The Carquinez Strait
35 miles from SF
The area between Interstates 80 and 680 is often forgotten by Bay Area residents, who pass over the Strait on their way north to Vallejo or Fairfield (where the Jelly Belly factory is... so, we understand). But the towns of Port Costa, Martinez, Benicia, and Crockett each have their own charm and are bustling arts communities. Ride your bike or hike along the Carquinez Strait Regional Shoreline for views of the water and the Mothball Fleet, then grab a drink at the Warehouse Café in Port Costa, where you can sample among the bar’s 250+ beers. Head across the water to Benicia, to visit artist studios at the Arsenal, check out one of the glass blowing studios Downtown where classes are often held, or go to the city’s historical museum -- did you know Benicia was the California state capital for about a year? Crazy, right?
55 miles from SF
This North Bay hippie town is just 15 minutes from the Pacific and the Russian River, and is chock full of rolling untamed hills, vineyards, and farmland. But Sebastopol is more than views: the small town has a thriving arts community, part of which is on display along Florence Ave, as well as excellent eats and antique hunting (you could probably spend a whole day at the Aubergine Vintage Emporium and Café alone). Go on a Saturday to visit the Sebastopol Farmers Market for some serious locavore gems, and be sure to stop by Woodfour Brewing Co. for their farmhouse-style ale.