San Francisco: Side Trips

Marin County

Marin County Galen Rowell / Corbis
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Just over the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco is Marin County. Locals know it simply as Paradise. It offsets San Francisco's chilly, foggy weather by being sunnier (the fog burns off in Marin by mid morning) and 15 degrees warmer. It's also stunningly beautiful, with a mountain gently rising from its core. Mt. Tamalpais, where mountain biking was invented, is perfect for day hikes. And if you look at it just so, it resembles a nude woman in repose, with a cigarette butt between her lips. I'm not making this up; it's something that was probably first noted long ago, perhaps by the Miwok Indians, and exploited by locals.

In any event, Marin County, which is 85% protected open space, is must-see territory — though how you go about seeing it is a discussion. Many people come to Marin via the ferry to Sausalito, which leaves regularly from the Ferry Building in San Francisco's Financial District. Others rent bikes in San Francisco and cruise over the bridge, drop down into Sausalito, and pick up a protected, off-road bike path that runs deep into the county. Some take their bikes on the ferry, which is the best of both worlds, and allows you to wander farther than you would on foot. However you do it, make sure to see the Marin Headlands, a hilly park area along the southernmost coast of Marin — you'll get fabulous views of the Bay Area and the Golden Gate Bridge from here. Check out Rodeo Beach, not far from Sausalito, which is itself an excellent destination.

The Sausalito ferry takes a half-hour from San Francisco, and the town — with marinas, art galleries and waterfront restaurants — is fun to explore on foot. It's a great place to picnic; pick up food and wine at the Ferry Building on the San Francisco side and sit along the waterfront when you get to Sausalito. Sausalito also has one of the best sushi restaurants in Northern California, Sushi Ran, which is open for lunch and dinner.

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