Angel Island, California
A State Park packed with history and amazing Bay Area views
Having been home to Coast Miwoks, a supply stop for Spanish explorers, a cattle ranch, a US immigration station, an internment camp, a quarantine zone, a military base that saw soldiers off to WWI and WWII, a Nike missile base, and now a state park; Angel Island has seen a lot in its short ~10,000 years as an island, since the last Ice Age waned. Located in the San Francisco Bay, less than a mile from Tiburon and about three miles from San Francisco, this state park with dozens of campsites and multiple beaches is easily accessible by public transit (or kayak or private boat).
Every city should be so lucky to have an island like this; yet very few none are. Once you ferry over, grab a map and fuel up at the cafe/bar before exploring some of the island’s 12 miles of trails and roads that are great for bicycling and hiking (the only cars are driven by park employees). Then amble around historic, forgotten buildings -- my favorites are the abandoned hospital, and a now-silent parade grounds home to rusty military equipment and boarded-up barracks. At night the lucky few who’ve scored campsite reservations (six months in advance, in the few moments they’re available) have the run of the island, its wildlife, incredible views, and buildings with haunted pasts. You can pitch a tent, watch the sunset behind Golden Gate Bridge, and in the morning wake for for a stroll alongside deer, hawks, and raccoons, with fog-cloaked San Francisco, Sausalito, and Alcatraz in the distance. -- Johnnie Chamberlain