Lands End: San Francisco's Oceanfront Gem
Chen Robert/Getty Images

Lands End: San Francisco's Oceanfront Gem

Lands End: San Francisco's Oceanfront Gem
Discover a window into the past and amazing views of San Francisco at this oceanfront playground

While most people beeline to the Golden Gate Bridge for their Instagram shots of San Francisco, some of the most amazing views of the City by the Bay and its dramatic surroundings can be captured from San Francisco’s northwestern tip—a wild and windswept, ocean-wrapped spit known as Lands End. Rich in history and historic sites (even ruins), it’s also a great spot for stretching your legs on a network of uncrowded trails, with plenty of chances to spy seals, sea lions, pelicans, and even whales.

“I have the most exalted ideas regarding the future of California. I think we will grow in population, we will grow in commerce, we will grow in civilization and arts and sciences until we will rank first among our countries.” –Adolph Sutro (1830–1898)

Start your visit at the Lands End Lookout, an excellent interpretive center with picture windows looking west to the blue Pacific. (December to March, keep your eyes peeled for migrating gray whales; in summer, you might spy humpbacks or even endangered blue whales.) Displays shed light on the region’s natural history and on Lands End’s fascinating place in San Francisco’s past. In the 1880s, Adolph Sutro, who made millions in silver mining and real estate, bought acreage here, dubbed it Sutro Heights, and set about transforming the land into an elaborate public garden, with forests, flower beds, and wide paths leading to vista points. He also snapped up and grandly refurbished the region’s signature oceanfront restaurant, Cliff House, and started building his dream project: an open-to-all waterfront wonderland, including a massive glass structure enclosing six swimming pools, each naturally recharged with seawater at high tide and heated to various temperatures. Over the decades, the Sutro family struggled to keep it all financed and functioning, but after a fire in 1966, the baths were permanently shuttered. Development plans for the site fell through, and, in 1976, the bathhouse complex, now no more than dramatic ruins, and surrounding acreage were designated as parkland, a federally protected part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

The Sutro Baths could accommodate 10,000 people at one time, with 500 dressing rooms, and 20,000 bathing suits and 40,000 towels for rent.

Paths now wind down into the ruins and link to the Coastal Trail, with breathtaking views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Marin Headlands. Cliff House has undergone yet another face-lift, with various dining options (the fanciest choice, dress-up–worthy Sutro’s, has some of the city’s best window-seat views of the ocean at sunset). There’s also a nice gift shop and a wraparound walkway for more ocean views. From here, it’s an easy stroll south to Ocean Beach, a 3.5-mile long ribbon of white sand that’s remarkably untrammeled and wild—an often-overlooked gem trimming the western side of San Francisco.

Harriot Manley/ Sunset Publishing

Discover the San Francisco Bay Area

A crimson bridge, cable cars, a sparkling bay, and streets lined with elegant Victorian homes—San Francisco is undeniably one of the world’s great cities. Located along the Northern California at the state’s distinctive bend in the coast, the region has an alluring magic that stretches beyond the bay to diverse cities with nightlife and trend-setting cuisine.

"I left my heart in San Francisco, High on a hill, it calls to me." —singer Tony Bennett

The Bay Area is also home to some of the world’s finest wine country, including Napa Valley and Sonoma, plus waterfront towns, dramatic beaches, and the tech-savvy southern end of the bay known as the Silicon Valley, where lunchtime ideas at Google, Facebook, and Apple, turn into the next brilliant innovation. 

Eiojo Torpe/Getty Images

Sausalito

Explore this quaint town that’s just over the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco

Just north of the Golden Gate Bridge, a steep hillside covered in chaparral and eucalyptus drops from Highway 101 to a flat, sunny shoreline, two...

Chao Kusollerscharlya/Shutterstock

Spotlight: Berkeley

See a stunning museum, shop, and feast in the Bay Area’s most outspoken city

A haven for backyard artists and coffee-shop philosophers, Berkeley has deep roots in the Flower Power movement of the 1960s and ’70s. But...

San Francisco's cable cars are the country's only mobile National Historic Landmark.
Thomas H. Story/ Sunset Publishing

Golden Gate Bridge

See one of the world’s most famous landmarks, spanning an elegant bay

With towers soaring 746 feet/227 meters into the sky, its span arcing across the mouth of San Francisco Bay, and all of it painted bright red-...

San Francisco has only one drawback - 'tis hard to leave.
Rudyard Kipling
SPECIAL FEATURE
Taste the delicious dishes from these amazing California chefs

From a candy-colored pastry shop to Michelin-starred dining rooms, top restaurants run by celebrity chefs dot the Golden State. And even if you don’t know these chefs from the TV...

California's Celebrity Chefs
Mathew Spolin/Getty Images

Spotlight: Napa Valley

Explore ultimate wine country luxury in the land where Cabernet is king

Napa Valley reigns as the land of grand estates, expansive tasting rooms, quaint towns, and elegant lodgings, many of which edge up to the...

Atelier Crenn
Courtesy of MasterChef Australia

Atelier Crenn

Two Michelin stars sparkle at this minimalist gem

For a visual feast that also happens to taste amazing, book a table at Atelier Crenn, where gifted chef Dominique Crenn creates visually stunning...

Vicki Jauron/Getty Images

Spotlight: Sonoma County

Escape to wine country with secret vineyards, cozy inns, and rich history

Spanning more than one million acres from the Pacific Ocean to the rugged Coast Range, this slice of wine-country bliss defies typecasting. Yes,...

SPECIAL FEATURE
Kid-friendly fun zones, special kids' menus & amazing wine for the grownups

Sure wine country is romantic, but now it’s a surprisingly great destination for families too, with a growing number of vineyards trading in elegant tasting rooms for kid-friendly fun zones that...

John/Flickr
SPECIAL FEATURE
World-class accommodations in world-class locations

Head to the heart of California’s cities for luxurious stays at world-class accommodations. From San Francisco’s historic hotels to celebrity hot spots in Hollywood and Beverly Hills, California’s...

Big City Hotels & Lodgings
Lynn Gately/Flickr
San Francisco itself is art, above all literary art. Every block is a short story, every hill a novel. Every home a poem, every dweller within immortal. That is the whole truth.
William Saroyan
Ultimate Northern California
Harriot Manley/Sunset Publishing

Trip 8-10 days 10 stops

Ultimate Northern California

Explore the best of Northern California's Great Outdoors
San Francisco

It may measure less than 50 square miles/130 square kilometers, but San Francisco justly ranks as one of the greatest cities in the world. Famous for grand-dame Victorians, classic cable cars, dynamic diversity, a beautiful waterfront, and a soaring crimson bridge, the  “City by the Bay” is the...

Muir Woods National Monument

Tucked into an ocean-facing fold of Mount Tamalpais, the signature peak just north of the Golden Gate Bridge in Marin County, Muir Woods National Monument protects the last stand of uncut old-growth coast redwoods in the Bay Area, where loggers had all but denuded the region by the late 1800s....

SPECIAL FEATURE
Farm-fresh produce, culinary adventures

Juicy heirloom tomatoes and just-picked strawberries. Super-sweet peaches shaped like mini UFOs. Artisanal cheeses, emerald-green olive oils, local wildflower honey—California’s farmers’ markets...

10 Top Farmers' Markets
Laura Flippen
SPECIAL FEATURE
From Gold Rush history to the 8th wonder of the world, visit these favorites

If there was ever a box of chocolates—and all of them delicious—it’s the rich collection of natural treasures, fascinating...

Amy Meredith/Flickr
SPECIAL FEATURE
Make memories at some of California's family-favorite beaches

Sand, water, and kids—it’s a natural combination for easy family fun. This sandy dozen offers appealing, family-friendly features, such as calm water for new swimmers, tide pools for intrepid...

12 Great Beaches for Kids
Alex Farnum
Performing Arts
Courtesy of Alonzo King LINES Ballet

Performing Arts

Museums, music, and a hint of bohemia

Nested near the city’s cupola-topped City Hall, impressive performance spaces in San Francisco present some of California’s—and the world’s—...

Courtesy of San Jose International Airport

Spotlight: San Jose

Tech savvy, international flair

The first hit of this city’s unmistakable techy-ness starts right off the bat—if you get here by plane. Meet Space Observer, a 26-foot/7.9-meter-...

It's simply a very romantic place. Just one look at any of those streets, and you couldn't be anywhere else -- it's so beautiful, and there's that location, and the sense of the free spirit. ... Who couldn't become ravenous in such a place?
Julia Child
SPECIAL FEATURE
Old-fashioned fun in the Golden State

Historic oceanfront playgrounds, classic city-park charmers, boisterous adventures—smaller theme parks and attractions offer an array of ways to play.  These smaller parks offer old-...

Safari West
Tai Power Seeff
According to legend, Winchester Mystery House's maze of passages and building oddities were designed to confuse the ghosts of those killed by Winchester rifles.
SPECIAL FEATURE
Kids get an inside look at wildlife, space, and more

From cool ways for your kids to learn about wildlife, to an insider’s look at a space station, to a chance to walk through a rain forest or learn about the night sky, there’s a bumper...

Peter Alfred Hess/Flickr

Trip 3-5 days 10 stops

San Francisco Bay Loop

Discover this something-for-everything loop tour around an iconic bay
Golden Gate Bridge

Start your trip with a visit to one of the most iconic spans in the world. With towers soaring 746 feet/227 meters into the sky, its span arcing across the mouth of San Francisco Bay, and all of it painted fire-engine red, the Golden Gate Bridge makes a dramatic destination, and a great way to...

San Francisco

End your road trip by exploring one of the world’s great cities. Famous for grand-dame Victorians, classic cable cars, dynamic diversity, a beautiful waterfront, and a soaring crimson bridge, the “City by the Bay” truly has it all. Trend-defining cuisine ranging from Michelin-starred dining to...

SPECIAL FEATURE
Check these amazing experiences off your bucket list

Kiss a beluga, see cool movie props, and learn about Walt’s secret hideaway on exclusive and behind-the-scenes tours at California’s theme parks and attractions. Here’s a roundup of worth-the-...

Special VIP Tours
Michael Saechang/Flickr
SPECIAL FEATURE
Where to release your inner fashionista

Shopping is an art form in California. Whether you're in search of the perfect cocktail dress or an authentic Mexican piñata, you'll find it here. Want to sample fresh produce? Try our farmers...

Shopping Hot Spots
Livermore
Tai Power Seeff

Livermore

Ranches, vineyards, and relaxed appeal east of San Francisco

With warm sun and wide-open spaces cradling vineyards, ranches, and wine-country estates, the Livermore Valley makes an appealing destination just...