
hometown of Martinez and the quiet communities of Benicia and Vallejo,
the latter home to Six Flags Marine World, are within 45 minutes of San
In the Tri-Valley area near Dublin, Livermore and Pleasanton, 15 award-winning
wineries make this one of the most accessible areas for wine adventures.
Lake Tahoe, a four-hour drive, is the most coveted jewel in the stunning
Sierra Nevada mountains. Accessible via Highway 50 or 80, it's a skier's
paradise with breathtaking scenery and exciting nightlife, including gambling
(on the Nevada side of the lake). Yosemite National Park in the heart
of Mariposa County just four hours southeast of San Francisco is an all
season center for recreation and getaways. Giant glaciers, granite cliffs
and magnificent waterfalls encircle visitors.
Nature paints an especially alluring portrait south of The City; charming
resorts spring up along California's majestic Highway 1 coastline, while
equally enticing escapes await inland. Pacifica, a charming coastal community
just three miles down Highway 1, offers miles of hiking trails. Picturesque
seaside towns that include Half Moon Bay and Princeton-by-the-Sea encourage
The Monterey Bay Aquarium, Cannery Row and the 17-Mile Drive along Pebble
Beach are musts for Monterey Peninsula visitors. Carmel is tucked away
under a blanket of trees; its downtown shopping sector resembles a peaceful
turn-of-the-century marketplace. A short distance beyond Carmel lies the
gorgeous grandeur of Big Sur, a good argument for applying the brakes.