This Is the Perfect San Francisco Day Trip

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This Is the Perfect San Francisco Day Trip
It’s summertime in San Francisco, so don’t forget to pack your parka. While the rest of the country is enjoying the last few weeks of summer by hitting the beach or firing up the backyard barbeque, San Francisco is bundling up against that iconic fog and dreaming of a little fun in the sun. Luckily, even if you don’t have time for an end-of-summer escape, a daylong road trip down the coast to Pescadero will make you feel as recharged as an entire vacation would.
By Maggie Fuller, AFAR Staff
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    This Is the Perfect San Francisco Day Trip
    It’s summertime in San Francisco, so pack your parka. While the rest of the country is enjoying the last few weeks of beach season, San Francisco is bundling up against the fog and dreaming of a little fun in the sun. Luckily, even if you don’t have time for an end-of-summer escape, a daylong road trip down the coast to Pescadero will make you feel as recharged as an entire vacation would. Since the journey is just as important as the destination, here are some must-stops along the sweeping views of the Pacific down Highway 1.

    Photo by Phae/Flickr
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    Devil’s Slide Trail
    It may only be 30 minutes south of San Francisco, but it’s time to stop and stretch your legs once you hit Devil’s Slide, a stretch of coast named for the steep, rocky cliffs that slope into the sea. This, of course, has less to do with actually needing a break and everything to do with the incredible panoramas of the ocean. The best views are from one of the three lookout spots along the Devil’s Slide hiking trail, which stretches for a mile along the coast just outside of Montara. From the south end of the trail you can also catch a glimpse of a local oddity, the precarious, graffiti-covered bunker that sits like an upset Tetris piece at the end of Bunker Point. The bunker is closed to the public, but both it and those stunning views of the coastline are oh-so Instagrammable.

    Photo by Jack French/Flickr
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    Moss Beach Distillery
    You’ll have to wind off of Highway 1 slightly to explore this little piece of history, but the Moss Beach Distillery is worth the detour. While not an actual distillery, the restaurant started life as a speakeasy called Frank’s Place. Popular with everyone from silent film stars to San Francisco noir writer Dashiell Hammett, Frank’s Place was built in the late 1920s on a cliff above a secluded beach, which was coincidentally very popular with Canadian rum runners. These days, the spot is known less for its illicit booze (Frank went straight in 1933 and the place has been a bastion of legality ever since) and more for its delicious Sunday brunches and award-winning seafood. Plus it’s hard to beat those views and that old-school charm.

    (As an added incentive for surf-enthusiasts, Mavericks Beach, where the annual big wave surf contest takes place every year, is a short hike away.) 

    Photo by georgus78/Flickr
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    The San Gregorio General Store

    If you were hoping that there would be a stop where you could get a killer Bloody Mary, listen to great local music, and also buy a pair of old-school long johns and a salad bowl, you’re in luck. At the San Gregorio General Store, you can find it all. During the week, it’s a general store just like any other—packed with books, kitchenware, Pendleton blankets, seed packets, and postcards. But during the weekend (and occasionally during the week), it turns into a venue for local bands playing everything from bluegrass to the blues. Grab a beer, coffee, or a Bloody Mary (and consider swapping the vodka for one of the bar’s 18 different tequilas), and settle in next to the wood burning stove or get lost in the aisles for a while. Don’t be intimidated by the hordes of bikers that often gather out front; they rarely bite and spend most of their time outside anyway.

    Photo by Maggie Fuller

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    Harley Farms Goat Dairy
    The best reason to stop at Harley Farms Goat Dairy, just down the road from downtown Pescadero, is, of course, all the fresh, delicious goat cheese. We’re talking goat feta, goat ricotta, goat fromage blanc, soft goat cheese with local wildflower petals and cranberries—we’d suggest stocking up. The second-best reason to visit Harley Farms is because of all the adorable, pettable baby goats. The farm also has a stunning, rustic-chic event space where it hosts monthly dinners made with ingredients sourced from the surrounding farms.

    Photo by Maggie Fuller
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    Whale Watching at the Pigeon Point Light House
    No need to book a boat: Whale watching in Pescadero is as simple as finding a place to stand along the shore. But if you’re looking an extra-special experience, head to the Pigeon Point Lighthouse, one of the oldest lighthouses in the country. The lighthouse itself has been closed to the public and undergoing reconstruction since 2001, but the grounds are beautiful, with a few trails winding around and down to beaches and a walkway that stretches out to the farthest tip of the point, from which you can almost always spot a whale. Both humpbacks and gray whales migrate past Pigeon Point and chances are that you’ll see so many whale spouts, you might just get bored. But if you’re especially lucky, those giant creatures will put on an impressive show complete with breaching and tail-slapping.

    Photo by Grant Montogmery/Flickr
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    Cove Beach at Año Nuevo State Park
    While you’ll pass a number of beautiful, secluded beaches along Highway 1, the beach at Año Nuevo State Park may just be the most secluded of all. The park is better known as one of the best places in California to spot elephant seals; an entire colony makes the area its home in the winter months. But when you walk the trail down through the hills from the parking lot, you can veer off to the left and down a flight of steps to Cove Beach. Although a popular surf spot, Cove Beach is generally quieter than any other beach along the coast (perhaps because of the State Park parking fee). And if you’re interested in seeing the elephant seals throw their weight around, plan on returning in late December, when the colony returns for mating season.

    Photo by Nicole Wilkins/Flickr
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    Pie Ranch

    You can’t make the drive down the coast through farm country without stopping at a farm stand or two. And while there are plenty of pick-your-owns and farm stands along Highway 1 going through Pescadero, notable among them is Pie Ranch. Pie Ranch stocks its shelves with fresh veggies, dried beans, and eggs from their farm, and hosts monthly barn dances. But the real reason Pie Ranch takes the cake is because they serve some of the best pie you’ll ever have. Sorry, Grandma.

    Photo by madichan/Flickr

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    Duarte’s Tavern and Downtown Pescadero
    Speaking of pie, we'd be remiss if we didn’t mention Duarte's Tavern, a Pescadero institution (it’s been around since 1894!). One of the pillars of the tiny, three-block-long downtown Pescadero, which is nestled among a scattering of surrounding Victorian farmhouses, Duarte’s has been serving California coastal bounty before it was cool: abalone sandwiches, cream of artichoke soup, and, of course, its famous olallieberry pie. In fact, there are plenty out there who would argue that Duarte’s holds the title of preeminent Pescadero pie

    Photo by Henry Zbyszynski/Flickr
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    Feel like making a weekend of it?

    At this point, you could easily point the car north and make your way back to San Francisco on the faster, less-scenic route, but if you find yourself smitten and want to stay longer, head to Costanoa Lodge. Costanoa has a range of accommodations from lodge suites to cozy cabins and quaint tent bungalows. The lodge also has an onsite spa, outdoor hot tub, and communal fire pits, all of which have ringside seats to the magnificent landscape.

    Photo by Sarah H/Flickr

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