The Bay Area’s Best Outdoor Adventures

The Bay Area’s Best Outdoor Adventures


One of the most spectacular animal attractions on the entire California Coast is the elephant seal breeding grounds at Ano Nuevo State Reserve (located 55 miles south of San Francisco off Highway 1), where you can see massive elephant seals sunning themselves on the beaches year-round. But from December through March, people reserve tickets weeks in advance for a chance to witness a fearsome clash between the 2-ton bulls over mating privileges among the females (talk about tough love). Reservations are required for the naturalist-led tours (held rain or shine Dec 15-Mar 31). Even if it’s not mating season, you can still see the elephant seals lolling around the shore almost year-round, particularly between April and August when they come ashore to molt. For more information log onto
WHERE TO STAY: Half Moon Bay Hotels

Even if you can’t tell a condor from a bushtit, you’ll enjoy an outing to the Point Reyes Bird Observatory, one of the few full-time ornithological research stations in the United States. This is where ornithologists keep an eye on more than 400 feathered species that live in the region. Admission to the visitor center and nature trail is free, and visitors are welcome to observe the tricky process of netting and banding the birds. It’s a wonderful way to spend the day with the kids, learning about the ecosystem of birds and other wildlife while playing “I spy” with your bird-spotting book and binoculars. For more information log onto
WHERE TO STAY: Point Reyes Hotels

A HIKE TO ALAMERE FALLS, Point Reyes National Seashore
Some of Point Reyes National Seashore’s best and least crowded highlights are accessible only on foot, such as Alamere Falls, a freshwater stream that cascades down a 40-foot bluff onto Wildcat Beach. Load up your day pack with sandwiches and drinks, bring your camera, park at the Palomarin Trailhead, and get ready for one of the finest hikes on the California coast. The 7.5-mile out-and-back day trip will take you past lakes, through towering groves of eucalyptus, and breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean. Enjoying a well-earned picnic lunch at the falls is one of the most enjoyable ways to spend a sunny day in the Bay Area. For more information log onto
WHERE TO STAY: Point Reyes Hotels

One of my favorite things to do in Point Reyes is paddle through placid Tomales Bay, a haven for migrating birds and marine mammals. But doing it under a full moon? Now that’s cool. A local company called Blue Waters Kayaking offers daytime outings for locals of all ages and levels, but it’s their 3-hour moonlit tours that are truly special. As you glide across the placid bay, the moon lights the water with an almost mystical glow while night herons and osprey silently glide past you like airborne apparitions. For more information log onto WHERE TO STAY: Point Reyes Hotels

Get back in touch with your inner child and spend the day plonking through one of the best tide pools in the Bay Area, looking and touching all those weird and slimy things living or growing on the rocks. Located about 7 miles north of Half Moon Bay on Highway 1, the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve is one of the most diverse tidal basins on the West Coast, as well as one of the safest, thanks to a wave-buffering rock terrace 150 feet from the beach. Call before coming to find out when it’s low tide (all the sea creatures are hidden at high tide) and to get information on the docent-led tour schedules (usually offered on Saturday). It’s a great way to spend the day with the family. For more information log onto
WHERE TO STAY: Half Moon Bay Hotels

Sonoma and its neighboring towns are so small, close together, and relatively flat that it’s not difficult to get around on two wheels. In fact, if you’re not in a hurry, there’s no better way to tour Sonoma Valley than via bicycle. There are several bike rental and tour companies in Sonoma Valley, whose staff will happily map out the best bike routes, or take one of their organized excursions to Sonoma region wineries (some even provide a van to lug any bottles of win you buy along the way). The rental cost typically includes helmets, locks, maps, and everything else you’ll need. Tandem bikes are available as well. For more information log onto
WHERE TO STAY: Sonoma Hotels

My all-time favorite place to visit when I’m in the Half Moon Bay region is Harley Farms Goat Dairy, the only working dairy farm left in San Mateo County. The charming and charismatic Dee Harley and her gaggle of 220 or so goats have been supplying the top restaurants in the Bay Area with some of the finest goat cheese in the world. Believe me: No matter how old you are, a visit to Dee’s rustic barn loft to meet her goats, learn how goat cheese is made, and sample some product straight from the source is a experience you’ll never forget. Tours are by reservation only, but you can stop by any day between 11am to 5pm. For more information log onto
WHERE TO STAY: Half Moon Bay Hotels

It took the Potomac Association’s hundreds of volunteers more than 12 years—at a cost of $5 million—to restore the 165-foot presidential yacht Potomac, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s beloved “Floating White House.” Now a proud and permanent memorial berthed at the Port of Oakland’s FDR Pier at Jack London Square, the revitalized Potomac is open to the public for dockside tours, as well as 2-hour History Cruises around Treasure and Alcatraz islands. Combined with a visit to Jack London Square, it’s a great way to spend a Sunday. For more information log onto
WHERE TO STAY: Berkeley Hotels

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By Pooley / Administrator

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on Nov 01, 2008