Day Trippin' | San Francisco
Every great city needs day-trip destinations to complement its attractiveness. Like style-defining accessories, its true character shines in the details. For as great a city as San Francisco is – argue if you must – it is a rather smallish, big city, and at some point the limits of its seven-square-mile geography close in on you. Peninsula fever, maybe?
A malady I came to know very well during the nine years of my life there. For all the excitement, entertainment and culture that the hilly metropolis offers, inevitably an urban claustrophobia settles in like a blanket of its iconic fog. A condition easily remedied by an escape over one of its bridges, because so much of San Francisco’s charm is not its inner beauty, but the beauty beyond. And the beyond beckons in all directions with the natural splendor of Pacific Ocean beaches, redwood forests and the verdant hills and valleys of its nearby wine country.
San Franciscans are a lucky lot. Freedom from banal daily routine is almost effortless, with little risk and big reward. Play some afternoon hooky and your skipping stones on lagoons, hiking or surfing with enough time to be home by dinner. And there is no greater symbol of freedom – California style — than cruising Highway 1.
Just across the Golden Gate await the fishing villages, farms and quiet communities of the majestic coastline of Marin County. All close enough to be reached in a sane time frame, yet far enough removed from the trappings of the pace, population and pollution that characterize urban living.
If a few hours are all you have then Sausalito is your place. Minutes away by car, so close is the picturesque coastal town of 7,000 that one can also reach it by ferry, bicycle or even foot. With sweeping views of San Francisco Bay and the city itself, Sausalito’s waterfront park is the perfect place to contemplate your life on the peninsula or just to watch the boats go poetically by. A pastime made famous by Otis Redding with his hit “(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay”, written on one of Sausalito’s many houseboats. Feel like staying, and there are a number of lodging options available, highlighted by Cavallo Point in nearby Fort Baker.
Wind your way up Highway 1 on a glorious sunny day and you’ll begin to question your desire to ever return to the city. Now tucked well behind the rolling peaks of the Marin Headlands, San Francisco slowly fades deeper into the fog of recent memory. The Golden Gate National Recreation Area entices to your immediate South, while Mt. Tamalpaís – or in local speak, Mount Tam – and Muir Woods tower to the North. Indulge if you must, but along the coast is where our journey’s loyalty lies.
After traversing Marin County from East to West the 1 hits the coast again at Muir Beach, the road undulates its way up through Stinson Beach along the seemingly eternal Pacific before reaching Bolinas Lagoon. Continue further to the lagoon’s northern end and you’ll reach the road for Bolinas itself.
About an hour drive from San Francisco, Bolinas isn’t that easy to get to, but well worth the trek. The town of 2000 or so boasts a beautiful stretch of beach and an artsy oceanside village atmosphere that makes it perfect for a picnic and some swimming. Just tread lightly as not to disturb the locals too much.
Wave adios to the ocean because it will be a while before you see it again. As the highway continues north it cuts inland through the protected Point Reyes National Seashore, hugging Tomales Bay. A narrow, 12 mile coastal estuary created by a rift valley of the San Andreas fault, Tomales Bay separates the Point Reyes peninsula from the rest of Marin county.
Known for its boating and beaches one can spend an entire day enjoying the tranquil woodsy feel that permeates the coastline of Tomales Bay. But for the passerby, a stop at any one of the few oyster shacks that dot its shores for some fresh out-of-the-water oysters and a cold beer is a de rigueur pastime that shan’t be missed. A few on the half-shell and were off, blood alcohol level permitting, of course.
Those with more time to spare may explore further North to the overlooked beach towns of Sonoma and Mendocino counties. But those with shorter leashes may have to turn back before night falls, lest they lose the light and the chance to absorb the final glimpses of the lovely surrounding nature during the melancholy return trip.
Hearts and minds invigorated by the memories of a day full of natural beauty. Spirits buoyed by the tonic of open space, sea and eucalyptus trees, and the melody of movement. And hopefully, a strong enough reminder of the good fortune one has if their life allows them the freedom to live a day such as the one just described.
Alvaro Eduardo Rojas