Epic adventures around San Francisco


By Averi Haugesag, San Francisco-based writer and outdoor enthusiast.

Photography by Mitch Diamond 

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January 2018

While the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, historic Alcatraz Island and other attractions bring millions of people to the San Francisco Bay Area each year, there are plenty of incredible experiences to see beyond the tourist spots, says local writer and outdoor enthusiast Averi Haugesag. 

For those who want a few iconic sights: Scoot around the city

If you’re looking for a fast, fun way to see all the sights of the city, Scoot is the way to go. Scoots are ‘shared, electric, smartphone-activated motor scooters’ that you can pick up and drop off all over the City of San Francisco. Not only does it mean you weave your way through even the most congested traffic, it’s incredibly affordable in comparison to other forms of transport. Take your Scoot through Golden Gate Park and wave hello to the buffalo. Next, make your way through the winding hills of the Presidio all the way to Lands End, the western edge of North America. Enjoy its cliffside views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Pacific Ocean and the Bay.

Stay at: Hotel Zephyr

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For active adventure: Surf in Santa Cruz

If you’re just visiting the Bay Area for the weekend, be sure to make time in your schedule for a trip to Santa Cruz. It’s home to some of the world’s greatest surf spots (hire or bring a wetsuit as the water is usually chilly). If you’re new to surfing, Cowells Beach is a great place to learn. For those more experienced, Steamer Lane is your spot. Don’t forget to swing by Santa Cruz Wharf to see and hear the barking seals, and have kung pao chicken for lunch at Charlie Hong Kong before you make your way back to the city.

Stay at: Hilton Santa Cruz Scotts Valley

Make your way through the winding hills of the Presidio all the way to Lands End, the western edge of North America.

For photographers: California State Route 1

California State Route 1 is absolutely breathtaking. Whether you’re a tourist or a local, the Pacific Ocean views never get old. For more than 1,000 kilometres, you’ll pass scenic view after scenic view and beaches galore. Be sure to make a pit stop at Pomponio State Beach along the way, it’s a great spot to take an epic cliff-side photo or go for a long, secluded walk along the ocean. If you’re lucky you might even see whale migrations.

Stay at: Pacific Hotel

  • Wander the winding trails of Land’s End and Presidio, San Francisco © Getty Images.

    The Golden gateway 

    Overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge, head to San Fran’s Land’s End for ocean-view cuisine at the Cliff House bistro and the haunting ruins of Sutro Baths.   €704 return

    Book flights to San Francisco
  • Lose yourself in a fairytale forest at San Fran’s Muir Woods © Getty Images.

    Walk on the wild side

    Among the thousand-year-old redwood forest you’ll find Sonoma chipmunks, grey squirrels and deer, as well as sea otters, owls and 11 species of bat. 

    Experience California
  • Re-connect with the natural world, at Golden Gate Park’s Conservatory of Flowers © Alamy.

    Urban jungle 

    With over 1,000 acres of lush gardens, playgrounds and museums to explore, discover the Golden Gate Park on two wheels by joining one of the park’s group Segway tours.  £655 pp

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For oenophiles: Napa and Sonoma from above

Napa and Sonoma are notorious for their terroir. The area produces some of the best wines in the world, notably Pinot, Zinfandel, and Chardonnay. While winery tours are always enjoyable – and it’s worth stopping at a few, why not take it up a notch – literally. Hop into a hot air balloon at Napa Valley Aloft and experience some of NorCal’s finest views and vines from the air. 

Stay at: The Carneros Inn

 

Stay at: The Carneros Inn [OPEN LINK: https://www.britishairways.com/destinations/hotel-information/Napa-and-Sonoma/The-Carneros-Inn/US-APC-2994900] "Napa and Sonoma are notorious for their terroir. The area produces some of the best wines in the world, notably Pinot, Zinfandel, and Chardonnay. While winery tours are always enjoyable – and it’s worth stopping at a few, why not take it up a notch – literally. Hop into a hot air balloon at Napa Valley Aloft [OPEN LINK IN NEW WINDOW: http://nvaloft.com/] and experience some of NorCal’s finest views and vines from the air.

 

Stay at: The Carneros Inn [OPEN LINK: https://www.britishairways.com/destinations/hotel-information/Napa-and-Sonoma/The-Carneros-Inn/US-APC-2994900]

"Napa and Sonoma are notorious for their terroir. The area produces some of the best wines in the world, notably Pinot, Zinfandel, and Chardonnay. While winery tours are always enjoyable – and it’s worth stopping at a few, why not take it up a notch – literally. Hop into a hot air balloon at Napa Valley Aloft [OPEN LINK IN NEW WINDOW: http://nvaloft.com/] and experience some of NorCal’s finest views and vines from the air. 

Stay at: The Carneros Inn [OPEN LINK: https://www.britishairways.com/destinations/hotel-information/Napa-and-Sonoma/The-Carneros-Inn/US-APC-2994900] "

Napa and Sonoma are notorious for their terroir. The area produces some of the best wines in the world, notably Pinot, Zinfandel, and Chardonnay. While winery tours are always enjoyable – and it’s worth stopping at a few, why not take it up a notch – literally. Hop into a hot air balloon at Napa Valley Aloft [OPEN LINK IN NEW WINDOW: http://nvaloft.com/] and experience some of NorCal’s finest views and vines from the air.

 

Stay at: The Carneros Inn [OPEN LINK: https://www.britishairways.com/destinations/hotel-information/Napa-and-Sonoma/The-Carneros-Inn/US-APC-2994900]

Napa and Sonoma are notorious for their terroir. The area produces some of the best wines in the world, notably Pinot, Zinfandel, and Chardonnay. While winery tours are always enjoyable – and it’s worth stopping at a few, why not take it up a notch – literally. Hop into a hot air balloon at Napa Valley Aloft [OPEN LINK IN NEW WINDOW: http://nvaloft.com/] and experience some of NorCal’s finest views and vines from the air.

 

Stay at: The Carneros Inn [OPEN LINK: https://www.britishairways.com/destinations/hotel-information/Napa-and-Sonoma/The-Carneros-Inn/US-APC-2994900]

Napa and Sonoma are notorious for their terroir. The area produces some of the best wines in the world, notably Pinot, Zinfandel, and Chardonnay. While winery tours are always enjoyable – and it’s worth stopping at a few, why not take it up a notch – literally. Hop into a hot air balloon at Napa Valley Aloft [OPEN LINK IN NEW WINDOW: http://nvaloft.com/] and experience some of NorCal’s finest views and vines from the air.

 

Stay at: The Carneros Inn [OPEN LINK: https://www.britishairways.com/destinations/hotel-information/Napa-and-Sonoma/The-Carneros-Inn/US-APC-2994900

For nature lovers: giant redwoods at Muir Woods

The San Francisco Bay Area consists of many microclimates. Just 30 minutes north of the city, you’ll find the beautiful Muir Woods – home to some of the largest and oldest trees on the planet. The majority of the trees here are between 500 and 800 years old. Take a photo next to Tree 76, Muir Woods’ largest redwood (250 ft. tall)

Stay at: Holiday Inn Golden Gateway

For hikers: Half Dome in Yosemite National Park

If your legs are up for a challenge, make your way to the stunning Yosemite National Park. Primarily composed of granite, Yosemite is a wonderful place to rock climb and hike. Rising more than 8,800 ft. above sea level with sweeping 360-degree views at the top, climbing Yosemite’s Half Dome should be the top of any adventurer’s to-do list.

Stay at: Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite

  • Brave Yosemite’s most demanding hike, the infamous Half Dome © Getty Images.

    Rock star 

    Yosemite National Park's Half Dome is the park's tallest granite peak, which takes on average 10-12 hours to hike.

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For water babies: paddle board in Half Moon Bay

If you’re not a surfer, but still want to get out on the water, stand-up paddle boarding (SUP) could be for you. Half Moon Bay offers majestic coastal views. Rule of thumb? When the fog rolls out and the tide rolls in, it’s time to hit the ocean.

Stay at: Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay

For thrill seekers: skydive over Monterey Bay 

If you want to see the Golden Gate Bridge from a different perspective, try skydiving over Monterey Bay. With its massive cliffs, breathtaking views, and a coastline spanning as far as the eye can see, it’s one for the bucket list. You may even be able to spot whales and dolphins in the ocean below as you descend. 

Stay at: Monterey Plaza

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