If you travel across San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, you’ll enter Marin County, a rather wealthy and laid back area. Marin County is beautiful and varied peninsula with on the bay side expensive and exclusive Sausalito while the wild Pacific coastline stretches north to Stinson Beach, a popular destination, and Point Reyes National Seashore Park which is actually one of the best locations in California for whale watching.
When you travel between the Bay and the Pacific ocean, the hills are rise to the over 2500ft (750m) peaks of Mount Tamalpais that overlook Muir Woods. From Mount Tam, you can enjoy a breathtaking panorama of cities, bay, ocean, and hills. More than 210 miles (330 km) of biking and hiking trails are winding around the area where fox, deer, bobcat, fox, and even a few mountain lions are dwelling in the dells and forests.
Marin is situated just across San Francisco’s world-famous Golden Gate Bridge: California 101 is cutting directly through the area and Highway 1 turns left at Mill Valley to head out to the Pacific coast. Many buses can take you from the City into all corners of the Bay Area and you can find plenty of ferries that will bring you from San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf to Larkspur, Tiburon. and Sausalito.
San Francisco Bay Area: Wine Country
You can check out Northern California’s fantastic Wine Country in a day if you travel from the City, but if you would stay overnight, you will get a far better taste the area’s vineyards. If you like the area like most people do, you might even consider moving here (if you can afford it), though moving to San Francisco is already expensive enough!
The two wine valleys, Sonoma and world-renown Napa, are lying a little north in San Francisco’s Bay Area, about an hour’s drive of the City. Both wine areas are offering the rustic beauty of wineries, vineyards, golden and green hills, and wildflowers but in character, the two valleys are different. Napa Valley lies further inland includes more than 200 wineries, many of which have knock-out views, gorgeous and lush gardens, impressive art collections, and stunning architecture.
One particularly noteworthy property is Stag’s Leap Winery that had its outstanding ’73 Cabernet Sauvignon beat the best French Cabernets in Paris at a blind wine-tasting event. The beautiful spa town of Calistoga, in the northern Napa area, is a very attractive option if you want to spend the night in the Napa wine area. Sonoma Valley, on the other hand, is less commercial, more laid back, and low key. Sonoma Valley has just over 30 wineries where often free wine tasting is, fortunately, still the norm. See also this post about some San Francisco Highlights.
San Francisco Bay Area: Oakland
If you travel across the San Francisco Bay via the double-decks Bay Bridge, you’ll get to Oakland. This is the most populated city in the eastern portions of the Bay Area. The city’s downtown area has not much dazzling to offer, but if you look well, you can discover some real treasures amid the town’s slightly decrepit buildings. Worth noting is the mosaic-fronted Paramount Theater dating back to 1931 which houses the Oakland ballet and the city’s symphony orchestra. Also, the abandoned Fox Oakland Theater, going back to 1928, is truly an Art Deco gem. Oakland ‘s Chinatown is not tourist-orientated and is found near Webster and Franklin Streets. The city’s Jack London Square is actually a remodeled industrial zone on Oakland’s waterfront where you can find numerous bars and restaurants. For details about the Golden Gate Bridge’s History, check out this article.
Much is dedicated to Jack London, an Oakland native. In Jack London Village you can find the Jack London Museum that highlights the work and life of the author. The visual centerpiece of downtown Oakland is Lake Merritt, a man-made estuary that actually was America’s first wildlife refuge. Oakland Museum is located close by and is renown for its impressive collection that centers on California history and art and the endangered ecosystems of the state. You can easily get there by train, on the Richmond or Pittsburg/Bay Point line, by AC Transit bus from San Francisco ‘s Transbay Terminal or drive over the Bay Bridge and take the I-880 to downtown Oakland. See also this post about the best San Francisco Museums.
San Francisco Bay Area: Berkeley
Berkeley was the first California seat of the radical student movement. Since the protests’ heydays of the sixties, Berkeley has pretty much mellowed down, but the university town is still a true mecca of the bizarre and political liberalism. Berkeley, located just north of Oakland, is built around California’s oldest university campus and the town reaches all the way from the San Francisco Bay to the East Bay foothills.
The center of Berkeley’s remarkable and varied student area is Telegraph Avenue, from where the beautiful university campus can be entered through Sproul Plaza, a marvelous center for drum-circle jamming and people-watching. Another point of interest on the school’s campus is the 300ft (95m) high Sather Tower.