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Off The Beaten Path: San Francisco

Day three…I woke up early, unable to sleep from excitement for the day ahead, which would take me to one of my favorite cities on earth…San Francisco.  I’ve lived in San Francisco, but on this trip I would be exploring off the beaten path and visiting some places around SF that I had never been to before.  I hopped on a plane and off to Cali I went…


west coast

I arrived early and had a full day to explore before checking in to my hotel.  The first thing I did was hop in my rental car and head over the Golden Gate bridge to Marin County.  This piece of land north of San Francisco is one of the most beautiful places on earth.  There are so many different types of landscapes, from misty harbors filled with houseboats to rocky cliffs battered by the ocean, to redwood forests nestled in the crevices of the hills. My first stop was Sausalito, the town just over the Golden Gate bridge known for its community of houseboats.  Stepping on to one of the docks, you immediately understand why people have made homes here and never left, and why Otis Redding was inspired by this place to write his famous tune “Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay.”  Boats drift in the peaceful marina singing songs as they gently rock and creak, a layer of fog floats serenely overhead, and you get the sense that this is one of those places where things may change, but everything really does remain the same.

golden fate bridge






After wandering around Sausalito for a bit I got back in the car to make my journey to the beaches of Marin.  A windy road will take you there, creeping precariously through the hills where Muir Woods lies to your right and to your left you catch glimpses of turquoise that is the Pacific Ocean.  I made a pit stop at Muir Beach Overlook to check out the view, and found a walkway that takes you to a point on the cliffs that feels like the edge of the earth.  I was the only one out there, and I stood there for several minutes, just breathing and feeling so appreciative for where I was.  Traveling can be very “go go go,” always rushing to catch planes, battling the clock, and places like this make you stop everything for a moment and just breathe.

marin county

muir beach overlook

On to Stinson Beach.  I’m surprised that I never made it to Stinson when I lived in SF, because I had a lot of friends who went regularly to surf.  It’s such a sweet little beach town, and though the beach can get crowded, the town hasn’t lost its old school charm.  While I was there the sun started to burn through the fog and suddenly it was a beautiful day with people flocking to the beach. I didn’t stay long in Stinson because I was on a mission to find Bolinas.

stinson beach

stinson beach

stinson beach

stinson beach

stinson beach




Bolinas…I’ve never been anywhere like it.  The residents here are famously reclusive, and known to turn around road signs so that people can’t find the town.  Bolinas lies just north of Stinson, but whether it was a result of hiding street signs or not, I didn’t see a single sign indicating that I was on the right path.  But I found it, and I instantly fell in love.  Blink and you’d miss this little town, where things like parking meters don’t exist, boats drift lazily in the harbor, and the beach is lined with graffiti-covered stone walls. It’s an artsy community and even the graffiti adds to the charm of this town.  Surfers pull their cars up to the beach and change into wetsuits, picking their way through rocks out to where the waves crash, and locals greet you with a nod and a smile.  I felt like I was in a little peaceful bubble in Bolinas, where the real world feels a million miles away.















By now it was the afternoon and I decided to make my way back to San Francisco.  I drove back across the bridge and decided to check out Land’s End, a park within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area where you can hike down numerous trails for stunning views of the bridge and bay. I was looking for one trail in particular, the one that takes you to the Eagle Point Labyrinth.  The labyrinth, created by a local artist, sits on a rocky cliff that can be reached by a wooden staircase that winds down through the wild growth, and has messages strewn on the pieces of wood by people who have walked this path before.  You’re almost unsure if you’re even going in the right direction but then, there it is, and the Golden Gate is in the distance, giving you the most breathtaking view. The Pacific Ocean in the Northwest is the most beautiful shade of blue that almost doesn’t even look real.

san francisco

san francisco

san francisco

san francisco

san francisco

By the time I reached my hotel, the Hotel Monaco in downtown San Francisco, I was completely exhausted.  The staff at this hotel was so welcoming – they even left me a “key to the city” which was such a thoughtful gesture! Not to mention, my room had the biggest bathroom I’ve ever seen.

hotel moncao san francisco

hotel moncao san francisco

Day three was one of my favorite days from my adventures.  I fell in love with Bolinas and I felt so in awe of the beauty of Northern California.  It’s amazing how many stunning places and views lie around almost every corner here, and how even when you live in a place you can miss so many incredible towns and hidden gems.  It reminded me of the Roald Dahl quote, which I’ll end with today:


“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”

Check back tomorrow to see where I go next — and be sure to enter our Off the Beaten Path Sweeps!

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Elissa -August 28, 2013, 9:10AM

I’m from Marin, I just moved to Chicago about a month ago! Bolinas and Stinson were my afterschool/weekend destinations! I miss it like crazy and can’t wait to go back :) love the photos xx

Lauren -August 28, 2013, 9:52AM

Gorgeous pictures. I fall in love with sf more and more everyday.


Juliette Laura -August 28, 2013, 9:53AM

Oh goodness, I have never been to California, let alone these beautiful places. I am now in love with the idea of visiting Bolinas and Stinson!

xo, Juliette Laura

Liz -August 28, 2013, 10:03AM

Oh. My. God. My dad works in Palo Alto. I think it’s time for another visit. :P Last time I spent my *very* limited time in the city. San Francisco is one of my favorite places on earth. The pictures actually remind me of my time in Colonia, Uruguay. I can’t wait to see Bolinas and Stinson for myself. :)

Annejelina -August 28, 2013, 11:35AM

This has been a treat to read these in the morning over coffee <3 Annejelina
Visit my shop:

Danielle Wallis -August 28, 2013, 11:54AM

My home! Your photography is absolutely stunning. You captured Nor Cal’s beauty in a way that I am so fond of, that I remember it by. Can’t wait to see more!

Megan -August 28, 2013, 12:25PM

I just really really want to travel to these places now! They all look so enchanting and fairytale like.

fp julia -August 28, 2013, 12:27PM

Enter our sweeps, maybe you will get a chance to!! ;)

Jessica M -August 28, 2013, 2:22PM

I just LOVE this story and collection of images! SF has the most stunning natural settings and parks nearby and within it and this story more than does it justice. I’m so glad you made it through Stinson Beach, I love how remote it feels even though its actually so close to a huge city. Can’t wait to see where you head next!
xo -jm

Kellie Lannon -August 28, 2013, 2:29PM

So inspiring to get up and go outside and take a l

Kellie Lannon -August 28, 2013, 2:30PM

ook at how beautiful the world we live in really is

kaitlyn -August 28, 2013, 3:29PM

love how i know most of these sights in the picture being that i live in Marin just minutes away. i love SF. Have you seen the tower yet? :)

Charlotte -August 28, 2013, 3:37PM

Wow – beautiful photos! I went to SF this summer but missed out on all this fun –

Emily -August 28, 2013, 4:50PM

I’m heading to San Fran in a week…after reading this post I’m even more excited to explore!

Amy -August 28, 2013, 5:51PM

what kind of camera do you use? love the vintage feel.

Tori -August 28, 2013, 5:57PM

What a beautiful post! I was born and raised in Norther California and have never visited either of these places and have added them to my list. Thanks!

Jessica -August 28, 2013, 8:56PM

I live in Marin! I’m so glad this was posted so more people know how amazing it is. So many cool places to explore and discover. My friends and I find a new spot almost every week. Gorgeous views and great vibes :)

Michelle -August 28, 2013, 9:27PM

I love this :) Reading this blog just puts in me in a better mood.

Michelle -August 28, 2013, 9:28PM
Amy -August 28, 2013, 11:06PM

your photography is truly mind blowing… well done my love, well done. x.

Angi -August 29, 2013, 5:00AM

Beautifull pictures! I WANT TO GO THERE!

Tessa -August 29, 2013, 5:07AM

Hi Julia — what a great post, and perfect timing being that I m doing a northwest road trip this fall! i m even more excited

I would love to know what app/program you used with the quotes and the photo with the map

thanks , tess

PS — have you ever done an article on your camera — i feel like the readers(me included) would love a post like that

Sara -August 29, 2013, 6:13AM

Can Canadians enter the sweepstakes? I’ll be very disappointed in you guys if not…

Crista -August 30, 2013, 10:02PM

le sigh.

milka -November 26, 2014, 9:31PM

thank u. ;) i miss this place.

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