Plenty of luxury travellers look to LA when planning their California getaway; however, it's well worth setting your sights to the northern reaches of the state. San Francisco is all about easygoing fun with an irresistibly cool, calm and collected vibe. It also happens to serve up outdoor adventures by the bucket load. Whether you're looking for a world-class wine experience or awe-inspiring coastal beauty, the Golden City delivers the goods on a grand scale.
Cruise the San Francisco Bay
There are more than a few spots that offer up spectacular views of San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge, but one of the best happens to be on the water. Luckily there are plenty of operators that offer cruises of the San Francisco Bay. More than the Golden Gate, you'll also drift beneath the San Francisco Bay Bridge and past infamous Alcatraz island. It's a great way to get a new perspective of some of the city's most famous icons along with panoramas of the city's skyline. If you'd like to up the luxury factor, choose a twilight sailing with drinks onboard.
Walk The Golden Gate Bridge
Speaking of seeing the Golden Gate Bridge, it definitely stuns from afar but it's even more impressive up close. The bridge spans 2.7 kilometres at a height of 67 metres over the water. The towers raise to an impressive 227 metres high. Get the full sense of the scale and craftsmanship of this manmade beauty by walking across. Pedestrian paths are available as are guided walking tours free of charge. Alternatively, cycling tours are available.
It's best walked in the afternoons as morning fog can make it difficult to soak in the incredible views over the Golden Gate Straight. Limited parking is available at the Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Centre, or hop on one of the city's double-decker City Sightseeing buses for stops on either side of the bridge.
See Lands End
San Francisco is no stranger to beautiful beaches. Beach bums will have their pick of soft golden stands with plenty peppering the city fringes. Though, if you're after a next level beach experience in San Francisco, there's no better spot than Land's End. Part of the Golden Gate National Recreational Area, this spot rewards curious travellers with trails snaking along jagged cliffs plunging into the deep blue waters of the Gulf of Farallones. Watch the waves crash against the jagged rocks below, or look to the surrounding hillsides for colourful wildflowers and cypress trees.
Set out on any of the trails for a stunning look at some of the city's most beautiful landscapes. Though, there are a few highlights that are definitely worth seeking out. Start off with a pass through the new visitor centre called the Lands End Lookout. Wander the Sutro Bath ruins at the north end of Ocean Beach and get to Eagle's Point to see the Lands End Labyrinth.
Hike The Presidio
Another gem in the Golden Gate National Recreational Area, the Presidio is a former military fort that has been transformed into a public park. Meandering around the expansive green spaces is a great way to while away an hour or two, but the park is also home to a number of public art installations.
Set out on the Bay Are Ridge Trail and you'll come across one of the park's newest additions, the Spire. Sculpted by world-renowned artist Andy Goldworthy, this tapered spike stands over 30 metres tall and represents the rejuvenation of the surrounding forest. Another fantastic Goldworthy piece, the Wood Line runs through the Eucalyptus grove near Lover's Lane. This 366-metre curving line made of twigs and branches encourages visitors to look down and consider the earth from which the trees grow.
Taste Napa Valley
Approximately two hours south of the city lies world-famous Napa Valley. Oenophile or not, this verdant region is well worth a day trip. Home to more than 400 wineries, it is considered one of the world's premier viticultural regions. You can swirl, sniff and sip your way through the valley on a wine tasting trail (or train), or indulge in some of the region's many other offerings. The wine is just the tip of the iceberg here, after all.
For travelling foodies, there are countless restaurants to choose from ranging from fine dining to casual fare. If you're looking for something a little more relaxing, spend the day at one of the many day spas located here to be pampered with indulgent treatments and massages. There are plenty of other experiences available that allow you to absorb the incredible surrounds. One of the most memorable has to be a sunrise hot air balloon ride, which provides spectacular bird's eye views of the entire valley.
Size Up The Trees In Muir Woods
One of the
biggest tallest natural highlights of the San Francisco area is the Redwood Forest, home to the tallest living things on earth. Venture less than an hour from the city centre (across the Golden Gate Bridge) to Muir Woods to stand among the gigantic redwood trees. With nine-kilometres of designated trails snaking around the base of these incredible conifers, you can spend the day learning about these old growth coast redwoods.
There is a half hour loop, one-hour loop and one and a half hour loop through Muir Woods, which consists of asphalt or boardwalk trails suitable for all ages and fitness levels. For the more adventurous traveller, there are trails along the canyon walls as well. Keep in mind these trails are dirt, narrow, steep and rutted with tree roots, so proper attire is a must. Admission is approximately US$10 and parking is limited so it is advisable to plan your day accordingly.