11 Easy, Drivable Weekend Getaway Ideas From San Francisco

Get away from the city with one of these close-by destinations throughout Northern and Central California.

Curving, car-free highway along green coast near Point Reyes

The Tule Elk Preserve is one of many places to visit during a weekend in Inverness and Tomales Bay.

Visit Healdsburg

San Francisco is an amazing city in its own right, but as a local who has lived here for more than 10 years, I also love that world-class vineyards, beautiful beaches, and rugged mountains are a short drive away. Whether you’re looking for a peaceful retreat or a change of scene, consider one of these 11 easy weekend getaways from the San Francisco Bay Area.

A woman at a picnic table in a grove of redwood trees outside of Healdsburg (L); the calm Russian River outside of Healdsburg with trees on banks (R)

Healdsburg, California, is more than wine: Redwood forests and stretches of the Russian River to kayak are also accessible from this small town.

Photos by Jessie Beck

1. Healdsburg and Sonoma wine country

  • Distance: 90 minutes north of San Francisco
  • Best for: a low-key wine and food getaway

It’s hard to see all of Sonoma County’s wine country in a single weekend. Sonoma’s version is larger and more spread out than that of neighboring Napa Valley. Instead, make the northern town of Healdsburg your home base for the weekend. In the past few years, plenty of exciting new hotels, restaurants, and tasting rooms have joined the area, giving the historic town a burst of new energy.

What to do in Healdsburg

Yes, you could spend an entire day tasting wine (it is Sonoma County, after all), but you’ll also want to explore the area’s natural beauty. To do so, join a cycling tour at Russian River Adventures to explore the area on two wheels with a knowledgeable guide, or combine your ride with a kayak adventure on Getaway Adventures’ pedal-paddle tour.

Healdsburg’s food scene is also a big reason to visit: The city is home to three Michelin-starred restaurants: SingleThread (also awarded a Michelin Green Star), and the same team’s newly opened vegan café, bar, and restaurant, Little Saint. (Pro move: You can also try their dips while sampling pinot noirs at the beautifully designed downtown tasting room for Marine Layer.) For a more casual lunch or dinner, grab a pizza on the rooftop at the Matheson, dive into some pasta (and a round of bocce) at Molti Amici, or enjoy cocktails and fried chicken at Lo&Behold. Healdsburg also has an excellent farmers’ market on Saturdays.

Where to stay in Healdsburg

For a luxurious retreat, book one of the tree houses at the Montage Healdsburg, a 258-acre property that officially opened its doors in 2020, making it the first major resort property in the Healdsburg area. Or head to the Madrona, a historic property originally built in 1881 as a private residence that is now a beautiful, maximalist boutique hotel designed by Jay Jeffers.

Prefer an option within walking distance of Healdsburg’s square? Then check into eco-friendly Harmon Guest House, a peaceful yet centrally located hotel only a block from dozens of fantastic restaurants, tasting rooms, and bars. Visiting in the summer? Rest assured: All three options have swimming pools.

Read more: Your Perfect Weekend Getaway in Sonoma Wine Country

Tall, white Point Arena lighthouse on the Mendocino Coast

Fill your weekend exploring tide pools on the beach and exploring small towns along the Mendocino Coast.

Photo by The Life in Pics/Shutterstock

2. Mendocino coast

  • Distance: three hours north of San Francisco
  • Best for: a remote drive along Highway 1

The Mendocino coast is no secret weekend getaway spot. While most visitors will focus on exploring the coastal town of Mendocino and its surroundings, there’s much to be discovered along the 90+ miles of Mendocino’s coastline. If it’s your first time in the area, base yourself in the small town of Mendocino. Beaten path or not, its proximity to trails, beaches, restaurants, and small locally run shops make it a must on any California getaway list. Or explore a new stretch of the coast, like the small town of Elk and nearby Salt Point State Park to the south of Mendocino.

What to do on the Mendocino coast

You could easily fill your weekend exploring tide pools on the beach and hiking trails with dramatic ocean views, but part of the Mendocino coast’s charms are the small towns near the highway. Save plenty of time for pit stops from Gualala to Fort Bragg; shop the variety store Matson Mercantile in Elk; enjoy vegetarian cooking and wine at the hip and colorful Fog Eater Cafe after an afternoon of art gallery–hopping in Mendocino; or sample fresh local seafood at Princess Seafood in Fort Bragg.

If you are looking to be more active, rent a kayak from Catch a Canoe and paddle your way around Big River near the town Mendocino.

Where to stay on the Mendocino coast

For a classic Mendocino experience, book a room at JD House, a six-room bed-and-breakfast with ocean views and decor that lands somewhere between ship captain’s home and modern hygge. Or immerse yourself in nature at Mendocino Grove, where you can stay in safari tents complete with beds, rugs, and firepits. In 2023, the Grove added a sauna and espresso bar that make it an extra dreamy glamping experience.

Or head 15 miles south to the small coastal town of Elk, and reserve a room at the Harbor House Inn, a hotel and Michelin-starred restaurant perched on a cliff above a private, pebbled beach.

Read more: Local Getaways: Escape to the Mendocino Coast

River and mountain in Hope Valley, with forested hills in background

Turn off your phone and head to Wylder Hotel for a remote mountain getaway.

Courtesy of Wylder Hotel

3. Hope Valley

  • Distance: four hours east of San Francisco
  • Best for: a less-crowded escape to the Sierra Nevadas

A short drive south from Lake Tahoe, Hope Valley has all the beauty of a Sierra Nevada mountain getaway—minus the crowds. It’s an ideal weekend destination to retreat to the woods for a few days of digital detox amid alpine lakes and pine forests.

What to do in Hope Valley

Like much of the Sierras and Tahoe, Hope Valley is an outdoor destination. In warmer months, take your hiking shoes or mountain bike to explore miles of trails in the nearby wilderness, such as the range of trails around scenic Echo Lake or Snowshoe Thompson’s Cave, which is “a short 1.15-mile hike filled with lore,” according to Afar senior travel news editor Michelle Baran.

In the winter, opt for a snow-filled adventure snow-mobiling or snowshoeing on one of the trails at Hope Valley Sno-Park then warm up in the natural hot springs at nearby Grover Hot Springs State Park.

Where to stay in Hope Valley

Desolation Hotel (formerly Wylder), which has rustic but refurbished log cabins, yurts, and budget-friendly campsites, is an ideal home base in Hope Valley.

Read more: Local Getaways: A Beautiful Mountain Escape in Northern California

Overhead view of charred flatbread and three small containers of dips at Charlie's (L). The pool at Alila Napa Valley, with vineyard in background (R)

Try the flatbread and dips at Charlie’s before or after a swim at Alila Napa Valley.

Photos by Jessie Beck

4. St. Helena

  • Distance: 90 minutes northeast from San Francisco
  • Best for: wine, of course, but also much more

Napa Valley may feel like an obvious choice for a Bay Area getaway (it is undeniably easy), but that doesn’t mean your itinerary has to be predictable. With an exciting array of new restaurants, tasting rooms, and activities in St. Helena, it’s easier than ever to go beyond the most well-known attractions while focusing on an area of Napa most people tend to pass through in favor of nearby Calistoga or Yountville.

What to do in and around St. Helena

Take a different approach to winetasting and bike between tasting rooms on the Napa Vine Trail. It’s slated to be fully complete in November 2024, but there’s already a lovely, ready-to-use nine-mile stretch between Calistoga and St. Helena. Or do a tasting at the speakeasy-style Saldo Salon at Prisoner Wine Company.

For food, start with a wellness-minded breakfast at the bright and airy NO|MA House café in the heart of St. Helena. For a casual lunch, go to the Station, a new eatery in a repurposed gas station serving NYC-style pizza. At the end of the day, you’ll find us at Charlie’s, a restaurant by French Laundry alum Elliot Bell with a focus on wood-fired dishes like flatbread, steak, and charcoal-grilled carrots. Not hungry? That’s OK, the happy hour and late-night bar scene here is one of the most fun for miles.

Where to stay in St. Helena

Book one of the 64 spacious guest rooms at Alila Napa Valley, a dreamy resort built around a historic Georgian estate mansion, now home to its on-site, prix fixe Italian restaurant, Violetto. With an outdoor pool and bar, spa, and rooms with private patios and firepits, it’s an ideal space to rest and recoup from a full day of winetasting.

Read more: Napa’s in Bloom: How to Plan the Perfect Spring Weekend

 An open safari tent, with two Adirondack chairs next to it and a silver Airstream in background

Glamp in a classic Airstream or safari tent at AutoCamp Russian River.

Courtesy of Autocamp

5. Guerneville

  • Distance: one hour, 45 minutes north of San Francisco
  • Best for: summer fun and food by the Russian River

Although lovely year-round, Guerneville’s location alongside the Russian River makes it an especially popular weekend destination in the summer, when you can float, kayak, or canoe. Off the river, this tiny town is also home to a vibrant LGBTQ+ scene.

What to do in Guerneville

In the summer months, pack a floatie and a cooler full of snacks to spend the day lazing around on the Russian River. Visitors can also rent a canoe from Burke’s Canoes. Wander the woods for a walk among the giants in Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve.

Afterwards, this Sonoma County town is an excellent spot for food and wine lovers: biscuits at Piknik Town Market, winetasting at Hartford Family Winery, beers at Stumptown Brewery, mezcal cocktails at El Barrio, and ice cream at Nimble & Finn’s are a few of the area’s highlights. Come dinnertime, you’ll find us at the Lodge, the restaurant at nearby hotel Dawn Ranch.

Where to stay in Guerneville

For classic Guerneville, you can’t go wrong renting a house by the river or booking a romantic retreat at the adults-only Boon Hotel + Spa, an intimate, LGBTQ-friendly boutique hotel with a pool, spa, and breakfast delivered to your room. Prefer to glamp? Head to AutoCamp and stay in a tricked-out Airstream trailer for the weekend.

Or consider one of the newer hotels in the area, including the luxurious, 21-room boutique hotel, Stravrand (opened in 2021) located on a former orchard, and Dawn Ranch (opened in 2022), a collection of stylish cabins among redwoods, complete with restaurant and spa.

Read more:

Exterior of restaurant at the Lodge at Bodega Bay alongside Adirondack chairs circled around a firepit

The Lodge at Bodega Bay is set on a quiet stretch of California coast—and has no shortage of scenic views.

Photo by Jessie Beck

6. Bodega Bay

  • Distance: 90 minutes north of San Francisco
  • Best for: escaping the summer heat, kayaking, and relaxing in a newly renovated lodge

Although Bodega—a tiny blip of a town on California’s Highway 1—is close enough to San Francisco for a day trip, the newly renovated rooms at the Lodge at Bodega Bay are reason enough for locals, out-of-towners, and northbound road-trippers to turn their visit into a full-fledged weekend getaway.

Pro tip: Bodega can be as much 20 degrees cooler than inland areas, making it an ideal summer retreat for anyone who wants respite from high temps.

What to do in Bodega Bay

You might be tempted to spend the entire weekend with a book and a beverage while enjoying the coastal views (and we won’t judge you if do), but the natural beauty of the area might convince you otherwise. Enjoy that beauty with a morning kayak along the coast (Bodega Bay Surf is a friendly spot for rentals) or hike on the scenic Bodega Head Trail. The area is also an excellent spot for bird-watching, especially along the Birdwalk Coastal Access Trail in Doran Regional Park. Prefer a beach day? Grab your blanket and head to Doran Beach or Campbell Cove.

After a day of adventuring, refuel with calamari at the Tides, fish and chips at Fishetarian Fish Market, or a cocktail and crudo at Drakes Fireside Lounge.

Where to stay

Book a room at the sprawling Lodge at Bodega Bay, a few minutes south of town. Each of the spacious 83 rooms features comfortable beds, plush robes, and westward-facing balconies with unobstructed views of the marsh and ocean. The area can get chilly at night and the lodge offers plenty of ways to warm up: in-room fireplaces, hot tub, sauna, or with a cocktail at its on-site bar and restaurant.

Cove and beach in Big Sur

Big Sur has options for varied needs and budgets, from basic campsites to five-star luxury.

Photo by Pete Niesen/Shutterstock

7. Big Sur

  • Distance: three hours south of San Francisco
  • Best for: a classic California coastal getaway

With its dramatic coastlines, waterfalls plunging into the ocean, and expansive, rugged redwood forests, Big Sur is one of those quintessential California destinations. It is also an easy weekend getaway destination from the Bay Area.

What to do in Big Sur

“Nature is one of the region’s biggest draws, but there’s plenty of exploration to do beyond the trees,” says Afar senior editor Aislyn Greene. Places like Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, Hearst Castle, a California condor tour with Ventana Wildlife Society, and a tour of the Point Sur lighthouse, as well as shopping for local art at Hawthorne Gallery or Coast Big Sur are all excellent things to do while in Big Sur.

Where to stay in Big Sur

Accommodation in Big Sur ranges from basic campsites, like those at Pfeiffer State Park, to five-star luxury. Some of our favorite Big Sur hotels include the spectacular, all-inclusive Alila Ventana Big Sur resort, which gives guests the option to choose between staying in one of its luxurious suites or glamping in a safari-style tent, as well as the creative rooms at Post Ranch Inn. Weekend retreat in a tree house, anyone?

Note: portions of Highway 1 are currently closed but slated to open around May 27, 2024.

Read more: Embrace the Slow Life—and Maybe a Few Trees—in Big Sur


Carmel Valley (not to be confused with nearby Carmel-by-the-Sea) is less than three hours from San Francisco by car.


8. Carmel Valley

  • Distance: two hours, 30 minutes from San Francisco
  • Best for: a wine country escape to the south

Napa Valley and Sonoma County aren’t the only places to go for a weekend of winetasting and sunshine (though you’ll rarely see us turn down a trip to either). South of San Francisco, Carmel Valley (not to be confused with nearby Carmel-by-the-Sea) is an equally fantastic—but often overlooked—destination for wine and food adventures.

What to do in Carmel Valley

Plan your weekend around wine tasting at the area’s vineyards, like western-style Cowgirl Winery or Joyce, which specializes in wine from sustainability-minded vineyards. Then decompress with an afternoon of hot and cool outdoor pools and a massage at Refuge Spa or a stroll through the shops at Carmel Valley Village.

Where to stay in Carmel Valley

Relax with a room at family-friendly Carmel Valley Ranch. Or for a more Tuscan-esque experience, stay at Bernardus Lodge & Spa, a wine country escape with rooms that overlook its 28-acre vineyard.

Read more: Why Carmel Valley Is the Wine Country Escape You Need

An elk preserve sits at the tip of Tomales Bay.

An elk preserve sits at the tip of Tomales Bay.

Photo by Karan Chawla, Unsplash

9. Tomales Bay

  • Distance: 90 minutes north of San Francisco
  • Best for: oysters, cheese, and kayaking in the sea

If a weekend of eating fresh seafood, sampling locally made cheese, and kayaking in a tranquil bay sounds like your kind of getaway, then head to Tomales Bay. This area, just north of the Point Reyes National Seashore, refers to the 15-mile inlet separating Point Reyes Peninsula from mainland Marin County. It also happens to be home to many dairy and oyster farms, as well as scenic parks and natural vistas.

What to do in Tomales Bay

Start your weekend in Tomales Bay with an outdoor activity or two, like watching elk in the Tule Elk Preserve, hiking to the Point Reyes Lighthouse, or kayaking in Tomales Bay. (Blue Waters Kayaking in Marshall is a great place to rent from.)

After you’ve worked up an appetite, eat your way through the area’s specialties, oysters and cheese, with a stop at Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company just north of Point Reyes Station, oysters at Hog Island or Tony’s Seafood in Marshall, and a locavore dinner at Saltwater Oyster Depot in Inverness. Locals know: For oysters to-go, no-frills Tomales Bay Oyster Co. is the best in the bay.

Where to stay in Tomales Bay

Book a room at the Lodge at Marconi, which opened in fall 2023 on the grounds of the history-rich Marconi Conference Center State Park. The attractive interiors, which blend retro elements with a modern, maximalist style, are sure to draw you in, but it’s the property’s 62 acres of meadows, wildflowers, bay views, and eucalyptus groves that will make you want to never leave. At night, get a s’mores kit and head to the property’s communal firepit or (starting June 2024) its on-site restaurant and bar for a nightcap.

Why Cambria Is Central California’s Most Relaxing Weekend Break

Cambria’s beach will blow away the cobwebs.

Photo by randy andy / Shutterstock

10. Cambria

  • Distance: four hours south of San Francisco
  • Best for: whale watching, wine, and relaxing on the beach

Equidistant from San Francisco and Los Angeles, the coastal town of Cambria is further than most of the other weekend getaways on this list, but it offers a relaxing break for those who brave the extra miles. Known as where the pines meet the sea, this low-key town is full of opportunities to get outside and hike, explore tide pools, or hang out on the beach—then fill up on delicious seafood and wine while watching the sunset.

What to do in Cambria

Lean into Cambria’s laid-back charm and while away your day with walks along Moonstone Beach or hike the bluffs at Fiscalini Ranch. Come sundown, enjoy a glass of wine and bite to eat at one of several locally owned eateries, such as seaside Sea Chest Oyster Bar or Madeline’s, which sits along the just-lively-enough Main Street. If you’re feeling adventurous, explore nearby sights like the tiny town of San Simeon and Big Sur to the north, Morro Bay State Park for hikes or beach hangs to the south, or Paso Robles wine country to the east.

Where to stay in Cambria

At the north end of Moonstone Beach, family-friendly Oceanpoint Ranch has comfortable rooms (many of which have wood-burning fireplaces), plenty of activities (shuffleboard, croquet, horseshoes), and an on-site restaurant that serves to-go breakfasts and hearty suppers. For a more woodsy experience, Cambria Pines Lodge is a cozy, forest retreat complete with a lounge perfect for enjoying a glass of local pinot by a warm fire.

Read more: Why Cambria Is Central California’s Most Relaxing Weekend Break

A person in yoga pose on white mat among redwoods

Yoga among the redwoods is one of many activities at Canyon Ranch Woodside.

Courtesy of Canyon Ranch

11. Santa Cruz Mountains

  • Distance: one hour south of San Francisco
  • Best for: wine, hikes, and mountain bikes

Bay Area residents often come to the Santa Cruz Mountains for day trips and brief weekend adventures. But if you plan to stay longer, you won’t be bored. There’s enough winery hopping and hiking among the redwoods to fill an entire weekend.

What to do in the Santa Cruz Mountains

Outdoor activities like hiking, mountain biking, road cycling, and rock climbing are the main draw for visitors to the Santa Cruz Mountains. After you’ve worked up an appetite on the trails, visit one of the area’s wineries, like award-winning, family-run Mindego Ridge, or the many ranches and farms—an afternoon picnic and visit with the goats at Harley Farms Goat Dairy is a local favorite—to relax and refuel.

Where to stay in the Santa Cruz Mountains

Book yourself into a luxurious tree house at Canyon Ranch’s Woodside Retreat, which includes a full schedule of activities, like hikes and yoga sessions, and three healthy, locally sourced meals each day.

Read more: Local Getaways: The Santa Cruz Mountains Offer a Much-Needed Escape to Nature

This article originally appeared online in 2020; it was most recently updated on May 9, 2024, to include current information.

Jessie Beck is a San Francisco–based writer and associate director of SEO and video at Afar. She contributes to travel gear, outdoor adventure, and local getaway coverage and has previously lived in Washington, D.C., Malta, Seattle, and Madagascar.

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