It doesn't matter the time of year, it's always a great time to sample the flavors of the San Francisco Bay Area. Start by traveling north from San Francisco through the lush hills of Marin County to the Napa Valley wine region, home of top-notch wines and some of the best cuisine in the country.
Trip length: 3 days
Total distance: 198mi/319km
San Francisco. Start your tour with breathtaking coastal views at the iconic Cliff House , perched high above Ocean Beach. To stretch your legs, cross Pt. Lobos Avenue and meander through the mythical Sutro Heights Park, former estate of erstwhile San Francisco mayor Adolf Sutro. For more information: San Francisco Tourism Agency .
Mill Valley (17mi/28km; 35 min). Drive north over the Golden Gate Bridge—you can see Alcatraz Island to your right—then cut inland toward the coast, through towering redwood forests. Work up an appetite with a hike along the challenging Dipsea Trail, then refuel with pub-like cuisine at laid-back Mountain Home Inn . For more information: Marin County Convention & Visitors Bureau .
San Rafael (11mi/18km; 26 min). Head inland to the heart of Marin County for delicious fare at Panama Hotel , where you can enjoy eclectic cuisine infused with Latin flavors. Head over to Fourth Street to soak up this town’s charm, including Mission San Rafael Arcangel. For more information: Marin County Convention & Visitors Bureau .
Olema (19mi/31km; 38 min). One of the prettiest spots along the coastline is Point Reyes National Seashore—also home to wonderful artisanal foods. Olema’s Point Reyes Seashore Lodge at comfort food, like mac-and-cheese with broccolini and ham, baby back ribs with mango-bourbon barbeque sauce, and creamy clam chowder. For more information: Marin County Convention & Visitors Bureau .
Rutherford (61mi/97km; 1 hr 45 min). The blink-and-you’ll-miss-it town of Rutherford is home to the posh Auberge du Soleil , with a restaurant is renowned for its unforgettable cuisine, award-winning wines, and impeccable service. The seasonal menu features dishes like sunchoke puree, potato croquettes topped with caviar, and lobster risotto. For more information: Visit Napa Valley .
Calistoga (13mi/21km; 23 min). This little town offers rejuvenating mud baths, notable wineries, and inviting restaurants. For a grand selection of local vintages, visit Solbar for daily house specials like poached black cod with black garlic ramen, all paired with excellent wines. For more information: Visit Napa Valley .
St. Helena (9mi/15km; 15 min). Capitalizing on California’s farm-to-table movement, Farmstead recreates the feeling of dining in a barn—albeit one with chic wood furnishings, vaulted ceilings, rustic light fixtures, and dishes like potted pig, muffuletta and wood-roasted marrow bones. For more information: Visit Napa Valley .
Yountville (10mi/15km; 16 min). This tiny, upscale town - said to have more Michelin stars per capita than anywhere on the planet - is loaded with fine restaurants along its central street. Culinary giants like Thomas Keller and Michael Chiarello set the lofty tone here (both have signature restaurants in town). One among many eateries worth a visit: Bistro Jeanty , a Michelin-starred French-style eatery. For more information: Yountville Chamber of Commerce .
Napa (9mi/14km; 16 min). Major revitalizations of Napa’s downtown include a lively dining scene, including elegant La Toque , housed in the Westin Verasa Napa and boasting a Michelin star. Starting in January, the chef will cook up an entire menu of truffle-inspired dishes, including dessert. For more information: Visit Napa Valley .
San Francisco (49mi/79km; 1 hr 3 min). Enjoy a final feast at Foreign Cinema . Sampling California/Mediterranean-inspired cuisine while watching a film in the restaurant’s central courtyard is an only-in-San-Francisco experience. For more information: San Francisco Tourism Agency .