When you need a break and want to get away from San Francisco for the weekend, you have an almost limitless number of options. Couples may want to stay at The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay, which has ocean-view rooms, a luxurious spa, and fine dining. Families with children may prefer a resort destination with more activities, such as Lake Tahoe or Yosemite National Park.
You don’t have to travel far from San Francisco to get away from it all. Muir Beach in Marin County is only 18 miles (about a 45-minute drive) from The City, but it has the feel of a hidden paradise. Only 12 miles (a 35-minute drive) from San Francisco, the historic Claremont Club & Spa provides a pampering resort experience.
Because of California’s excellent freeway and highway system, many weekend getaways from the Bay Area are only a few hours away by car. A three-hour drive down the coast will take you to the historic waterfront town of Monterey and the enchanting seaside village of Carmel.
With our list of the best weekend getaways in the Bay Area, you can plan an interesting short break, an adventurous weekend away, or a relaxing escape.
The country’s biggest alpine lake straddles the border between California and Nevada, some 200 miles from the San Francisco Bay Area. Without traffic, the drive takes only about four hours.
Lake Tahoe is a beautiful paradise and world-class ski destination in the winter. Lake Tahoe is surrounded by many large-scale ski resorts, and the ski slopes overlook the magnificent expanse of emerald-blue waters.
Outdoor activities attract a large number of people to Lake Tahoe during the summer. Families and adventure seekers alike like the variety of attractions and activities available, which vary from boating and fishing to hiking and mountain biking. The Lake Tahoe wilderness has thousands of kilometres of hiking routes.
When the weather is nice, travellers come to Lake Tahoe’s beaches to enjoy the breathtaking mountain views and many recreational activities. The lake’s snow-melted waters become more temperate (suitable for swimming in shallow areas) throughout the summer, and the ripples glitter in the sunlight.
Kings Beach State Recreation Area is a beautiful sandy beach that is perfect for sunbathing, swimming, and boating. The leisure area is well-equipped, and the surrounding town of Kings Beach is teeming with stores, informal cafés, and snack bars.
Incline Village, a busy lakeside district with a plethora of hotels, stores, and restaurants, is another popular lakefront destination.
Stinson Beach is unbeatable for an old-fashioned, simple Bay Area weekend escape, especially for families. Stinson Beach, hidden amid rolling hills in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, is regarded as one of California’s greatest beaches.
The lovely white sand beach stretches for miles. In the summer, it’s an excellent beach for sunbathing and volleyball, and swimming is permitted when the circumstances are safe.
From July until Labor Day weekend, lifeguards patrol the beach. Surfers flock to the winter and spring seasons, and they do so at their own peril. Stinson Beach’s amenities include public bathrooms, showers, a snack bar, and picnic spots with BBQ grills.
Stinson Beach’s old-school village provides an eclectic mix of locally owned stores, cafés, and a tiny grocery store where travellers may stock up on supplies for a day at the beach.
Despite being approximately 35 minutes from downtown San Francisco, Stinson Beach is refreshingly absent of urban development. There are just a few historic hotels and boutique motels in town.
Travelers should be informed that the route to Stinson Beach is a challenging curving section of Highway One with several hairpin twists, despite the fact that many tourists enjoy the coastal scenery along the way. During the summer, the route becomes congested, and the journey takes twice as long.
Another factor to consider is that the parking lot at Stinson Beach frequently fills up on hot days, particularly on weekends throughout the summer. To ensure a parking place, arrive well before noon.
Stinson Beach is close to two other popular Marin County tourist attractions: Mount Tamalpais State Park and the federally protected Muir Woods National Monument, which has a primaeval forest of old-growth redwood trees.
Muir Beach is only 17 miles north of San Francisco, yet it feels like a secret sanctuary away from it all. The little sandy beach, nestled in a quiet cove, is protected by lush wooded slopes and shrub-covered cliffs.
The region around the beach is a natural preserve (part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area) and offers a network of hiking paths with stunning views of the Pacific Ocean.
Redwood Creek and its tidal lagoon, which runs into Muir Beach, are home to endangered Coho salmon and California red-legged frogs. A recent restoration effort has enhanced the ecosystem, allowing native species to flourish. To get to the beach, travellers must cross a pedestrian bridge that spans Redwood Creek.
Muir Beach is preferable to Stinson Beach for those who want peace and quiet. At this beach, the scenic surroundings is the focus, and services are restricted to public bathrooms, a tiny parking area, and a few picnic tables near the parking lot. There are several fire rings accessible on the beach for making beach bonfires. There are no lifeguards at Muir Beach.
Visitors should arrive early on summer weekends. The parking lot can fill up by approximately midday during high season, especially when the weather is warm. For picnics at the beach, an excellent spot to pick up groceries on the way is at Good Earth Natural Foods.
For a romantic retreat, the Pelican Inn at Muir Beach is the perfect setting. The hotel provides old-world elegance in an exquisite location. The half-timbered whitewashed house, with its slate roof and leaded windows, resembles a 16th-century English country inn.
The hotel boasts charming guest rooms that include historical design and a restaurant that serves classic English pub grub produced from local products.
Nestled in a coastal valley within walking distance of the Pelican Inn, the Green Gulch Farm is a haven of tranquillity. This organic farm and garden is home to the San Francisco Zen Center. Visitors may attend meditation sessions, workshops, Dharma lectures, and other public activities at the centre.
Muir Beach is closer to San Francisco than Stinson Beach but is on the same Highway One coastal route; nevertheless, the travel is not quite as strenuous. Muir Beach is only three miles away from the Muir Woods National Monument.
Point Reyes, less than an hour from San Francisco, is another unspoilt Bay Area weekend spot. The entire region is formally known as the Point Reyes National Seashore, a national park that contains the Point Reyes Lighthouse, which dates to 1870.
The Point Reyes Lighthouse is approached through a stairway of nearly 300 steps. Safety fence surrounds the steps since they are situated against an ocean bluff with precipitous slopes. Visitors can inside the lighthouse to observe the ancient Fresnel lens and clockwork mechanism.
A feature of the Point Reyes National Seashore is Point Reyes Beach, sometimes called Great Beach. This 11-mile area of natural shoreline is absolutely devoid of development.
The national seashore (like a national park) is also home to Drakes Beach, located near the lighthouse. This beach is America’s counterpart of England’s White Cliffs of Dover with magnificent, steep, white limestone cliffs soaring hundreds of feet over the choppy Pacific below.
The 22-acre four-star resort offers a multitude of leisure opportunities: swimming in one of the three saline pools, playing tennis on one of the 10 courts, and hiking in the Claremont Canyon Regional Preserve.
Many residents visit the Claremont to obtain a soothing spa treatment at the hotel’s famed spa, without staying overnight. Spa services include massages, facials, bath treatment, and hydrotherapy health experiences.
There are various eating options at the Claremont, including Limewood, a gourmet restaurant with great Bay views; East Bay Provisions, a casual café that provides morning pastries, brunch, deli sandwiches, and salads; and Weekend Brunch that offers brunch and poolside meals on the weekends.
The modest seaside town, historically known for its fishing and fish packing businesses, has transitioned from the grim John Steinbeck image into a delightful weekend vacation resort. Monterey is now loaded with tourist attractions, and the former fish canneries are now chic boutiques, art galleries, tourist stores, and restaurants.
It takes around 2.5 hours to travel down from San Francisco, over the incredibly gorgeous Roadway 1 coastal highway. Continuing deeper past Monterey into Carmel-by-the-Sea, tourists may drive along the spectacular 17-Mile Drive, which follows the seaside bluffs overlooking Pebble Beach and other picturesque sites like Spanish Bay.
Most tourists concentrate in the area of Cannery Row and near the Monterey Region Aquarium, a must-see sight that displays the exceptionally rich biodiversity of the bay.
The next city down the coast from Monterey, Carmel is a beautiful coastal community noted for its top-notch resort amenities: locally owned boutiques, art galleries, elegant hotels, attractive cafés, candy stores, bakeries, and fine-dining restaurants. Shopping is one of the best things to do in Carmel. It’s exciting to peruse the one-of-a-kind boutiques and find artisan-made things.
Development is severely regulated in downtown Carmel. The flower-bedecked and tree-shaded alleys are dotted with an ensemble of typical Spanish-style houses and lovely storybook cottages that date to the 1920s. The community also has no traffic signals, no parking metres, and no individual address numbers on structures (each building has a name instead) (each building has a name instead).
The city is officially named Carmel-by-the-Sea and has long been a mecca for artists of all sorts. The city prides itself as being highly dog-friendly, and canine companions are accepted at most of the city’s establishments. Dogs are also permitted, off-leash, at Carmel Beach.
Carmel’s magnificent sandy beach and breathtaking sunsets make it the perfect spot for romantic couples’ retreats.
This man-made lake was constructed in the 1960s with the construction of a massive dam that currently delivers hydroelectric electricity to many Bay Area communities. The lake, the largest in Napa County, is where San Franciscans come to relax and to play on the water.
Lake Berryessa is particularly popular with boaters, as well as swimmers and water skiers. The lake is stocked with a wide variety of fish and is a popular getaway destination for anglers.
Surrounding the lake is a massive, 6,000-acre natural reserve, which contains hiking paths and other areas to explore. The lake lies north of San Francisco and it takes around two hours to travel here.
About 90 minutes north of San Francisco in Sonoma County, Bodega Bay is another Bay Area hideaway that thrills visitors with its wild, rocky stretch of shoreline. The vast sheltered bay covers a sprawling beachfront with superb golden-sand beaches and is a popular site for kayaking.
The neighbourhood comprises a fishing harbour and the picturesque settlement of Bodega Bay. The town caters to tourists with a broad selection of lodgings, including expensive hotels like the Inn at the Tides and the Bodega Bay Lodge. There are other cheap choices such as the Bodega Coast Inn & Suites.
Movie lovers may remember the village of Bodega Bay from its appearance as the location for the legendary Alfred Hitchcock thriller The Birds.
The area’s history is intriguing. It was held by the Russians in the early 19th century before becoming part of Spanish California and then the United States.
This picture-perfect beachfront village nestles along a peaceful bay in Marin County, on the opposite side of the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s just a short boat journey away from San Francisco.
Wooded slopes encircle the town, and an assortment of exquisite homes stand above the water. Sunny yacht marinas give Sausalito the sense of a Mediterranean seaside vacation town and are often depicted by local artists in paintings. Tucked away by the shoreline are colourful small houseboats, vestiges of the town’s free-spirited days in the Bohemian 1960s.
Sausalito boasts an appealing downtown replete with art galleries, shops, and eateries. The most lively portion of the town is situated directly adjacent to the ferry terminal and continuing from there along Bridgeway, the town’s main thoroughfare, which runs beside a lovely waterfront promenade.
Several gourmet restaurants on Bridgeway (or right off this street) provide wonderful bay views, including The Spinnaker and the upmarket Italian restaurant Scoma’s of Sausalito.
The coastal beauty of the Marin Headlands offers a wonderful background for the hamlet of Sausalito. Some of the views of the Golden Gate Bridge, bay, and city from the elevated points in Sausalito are simply breathtaking (and highly Instagram-worthy) (and very Instagram-worthy).
Amenities at The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay include a championship golf course, an expansive spa, tennis courts, and fitness centre. The hotel also boasts three outstanding restaurants with beautiful seaside views.
The lovely tiny country town and its surrounding nature features offer plenty of visitor appeal. Half Moon Bay is a favourite weekend resort for couples, as well as for families with kids, and adventurous types. Visitors may enjoy walks along the beach, check out the local farms, and go trekking in the adjacent redwood forests.
Sonoma County, approximately an hour’s drive from San Francisco, is like a cheaper, more real Napa Valley. It’s packed with vine-covered fields, and there are several curbside farm booths where you can buy fresh fruits and vegetables.
Dairies and other local producers also operate roadside kiosks where you may buy and taste fresh cheese, meats, and other goods. The region is also filled with a few luxury resorts and spas.
Outdoor activities include hiking, biking (road and mountain), boating, and fishing. A nice area to trek is the Jack London State Historic Park, which aside from having miles of hiking trails, features the old house and the burial of famed novelist Jack London.
Sonoma is both a city and a county, and Sonoma Plaza is the city of Sonoma’s 19th-century town centre and main street area. Railroad aficionados (and kids) will appreciate the Sonoma TrainTown Railroad, a small-gauge steam railroad and train amusement park