If you’re tired of dodging trams and battling the steep slopes of San Francisco, it may be best to cast your net a bit wider and see what the surrounding areas have to offer. Drive through the lingering fog that cloaks the Golden Gate Bridge and you’ll emerge into sunny highlands veined with hiking trails, while further inland lie the towering granite peaks of Yosemite National Park. Those partial to a tipple or two may find what they’re after in Napa Valley but, if you prefer the taste of salty sea air, try adventuring down the coast to Monterey and Carmel.
Escape from the city to intoxicating (in more ways than one) Wine Country. Wind through the sun-soaked Sonoma Valley towards its award-winning wineries and vineyards, soaking up some vibrant 80s spirit from the back of a vintage VW camper as you go. Find respite from the heat in the earthy cool of wine caves, where you will learn all about the winemaking process, before getting the chance to savor a selection of Californian varietals with a guided wine-tasting and a gourmet Italian lunch.
Hitting the road in the morning, your driver-slash-guide will lead you along the picturesque coast. As the landscape morphs from concrete skyscrapers to the cobalt cloak of the ocean, you’ll stop for leg stretches and breakfast bagels before hitting the Pacific Coast Highway to Monterey Bay. The jam-packed day is stuffed with aquarium visits, monarch butterfly sightings, strolls down chalk-white sandy beaches and a stop at the most photographed tree in North America (The Lone Cypress). When you reach the artistic town of Carmel-by-the-Sea, you’ll have time to explore its fairytale cottages, diverse art galleries and seafood restaurants before heading back past crescent-shaped beaches and sprawling golf courses.
As your driver whisks you across the Golden Gate Bridge, you’ll be free to sit back and admire the striking San Francisco skyline. In a blink, you’ll be strolling through the colossal evergreens of Muir Woods. The dense forest is speared by the rust-colored trunks of towering redwood trees. Twisted and snarled by time and weather, with some almost 1,000 years old, they provide an Arcadian setting to amble through as your guide gives an insightful commentary. The following stop is the tree-speckled hills of Sausalito, where you’ll savor a sustainable-seafood lunch at marine restaurant Fish, and wander past rows of colorfully kooky houseboats.