San Francisco Scenic Drive: 9 Stunning Views Around the Bay Area

Let the marvels of the San Francisco Bay Area unfold before your eyes as you set off on a long, scenic drive like no other. From golden sunsets over the Pacific to rolling vineyards, each road trip invites you to bask in the city’s breathtaking vistas, natural beauty and energetic atmosphere.

Join us and follow along with this handy guide on the most scenic drives in the San Francisco area. Some are along the coast, and some wind through lush, vibrant forests. Meanwhile, their peaks and troughs show you views you’d never experience while on foot.

All scenic routes below are filled with natural beauty, charming picnic spots, and quaint shops. Ready to embark on an unforgettable journey through the best scenic drives Bay area? Then, get behind the wheel and let the scenic San Francisco Bay Area drives surprise you.

17 Mile Drive

As the name suggests, this scenic drive in San Francisco is 17 miles long and stretches along a beautiful length of coastline. Enjoy sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean, lush golf courses, and luxurious resorts along 17 Mile Drive. There is a small admission fee of $10.75. This can be reimbursed for purchases made over $35 at the Pebble Beach Resorts.

Navigate slowly through the winding roads littered with storybook houses. Meanwhile, make your way to The Lone Cypress. This mighty Cypress is 250 years old and stands alone on its rocky shoreline perch. Then, move on to exploring Bird Rock. A rugged shoreline of rocky granite is sure to be occupied by sea lions and birds galore.

Bird Rock was once covered in bird droppings. This wasn’t all bad, as local agriculture establishments used it as fertilizer. However, sea lions, harbor seals, and marine birds moved in once Bird Rock was cleared. Now, you can bring a picnic and snack while surrounded by natural beauty.

Another reason it’s included in the best drives in San Francisco itinerary is you get to enjoy beautiful views of the ocean from Point Joe and Spanish Bay. The best time to visit 17 mile drive is at sunset, and you will see why Robert Louis Stevenson was inspired to write Treasure Island when he frequented this stretch of land. 

Pacifica State Beach to Gray Whale Cove State Beach

While you’ve probably been advised to take a trip to each of these beaches, you may not know that the drive between them is more than magical. Start your scenic drives San Francisco by heading down to Pacifica State Beach. We recommend taking ample time to wander and take in the otherworldly sights around you. If you’re feeling peckish, pop into the nearby Taco Bell. It is the only T-Bell located on a beach and licensed to serve alcohol! 

Assuming you didn’t have too good a time drinking, head towards Gray Whale Cove Beach. Gaze in awe as you cruise through a tunnel that appears to transport you to other realms. Once you have parked, head to the cliff. Take in this otherworldly piece of barren land.

Always keep your eyes peeled as you drive around San Francisco gem, as it is abundant in wild hares as well. Peep the free-growing fennel and gaze at a staircase that leads down to the beach. The stairs are no longer safe to use, but the lack of human tramping has become abundant in wildflowers. You’ll never forget this scenic drive Bay Area experience. 

Pro Tip: Check out the Gray Whale Cove Trail. At 2.2 miles, this hike is great for all skill levels and showcases the most beautiful wildflowers. 

Wide shot of Pacifica State Beach at sunset with two surfers walking near the water in San Francisco, California, USA
photo credit: Ellis Coombs via Facebook

Saratoga Hills

Like Haight Ashbury, Saratoga is more than its boutiques, gorgeous downtown, and excellent restaurants, making it one of the best places to go for a San Francisco scenic drive. As a charming town in the Bay Area, it makes for an exceptional drive in the hills. Start by navigating towards Garrod Farms and enjoy being taken through the most delightful parts of Saratoga’s hills.

Do you know that feeling when Julie Andrews sings “The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Music………” in The Sound of Music? That is how you will feel when driving through these hills. This drive is most stunning at sunset, so time your visit.

If you have a couple of options to wind down your adventurous day, head into the Garrod Farm’s winery and enjoy a cheeky treat. Or make your way towards Saratoga’s downtown. Then, hang out at the cozy outdoor patio of The Hero Ranch Kitchen

Scenic San Francisco Drive to Point Reyes

Point Reyes has plenty of delights to offer on its own. But, if you combine your visit with a scenic drive in Bay Area, you can enthrall your senses in unimaginable ways. 

You can begin your scenic drive San Francisco by navigating to Muir Woods. Gaze in wonder as you drive through some enchanting woodlands. While driving through Muir Woods is impossible, we highly recommend parking and hiking through the redwoods and experiencing the woody smell and ethereal sights as you go.

After your hike, continue your drive towards Point Reyes. You may notice the landscape begins to look like the Scottish highlands (Any Outlander fans out there?) Indeed the names of the little towns you drive by are Scottish!

As you marvel at the American Inverness, keep a keen eye out for Elk. The Tomales Point Tule Elk Reserve borders the road you are traversing.

While visiting Point Reyes, take the chance to enjoy a scenic drive near San Francisco’s hidden gems, including Drakes Beach, if all you crave is more wildlife and want to catch sight of the elephant seals. While you’re at it, meander to the viewing point at Point Reyes. Anything with a “Point” in its name is a great area for spotting whales. Try one of the hiking trails along the Point Reyes coast for a taste of the view on foot.

While there is so much to see, you may be inclined to ignore those tummy grumbles. Don’t let hunger dampen your experience. Instead, be sure to pack a picnic when going on scenic drives Bay Area like Point Reyes. Food to go is rare in these parts, and you don’t want to lose time with a sit-down meal.

A road with cars on it going through very tall trees and curving on the drive to Point Reyes in San Francisco, California, USAStage Road To Pescadero

One of the absolute best scenic drives in San Francisco is the trip to Pescadero. A favorite amongst cyclists, Stage Road, is one of the shortest picturesque routes you can enjoy. Find a wide shoulder along Stage Road and take the opportunity to park. The views are breathtaking!

Keep in mind that you may find yourself competing with cyclists for space when you get to Stage Road. This stretch is a little shy of a mile, a short scenic drive from San Francisco. But if you are a keen cyclist, you are welcome to bring your bike along and hop on for this short ride before getting back on the Stage Road. 

The Highway 1 scenic drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles is equally delightful as well. While fascinated by the beauty of San Francisco, consider extending your exploration along the legendary Pacific Coast Highway, with approximately 383 miles distance from San Francisco to Los Angeles.

You can also eat your lunch along the side of the road. However, if modern conveniences are more to your taste, a British Pub beckons you down the road. 

49 Mile Scenic Drive Through San Francisco

Looking for the best places to drive in San Francisco? You can’t go wrong with 49 mile scenic drive San Francisco, one of the best drives in Bay Area.

Treat yourself to the sights and sounds of the city and its attractions from City Hall to Oracle Park when you embark on a scenic 49 mile drive San Francisco. Take the chance to see the area’s top sights such as the Fisherman’s Wharf.

From street artists and cable cars to fresh seafood dishes and stunning water views, you won’t regret dedicating some time to getting acquainted with this unforgettable destination. Then, discover the rich history of Mission Dolores, one of the oldest intact buildings in the city.

Along the route, you will also encounter some of the city’s top remarkable sights, including the following:

  • California Academy of Sciences
  • Golden Gate Bridge
  • Palace of Fine Arts
  • Nob Hill
  • Cable Car Barn
  • Twin Peaks
  • Asian Art Museum
  • Golden Gate Park
  • Marina Green/ Crissy field
  • Telegraph Hill/ Coit Tower
  • Legion of Honor
  • Russian Hill/ Lombard Street
  • Union Square
  • Ferry Building
  • North Beach
  • Ocean Beach

Family looking over San Francisco Bay and Golden Gate BridgeHighway 101 North

Stop scouring the internet for the best “scenic drives near me”. Embark on a breathtaking scenic drive from San Francisco to Napa Valley, following the captivating route of Highway 101 North.

This journey offers you the perfect blend of natural splendor and architectural marvels, with the added bonus of gazing upon the iconic Golden Gate Bridge.  As you approach the city’s iconic wine haven, be sure to slow down and relish the moment and the view.

Redwood National Park

Experience an awe-inspiring and unforgettable scenic drive from San Francisco to Redwood National Park. This extraordinary journey perfectly blends the vibrant energy of urban excitement with the serene tranquility of natural serenity.

As you leave the city behind, the picturesque Highway 101 North awaits, offering stunning vistas of the Pacific Ocean along the way. This means feeling the gentle ocean breeze on your face and seeing the dramatic cliffs that meet the glistening water!

San Francisco to Monterey

Searching for a “scenic drive near me”? After San Fran, continue the fun by embarking on scenic drives near San Francisco, specifically south to the charming coastal town of Monterey. Behold the breathtaking scenery as you travel the route and prepare to be enchanted by the history of the town, where you can explore the historic Cannery Row, visit the world-renowned Monterey Bay Aquarium, and indulge in fresh seafood delights while enjoying the coastal ambiance.

San Francisco Hotels

Can’t wait to explore San Francisco from behind the wheel? Before you hit the road and enjoy all the wonders the city has to offer, sort out your accommodations first.

By booking the perfect place to stay, you can truly unwind and recharge for your next day of exploration. Secure any of the San Francisco hotels from Tripster to get the biggest savings!

The truth is, whether you go one of these routes or all of them, the serenity along these scenic drives from San Francisco makes them special.

There are countless adventures and sights waiting for travelers who venture on San Diego to San Francisco scenic drives. From rugged coastlines to breathtaking ocean views, every road leads to new treasures and discoveries.

Scenic Drive San Francisco FAQs

The 49-mile scenic drive starts at San Francisco's iconic City Hall, offering visitors a picturesque route through the city's most famous landmarks and neighborhoods. From there, travelers can embark on a memorable journey, exploring the diverse attractions that San Francisco has to offer.

Yes, the drive from San Francisco to Monterey is considered one of the most scenic drives in California, offering breathtaking coastal views and stunning landscapes along the way. Travelers are treated to a picturesque journey that showcases the natural beauty of the California coast at its finest.

Tell Us, Have You Explored Any of The Scenic Drives That San Francisco Has to Offer?

Do you know any best places to drive in San Francisco? Let us know in the comments below!

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Written by Anne Joyce Raymundo

Anne is a Filipino writer who formerly managed and created marketing strategies and materials for numerous websites and eCommerce platforms. Now, her voice...

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