7 Summer Road Trips Within 4 Hours of San Francisco
San Francisco may be beautiful, but something about the thick marine layer and gusty winds this time of year makes us want to get out of Dodge. Whether you’re in the market for Wine Country heat, a bucolic coastal retreat or crisp mountain air, these seven not-so-far-flung destinations are worth hitting the road for.
HALF MOON BAY, CALIFORNIA
This small beachside town is close enough for a day trip, but you’ll feel more like a local by shacking up here for the weekend.
Stay: Seal Cove Inn is steps away from Fitzgerald Marine Reserve, where you can explore tide pools and see seals sunning themselves. Plus, the charming European-style inn feels like one of the most romantic spots on the West Coast.
Eat: Go on, be a tourist and order a bowl of New England clam chowder and an ice-cold beer at Sam’s Chowder House.
Do: Farm + Fish + Flowers (July 28) is your chance to experience HMB’s local bounty at nurseries and farms, many of which aren’t regularly open to the public. If you miss the event, you can still buy fish and crab fresh off the boat at Pillar Point Harbor.
SANTA ROSA, CALIFORNIA
Santa Rosa was hit pretty hard by last year’s Wine Country fires, but it’s back in business and begging for you to visit. If a downtown scene in close proximity to vineyards is your jam, head north on the 101 this summer.
Stay: Right in the heart of downtown, The Astro is a hip, remodeled motor lodge with a mid-century vibe. If you like it, you can buy it—all the furniture, fixtures and artwork at the motel are available to purchase.
Eat: A short walk from the motel, The Spinster Sisters serves up what they call “Sonoma seasonal” with international twists, including dishes like kimchee-and-bacon deviled eggs and sticky confit duck wings.
Do: The motel has a fleet of Shinola bikes for rent, which you can ride to Santa Rosa Creek Trail, just a few minutes away. The flat, paved trail will take you to stunning views of vineyards and farms.
This tiny town right on the coast in Mendocino County calls to anyone looking for a little R&R. It’s the perfect excuse to leave the iPad at home.
Stay: After a eight-year-long renovation of its historic 1916 Craftsman-style house, Harbor House Inn awaits. Surrounded by old-growth redwoods and dramatic coastline, you’ll have no problem unplugging for the weekend.
Eat: You don’t have to wander far for the fresh Dungeness crab and abalone at the inn’s on-site restaurant. But our favorite part? The crunchy, chewy house-made sourdough bread slathered with umami-rich butter seasoned with grilled sea lettuce.
Do: Meander through the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens in nearby Fort Bragg, where you’ll find more than 125 species of rhododendrons and breathtaking bluff-side views of the Pacific.
SAN LUIS OBISPO, CALIFORNIA
You might know it as home to Cal Poly University, but SLO is more than just a college town, boasting trendy restaurants, boutique hotels and lots of local art.
Stay: Book yourself a room at The Butler Hotel, a new spot close to downtown that used to be an auto repair shop.
Eat: The menu leans plant-heavy at Vegetable Butcher, a new casual eatery serving fresh Latin American—inspired dishes. Don’t miss the “forbidden” sesame cauliflower.
Do: Start your weekend early and get down to SLO in time for Art After Dark, a monthly first-Friday happening when 20-plus galleries and shops keep their doors open after hours.
This picturesque bohemian village on the Central Coast is prized for the pristine white sands of world-famous Carmel Beach. But there’s more to do than just frolic along the shore.
Stay: Recently revamped with a modern, casual-chic beach vibe, The Getaway feels like Nantucket meets the West Coast. Cozy up next to a fire pit on the terrace with a glass of wine and watch the sunset.
Eat: Keep the cozy vibe going with dinner at La Bicyclette, a European-style bistro where the food is deliciously simple. Share a cheese plate, charcuterie board and wood-fired pizza for the perfect date night.
Do: Spend the day touring Carmel’s 41 passageways and secret courtyards, inspired by old European towns and architecture, on this self-guided tour.
Don’t let the row of casinos distract you. This stretch of South Lake Tahoe has a lot more to offer than clubs and craps. Soak up the summer heat and check out the newest spots in this bustling mountain town.
Stay: Inspired by its breathtaking lakefront location, Edgewood Tahoe does not disappoint. The hotel’s Great Room has 38-foot-tall floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the lake and a massive fireplace surrounded by cozy couches. Did we mention the heated pool and hot tub?
Eat: The brand-new Outpost Brewing Co. has much more on tap than local brews. Relax on a porch swing with a pint of Jungle Juice Guava Ale and then park yourself at a patio table in the beer garden for grilled sausages and goat mac ’n’ cheese.
Do: Walk off your coconut waffle brunch from Red Hut Café on the Lam Watah Trail to Nevada Beach. It’s an easy three-mile out-and-back hike with beautiful wildflowers along the way.
SANTA CRUZ, CALIFORNIA
We all know Santa Cruz for its famous beach boardwalk and amusement park. Leave those to the tourists and make like a local instead.
Stay: Dream Inn is a mod nod to surf legend Jack O’Neill, complete with custom boards hanging in the lobby. It’s the only Santa Cruz hotel with beach access, but we’re digging the spacious pool deck for all-day lounging.
Eat: Nothing says summer like oysters and lobster rolls, both of which you’ll find aplenty at All Aboard, a hip new restaurant in Abbott Square’s marketplace.
Do: Reserve your spot on the Brew Cruz, a brewery tour in a vintage VW bus, and taste your way through Santa Cruz’s best local beers.