Although Napa and Sonoma are often praised as unbeatable day trip destinations from nearby San Francisco, don’t make the mistake of dismissing either of these picturesque cities as incredible options for your vacation’s home base.
While wine tasting will undoubtedly take up a large portion of your Napa or Sonoma travel itinerary, the California wine country also offers plenty more to see and do, from stunning beaches and world renowned restaurants to pristine forests and hiking trails. We’ve planned out nine day trips to take from both Napa and Sonoma to inspire incoming visitors and local residents alike.
Point Reyes Station: Point Reyes National Seashore
Point Reyes Seashore in Marin County is known for the rocky beaches and local farms. Spend the day hiking along the coast or take a historic tour of the Point Reyes Lighthouse built in 1870 and still in beautiful condition. To the south, the stunning 40-foot Alamere Falls cascades onto Wildcat Beach (though it will take a 13-mile round-trip hike to see it), and there are several shops in town to rent ocean kayaks for a day of paddling on Tomales Bay.
Getting There: Point Reyes is located about 60 miles from Napa or 50 miles from Sonoma. The simplest route to the national seashore is through Petaluma town via Highway 116, and turning onto Sir Francis Drake Boulevard once you reach Point Reyes Station.
Travel Tip: Most of the area that makes up the national seashore is located on a peninsula, and the closest gas station from the lighthouse on the end is 20 miles away in Point Reyes Station.
Bodega Bay: Whale Watching at Bodega Bay Trailhead
The best time to spot whales in northern California is from December to May, and the high cliffs at Bodega Bay Trailhead offer some of the best viewpoints to see breaching whales, as well as plenty of coastal hiking trails. In the area, you’ll find some adorable local restaurant options for some of the best seafood in the area, including Spud Point Crab Company and Fishetarian Fish Market.
Getting There: Bodega Bay is 50 miles from Napa and 40 miles from Sonoma via CA-12 West. Find the trailhead at the very end of Westshore Road.
Travel Tips: Alfred Hitchcock filmed the movie "The Birds" in Bodega Bay, so movie buffs will recognize the famous Potter schoolhouse and the St. Teresa of Avila Church in town.
Oakland: Uptown's Arts and Entertainment
The city of Oakland has gone through a massive revival in the past decade, rivaling even that of its sister city San Francisco across the bay. The Uptown neighborhood in Oakland has new indie boutiques, bars, and restaurants popping up all the time. Known as the city’s arts and entertainment district, Uptown hosts the Fox and Paramount theaters and a number of art galleries as well.
Getting There: Find Oakland’s Uptown neighborhood between 17th and 25th streets in Oakland, about 40 miles south of Napa and 50 miles south of Sonoma.
Travel Tip: If you still have some time to kill, head to Lake Merrit for a tour on an Italian-style authentic gondola or visit the historic Jack London Square to check out the museums and grab a cup of Blue Bottle Coffee.
Golden Gate National Recreation Area: Alcatraz Island
Spanning over 80,000 acres, Golden Gate National Recreation Area comprises 19 distinct ecosystems across San Francisco, Marin, and San Mateo counties. One of its most popular highlights is Alcatraz Island, is a former fort, military prison, and maximum security federal penitentiary. While it is most famous for housing prisoners like Al Capone, it also holds a historic garden and the first lighthouse built on the Pacific Coast.
Getting There: Alcatraz Cruises is the official ferry provider to get to Alcatraz Island, with departures every half hour starting at 9:30 a.m. every day from Pier 33.
Travel Tip: If you have your heart set on Alcatraz, be sure to book your ticket online in advance, as they’ve been known to sell out.
San Francisco: Pier 39
Pier 39 in Fisherman’s Wharf is the pinnacle of tourist areas in San Francisco, complete with street performers and museums. You’ll also be able to view some of the city’s famous sea lions from here and visit the popular Aquarium of the Bay. Spend the day enjoying the ocean air and exploring the pier’s many unique and kitschy shops, take a boat tour of the bay, or hop on the sightseeing trolly from here.
Getting There: Pier 39 is on the north end of San Francisco near the North Beach neighborhood. Most drivers take the Golden Gate Bridge from Sonoma and the Bay Bridge from Napa to get there, both of which will take about an hour depending on traffic. Read more about the route options here.
Travel Tip: If you’re spending more time in the city, stop by the Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center for some valuable visitor information.
Mill Valley: Muir Woods National Monument
The towering redwood trees at Muir Woods National Monument have been federally protected for more than a century, and its 6 miles of maintained trails are perfect for families with small children who want to learn about the forest. There are a series of raised boardwalks and asphalt trails accessible for strollers and a Junior Ranger program through the park’s visitor center.
Getting There: From Napa or Sonoma, take the CA-37 West to the US-101 South towards the Golden Gate Bridge. Napa is only slightly farther from the park, and will take just over an hour’s drive compared to Sonoma’s 55 minutes.
Travel Tip: On weekends and holidays, the park offers a Muir Woods Shuttle that picks up passengers near a separate parking area off Highway 101 and drops visitors off directly in front of the entrance. Also, be prepared for zero cell phone service when you get inside.
Guerneville: The Russian River
The Russian River's main access point is found on Johnson’s Beach, just within walking distance from downtown Guernville. Along the main street, there are multiple places to rent canoes, kayaks, umbrellas, beach chairs, and gear for the most popular activity: inner tubing. The Russian River is also a hotspot for year round catfish and bass fishing.
Getting There: Guernville is about 60 miles north of Napa and 40 miles from Sonoma. From Napa, take Highway 128 through Calistoga and head west on Mark West Springs Road. From Sonoma, take Highway 12 through Santa Rosa and head west on River Road.
Travel Tips: Especially in the summer, the Russian River sees large crowds of both visitors and locals who come to cool down on the river, so start early if you plan on floating (and be sure to bring more water than you think you’ll need!).
Sacramento: Old Sacramento Waterfront
Registered as an official national landmark, the Old Sacramento Waterfront pairs historic western style buildings with modern attractions (like a 65 foot ferris wheel and carousel). At the water’s edge, choose from an authentic riverboat and a train ride or a pedal-powered party boat. For lunch, try the Delta King Riverboat, a floating hotel and museum on a restored river vessel. From horse drawn carriages to local tattoo shops, there isn’t much you can’t find in this unique part of the city.
Getting There: Old Sacramento is right next to downtown along the Sacramento River. Take Highway 80 east from both Sonoma (70 miles) and Napa (60 miles).
Travel Tip: Some businesses offering valet parking, but there are also two-hour metered spots available from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. with free holiday parking on the street.
Glen Ellen: Jack London State Historic Park
Jack London State Park is an underrated hidden gem in the quaint town of Glen Ellen. Its 48 acres comprise the former home and property of famous writer Jack London and contains the cottage residence where he wrote some of his later books and short stories. Fans of the writer won’t want to miss the small museum and cottage tours, but the site also has several hiking trails and picnic spots to help visitors sit back and enjoy nature.
Getting There: Glen Ellen is a mere 9 miles north of Sonoma and about 22 miles from the center of Napa. From Napa, take Highway 12 west to Sonoma before turning onto Arnold Drive headed north.
Travel Tip: Triple Creek Horse Outfit offers guided horseback riding tours through Jack London State Park. Tours take riders to unique locations past vineyards, redwood tree forests, and wildflower fields, and the company is open year round.