I stayed local and headed to Sausalito, California for my anniversary this year and highly recommend you add this destination to your Road Trip Planner. Sausalito is a picturesque bayside town with a great waterfront area. There are houseboats and flower-lined side streets, quirky stores and plenty of places to dine, most with a view of the bay. It's also very near the Redwoods (Muir Woods, about 8 miles), a couple of beaches within 20 minutes (Muir Beach, Stinson Beach), Angel Island & Tiburon just a tad north, and of course, San Francisco about 15 minutes south.
We stayed at a houseboat this time but if we hadn't had that accommodation already lined up, I would have chosen the Casa Madrona Hotel & Spa ($200-$405/night). It's right on the waterfront (street side) so every room has a view of Richardson Bay. Another good option is The Inn Above Tide, which sits right over the water (rooms range from $305 to $1025/night). Both are on Bridgeway, the main street in Sausalito. If you're looking for a less expensive hotel to add to your road trip planner, check out Hotel Sausalito (a bit of French Riviera on the park in Sausalito) starting at $155 and others in the low $100s.
One of the things my husband noted right off was the amount of different accents he heard; Sausalito definitely attracts visitors from all over the world…and yet, it manages to keep that "look at this hidden gem we found" feeling. Another standout was the number of exclamations, "Wow! Look at the San Francisco skyline from here!" Pictures were taken in abundance, and deservedly so.
Another favorite activity to add to your road trip planner is to rent bicycles in San Francisco, then plan a full day where you ride from San Francisco, over the Golden Gate Bridge, coast into Sausalito, even venture further north into Tiburon if you're so inclined, then take the ferry back to San Francisco from either Sausalito and Tiburon. I snapped a photo of the last ferry leaving Sausalito showing that the majority of passengers came with bikes.
Below are some examples of the things you can do in this area. Adding these to your road trip planner will give you a varied (and full) vacation!
Day 1 - Sausalito's Waterfront: Bridgeway is the main thoroughfare but on the next street up the hill, Caledonia, you'll find a movie theatre, an historic hardware store, antique shops, dining spots, and art galleries. Definitely worth a visit. A travel tip: You can get free wireless in and around the library. You'll also find free wireless in a few of the coffee shops on Bridgeway.
Day 2 - Muir Woods: There are many hiking options available to experience the California Redwoods, from an easy 1/2 hour stroll to a strenuous 4.5 uphill Ocean View loop. While there, I spotted a number of bus tours that went to Muir Woods: www.SFShuttletours.com, Tower Tours, www.city-sightseeing.us.
Day 3 – Alcatraz Island: We lucked out with a docent connection who gave us a private tour so we got to experience a unique Alcatraz! He took us up to see Al Capone's cell, the Birdman's cell and also where Clint Eastwood stayed during the filming of the movie, Escape From Alcatraz. For the public tours, the ferry takes up to 300 passengers at a time and when you arrive, the group is split into three groups of 100, each led by a docent. The ferry is located near Pier 39 so you can easily make a day of it between the Pier activities and shops and Alcatraz. A travel tip: Save $ by parking after 4 p.m.; you can even find some free parking on Bay Street (which Ts onto the Embarcadero).
Day 4 - The Lighthouse Cafe is a small dining establishment with 5 tables and 8 bar chairs. They are open from 6:30-3pm and while we were there, all the tables were kept full. Being the only Danish place in town, I went for the Copenhagen Burger with remoulade. Tasty! Then it was off to Muir Beach for some primetime kite flying. A travel tip: Games People Play on Bridgeway in Sausalito sells a lot of cool kites (I picked up an 18-foot frog kite but there are others that are more than 60-feet long!).
Blog and pictures by Ingrid McCleary