A vibrant tech scene has breathed new life into the iconic City by the Bay, yet the hilly metropolis still remains a firm favourite with foodies, hipsters and hippies who flock to spend time by the wonderful watersides. But in order to get an authentic taste of this multicultural melting pot, we say skip Fisherman’s Wharf in favour of these not so faraway destinations.
Seward Street Slides
A secretive yet very well serviced spot which caters, not only to neighbourhood kids, but outsiders of all ages. Originally dreamed up by a 14 year old local nearly 50 years ago, these dual concrete slides run straight down a bankside and into the mini-park they happily call home. Their installation even had influence over the entire city’s green spaces policy.
Given their position in a residential area, the slides can be a little hard to locate, but it means you’ll be able to get a taste of life in the San Francisco ‘burbs on the way. Just ensure you avoid some seriously teary faces and adhere to the B.Y.O.C (Bring Your Own Cardboard) guidelines.
Point Reyes Lighthouse
In the niche gap that lies between maritime warning and magnificent attraction sits sensational Point Reyes. From its position on a headland that cuts its way ten miles into the Pacific, the bright beam that emanates from the lighthouse has saved many a sailor from meeting the murky depths. And with over 100 years under its belt, it’s showing no signs of stopping just yet.
Famously known as one of the foggiest places on the entire continent, the weather here is understandably dramatic – and shouldn’t be taken for granted – but catch it on a clear day to see vistas that will cause you to catch your breath. Find yourself a clifftop spot and tuck in to a sea-inspired picnic of locally caught oysters, fresh from the cape.
1 hour 20 minutes
Antioch & Mount Diablo
The East Bay area is a historical hub and Antioch is the perfect place to start on an adventure into the annals of America’s past. Founded the year after gold was discovered, it’s one of the oldest settlements in the state and does plenty to preserve its mining heritage, as well as more contemporary pursuits.
Arguably its diamond in the rough is Mount Diablo, once thought to be the point of all creation by the district’s Miwok tribe. Rising up like a gigantic pyramid, the peak (and its neighbours) are the result of major tectonic activity taking place beneath the earth, so much so that 100million year old Jurassic fossils are regularly uncovered at the surface. Dino-hunters take note!
1 hour 30 minutes
Santa Rosa & Sonoma County
Wine regions don’t get much greater than this glorious stretch to the north of the city, and those with a nose for viticulture will soon find themselves gleefully gawping at the 400 or so vineyards that stretch out magnificently before them. What’s more, the surroundings make the perfect place to get close to nature on the countless hiking trails through redwoods and along rivers.
With equally strong ties to its Native American roots as its modern communities, the rich cultural veins that run through the region can be seen in every town, including the understatedly cool capital, Santa Rosa. You can even pay Snoopy a visit when you stop by. Head straight over the Golden Gate and you’ll be there in no time.
1 hour 15 minutes
This town has seen a shower of accolades descend on it in recent years and yet, it remains fabulously free of many of the more negative side-effects of modern tourism. European in style and perfectly suited to those seeking solace from California’s more superficial settings, Carmel’s almost antiquated appeal is said to have led to more romances than Barbara Cartland’s entire back catalogue.
Those feeling flash can pay a small fee to get onto the toll road known as the 17-mile Drive, allowing access to the swanky neighbourhood that runs along right next to the panoramic Pacific Ocean. We’d say we think it’s worth it, but you probably knew that already.
Bucket List Tip: Trek just a tiny bit further along the legendary Route 1 to ensure you see the extremely awesome Bixby Bridge. Your Instagram followers will thank you.
2 hours 10 minutes