6 Unique Day Trip Destinations Around San Francisco (With Pics!)

There are several incredible destinations within easy reach from the City of Golden Gate. Here are the best day trips from San Francisco.

day trips around san francisco 1

What are some day trips to take around San Francisco?

Some of the best day trips from San Francisco include Santa Cruz, Sausalito, Half Moon Bay, Muir Woods National Monument, Filoli Estate and Pescadero Marsh Nature Preserve. While most of these places are open throughout the year, you should visit during spring or fall to avoid crowds.

Best Day Trips From San Francisco 

Known for its beautiful beaches, the Golden Gate Bridge, amazing bars, and world-class restaurants, it’s easy to see why San Francisco is one of the most popular destinations in California.

However, if you enjoyed all the sites within the town and you would like to explore other areas, or you simply want to escape the city for a change of scenery, there are lots of amazing day trips from San Francisco.

Whether you prefer climbing mountains, hiking forest trails, spending time by the sea, visiting museums or simply strolling through historic towns, there are more than enough places to visit around the City of Golden Gate.

In this article, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best day trips from San Francisco. With that said, let’s jump straight in.

Santa Cruz  

day trips around san francisco 1 1

Santa Cruz is a charming seaside town located approximately 70 miles to the south of San Francisco.

It will take approximately one hour under normal traffic conditions to drive there from Golden city. It has been one of the most popular tourist destinations around Monterey Bay for decades.

This town is lined with scenic beaches, featuring turquoise blue waters and white sands. Also, there are a couple of smaller bays to explore, in case you want to stay away from the crowds. 

Apart from beach lovers, this town also attracts surfers from all over the country, thanks to its friendly year-round weather and big waves.

If you are a history buff, then you should check out Mission Santa Cruz, built around the 18th century.

It doubles up as a chapel and museum. Once you’ve finished exploring, you can sit down at one of the town’s cafes and restaurants for a local delicacy.


day trips around san francisco 2

Sausalito is a relaxed, idyllic town, located in Marin County. You can get to this town either by car via the Golden Gate Bridge or a boat ride from San Francisco. 

Most people opt to visit this town via a boat ride, thanks to the amazing views along the way. You will enjoy stunning sights of Alcatraz, Angel Island and of course the Golden Gate Bridge.  

Here, you can spend a lazy afternoon strolling the streets of downtown Sausalito, where you can shop.

This part of the town also features Victorian-era buildings, lined with art galleries, boutiques, ice cream cafes and various locally-owned restaurants. 

You can also stop by one of the local seafood restaurants, where you can enjoy freshly caught fish.

Half Moon Bay

day trips around san francisco 3

If you like visiting or exploring small rural towns, then Half Moon Bay should make your list of day trips from San Francisco.

Located approximately 30 miles to the south, this small charming town is one of the few cities around this area that has managed to retain its countryside ambiance.

It’s renowned for its vegetable farms, flower farms, pumpkin patches and various ranches, spread throughout the hillsides. And, you can spend your mornings or evenings just exploring these farms and ranches.

Similar to other coastal towns, Half Moon Bay also has a stunning sandy beach on its coastline. Here, you take just relax on the beach or simply take a stroll along the shoreline. Surfers also visit this coastal town to brave its powerful waves. 

Also, pro-surfing competitions are held here regularly.

If you don’t want to spend time in the water, then this town also has you covered. 

You can enjoy outdoor activities like hiking, horseback riding, bird-watching and fishing around the Montara Mountain area. Also, this town is home to some of the best golf courses in California.  

Muir Woods National Monument

day trips around san francisco 4

Muir Woods National Monument is located around 16 miles north of San Francisco. The entire trip will take approximately 45 minutes. 

It’s one of the few left old-growth coastal redwood forests in the state.  

Here, you will have several miles of hiking trails, cutting through canopies of majestic redwood trees, and fern-filled riverbanks.

Some of the trails in this forest connect to Mount Tamalpais State Park. But, wherever you decide to hike, you will be surrounded by beauty, peace, fresh air and stunning scenery.

From Muir Woods, you can head down to Muir Beach, which is a few miles down at the Pacific Ocean.

This white-sand and tranquil beach has several amenities like picnic areas and camping sites. Afterward, you can grab a delicious meal at one of the local restaurants in the area.

Filoli Estate

day trips around san francisco 5

Filoli is an expansive, 654-acre estate, located in Woodside, California. It’s home to a Georgian Revival-style country house, which was built around 1915 to 197.

It was originally built for William Bowers Bourn II, one of the richest people in the area at the time. This day trip from San Francisco is one of the best for someone who wants to get away from the city for a couple of hours to catch a break.  

It has been open to the public since 1975 when the National Trust for Historic Preservation started looking after it. 

Its country house rivals some of the finest estates in Europe. It features striking architecture and luxurious rooms. It also has a considerable collection of spectacular paintings, antiques and interior décor.

Also, it has some of the most beautiful gardens. And, this may explain why it has been severally used as a filming location. 

The house has been featured in popular movies and shows like George of the Jungle, Dynasty and Heaven Can Wait, just to name a few.

Its well-landscaped gardens feature flowerbeds, decorative pools, a rose garden and several fountains. 

The estate is also home to a 10-acre orchard, which has more than 500 different fruit trees. 

There’s also a nature preserve on the estate, comprised of oak groves, chaparral, redwoods, a reservoir, grasslands, creeks and a pond. Also, the nature preserve has several hiking trails.

Pescadero Marsh Nature Preserve

day trips around san francisco 6

Are you an avid bird-watcher? If so, then you should organize a day trip from San Francisco to the Pescadero Marsh Nature Preserve. 

This 235-acre wetland is home to over 200 different species of birds, including the crested cormorants and the great blue heron.

Also, some endangered species like the San Francisco garter snake, the coho salmon, the steelhead trout and the California red-legged frog find refuge in this marsh.

If you would like to do some hiking, then you can explore one of the four trails in this nature preserve. 

Across the highway is the Pescadero State Beach, where you can enjoy a picnic, fishing, or swimming.

Key Takeaways

  • There are numerous amazing day trips from San Francisco
  • You can visit historic towns, forest parks, and beaches
  • These places are within easy reach of San Francisco
  • You should call these places in advance to confirm opening times