The best weekend getaways from San Francisco

Escape from the city with these stress-free weekend getaways, including jaunts to Big Sur, Napa and Lake Tahoe
Photograph: Flickr/Steve Dunleavy Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park
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While there never seems to be enough time to pack in all the incredible things to do in the city, sometimes you just gotta get outta Dodge. Whether you’re seeking awe-inspiring scenery, buzzy wineries or amenity-laden hotels, these California weekend getaways are just a road trip away.

RECOMMENDED: The best things to do in Napa

Weekend getaways from San Francisco

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Cabin in the Redwoods, Mendocino, CA
Photograph: Airbnb

Mendocino

3hr 20min from SF

A NorCal oasis of untouched treelines, organic farms and sublime farm-to-table dining just north of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Check out: Learn about organic farming at Oz Farm (41601 Mountain View Rd; 707-882-3046), then watch the sunset at Glass Beach

Stay at: Just a short walk from downtown, Blue Door Inn (10481 Howard St; 707-937-4892) is a cozy B&B featuring complimentary breakfast foods, all-day cookies and hot drinks. 

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High Sierras
Photograph: Flickr/David Denicolò

High Sierras

A hidden treasure trove of old-school Americana, the High Sierras should be high on everyone’s travel list.

Check out: The Giant Sequoia National Monument (47050 Generals Hwy Three Rivers; 559-565-3341) which boasts one of the tallest trees on earth and the densest concentration of Sequoiadendron giganteum—the largest of the redwood species—anywhere in the world.

Stay at: Virginia Creek Settlement (70847 US-395; 760-932-7780) for a no-frills, yet all-inclusives experience in a wooden cabin and easy access to nearby Mono Lake.

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Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park
Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/Steve Dunleavy

Big Sur

2hr 40min from SF

Find unbeatable hiking, exhilarating scenery and a low-key neighborhood vibe at this woodsy coastal retreat.

Check out: Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park (47555 Hwy 1; 831-667-2315), a coastal hiking and camping site with redwood groves and an 80-foot waterfall. Abandon your modesty for a soak in the clothing-optional hot springs at Esalen Institute (55000 Hwy 1; 888-837-2536) a New Age retreat that’s open to the public by reservation only. Watch the sunset from the heated patio at Nepenthe (48510 Hwy 1; 831-667-2345), where you’ll get views of the mountains and ocean. (Tip:Skip the overpriced food and stick with drinks instead.)

Stay at: Treebones Resort (71895 Hwy 1; 805-927-2390), a community of yurts furnished with queen-sized beds and heaters. For less of a glamping experience—but far better photos—roll out sleeping bags in the Human Nest, a lofted, woven-wood-art shelter.

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Carmel Mission
Photograph: Shutterstock

Carmel

2hr from SF

Packed with art, wine and history, the charming seaside town feels downright European.

Check out: The historic Carmel Mission (3080 Rio Rd; 831-624-1271), arguably the most stunning of California’s 21 Spanish-era missions. Hike through Point Lobos State Reserve (Hwy 1 and Riley Ranch Rd), where trails wind along the Pacific coast. Afterwards, relax at Refuge (27300 Rancho San Carlos Rd; 831-620-7360), a thermal spa featuring hot and cool pools, steam rooms, saunas and fire pits. Pack a picnic at the Cheese Shop (Carmel Plaza, Ocean Ave and Junipero Ave; 831-625-2272) and stake out a spot on Carmel Beach to watch the sunset.

Stay at: The Quail Lodge (8205 Valley Greens Dr; 831-624-2888), which completed a $28 million makeover in 2013. The updated rooms have hardwood floors, vaulted ceilings and cushy window seats—request a view of the lake. Rooms start at $195.

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Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa
Photograph: Courtesy Booking.com

Monterey

2hr from SF

Known for its world-class aquarium and coastal wine tastings, Monterey Bay is a paradise of views and sealife. 

Check out: The world-famous Monterey Bay Aquarium (886 Cannery Row; 831-648-4800) is a must-do for locals and tourists. From November to February, see butterflies galore at The Monarch Sanctuary (250 Ridge Rd.; 831-648-3100). Head down Cannery Row (Cannery Row, Monterey), for luxury shopping and wine tastings

Stay at: Only kayakers get closer to the water at Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa. This posh hotel dials up the wow factor with a dynamo waterfront setting—half of the hotel sits on stilts directly above the crystal-clear Monterey Bay. 

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The Carneros Inn
Photograph: Courtesy The Carneros Inn

Napa

1hr 15min from SF

A hotbed of farm-to-table food, decadent hotels and sun-drenched vineyards, wine country is a favored getaway for the fog-weary.

Check out: Castello di Amorosa (4045 St. Helena Hwy; 707-967-6272), know for their Italian-inspired wines and tastings, offers guided tours of the castle and vineyards. Visit Domaine Carneros Winery (1240 Duhig Rd; 707-257-0101), which specializes in sparkling wines, to see the French-inspired chateau and walk the formal gardens. Stroll through the Oxbow Public Market (610 1st St) to try bites from local bakers, butchers and foodtrucks. 

Stay at: The Carneros Inn (4048 Sonoma Hwy, Napa; 707-299-4900), a resort of private cottages where the hilltop infinity pool offers vineyard views (rooms start at $450).

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Photograph: Courtesy Sausalito Floating Homes Tour
Sausalito Floating Homes Tour

Sausalito

30min from SF

On the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge is a laid-back hub for farmers markets, dining and gorgoeus hikes. 


Check out: Vista Point (US-101 and Conzelman Rd; 415-921-5858) to snag a killer shot of the greater Bay Area and aerial still of the Golden Gate Bridge. Learn about the sea lions and other marine mammals that frequent Bay Area waters at The Marine Mammal Center (2000 Bunker Rd; 415- 289-7325 ). Take a walk through Sausalitos namesake Homeboat yards (Gate 6 Rd.) to get a taste of what life on the water might be like. 

Stay at: The Inn Above Tide (30 El Portal; 415-332-9535) for unforgettable views of San Francisco and both the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges.

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The Marshall Store
Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/Eric Persha

Point Reyes

1hr 15min from SF

This sleepy fishing town is known for its fresh oysters and natural beauty.

Check out: Toby’s Feed Barn (11250 Hwy 1; 415-663-1223), a family-owned community center that includes a generously stocked general store, a farmer’s market, a yoga studio, an art gallery and a coffee bar. Hike along Point Reyes National Seashore (1 Bear Valley Rd; 415-663-1835), where you can watch the elephant seals gather at Chimney Rock and descend the stairs to the Point Reyes Lighthouse. Then rent a kayak or paddle-board to see the coastline from a different angle (pointreyesoutdoors.com).

 

Stay at: Nick’s Cove (23240 Hwy 1; 415-663-1033), where the bayside cottages are equipped with kitchenettes and wood-burning stoves. 

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Lake Tahoe
Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/Tom Bricker

Lake Tahoe and Truckee

4hr from SF

Populated by moneyed ski buffs and chilled-out boarders, this ski hub encapsulates laid-back luxury.

Check out: There’s more to Tahoe than its ski slopes. Trek to Emerald Bay (11001 CA-89, South Lake Tahoe; 530-541-3030), a shockingly turquoise inlet ringed by hiking trails. Choose from more than 500 wines—many from family-owned vineyards—at The Pour House (10075 Jibboom St, Truckee; 530-550-9664), a tiny, but well-stocked tasting room and cheese shop. Hear local bands at Moody’s (10007 Bridge St, Truckee; 530-587-8688), a bar and live music venue in the Truckee Hotel.

Stay at: Basecamp Hotel (4143 Cedar Ave, South Lake Tahoe; 530-208-0180), a playful, modern hotel that looks like the set of a Wes Anderson movie. 

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Screamin' Mimi's
Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/Andrew Storms

Sebastopol

1hr 30min from SF

Fifty miles north of San Francisco, this city balances its arty, hippie past with a youthful, vibrant bar and food scene.

Check out: The Barlow (6770 McKinley St, #120; 707-824-5600), a four-block compound filled with restaurants, distilleries, breweries and galleries. Drive down Florence Ave, a 14-mile-long outdoor gallery of so-called “junk art” by artists Patrick Amiot and Bridgette Laurent. Then dig through rare books, art, furniture and decor at the Antique Society (2661 Gravenstein Hwy; 707-829-1733), a quirky collective of 125 dealers. 

Stay at: Pearlessence Vineyard Inn (4097 Hessel Rd; 707-823-5092), a pretty B&B with thoughtful perks like heated floors, rain showers and an outdoor fire pit. Rooms start at $220.

See the best road trips in America

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