Unforgettable adventures in San Francisco

At only 78 square kilometres, San Francisco is beautifully compact.

It's easy to pack a lot of action and entertainment into your stay without having to travel too far. And you can reach many places using the city's favourite form of transport - cable car. Right out of the Smithsonian, these trusty vehicles synchronise nicely with San Francisco's other public transport systems.

Getting out there

San Francisco's climate lives between extremes of hot and cold, so it's nearly always comfortable - even when you're doing adventurous things that involve a raised pulse rate. If you factor some action into your itinerary, you'll really get to know the city. 

Pack your active wear and become an urban hiker. The hilly landscape includes secret stairways, entrancing trails and killer views. Make sure you find San Francisco's 'painted ladies' - a tight formation of ornate Victorian houses against a backdrop of skyscrapers.

Painted ladies, San Francisco, USA.

Biking is another way to appreciate this city of surprises. You can join an organised group or make up your own tour - San Francisco has been named the second most bike friendly city in the USA, so this won't be difficult. To avoid steep hire fees, you can buy a short-term membership to the local bike share arrangement.

Water is the other great stage for San Francisco adventures. At South Beach Pier 40 you can rent a kayak or, if it's a calm day, a stand-up paddle board. From here you can follow a number of routes that hug the waterfront, including one that goes right under the Golden Gate Bridge.

Make sure you find the 'painted ladies' - a collection of ornate Victorian houses against a backdrop of skyscrapers.

Chasing culture

As a famously open-minded city, San Francisco can show you art galleries and museums that adjust your thinking. Prepare to be tickled, tantalised and totally taken aback. You could start with the De Young Museum in Golden Gate Park, which was founded more than 100 years ago. Or seek out the Red Poppy Art House, an intercultural and multidisciplinary 'space of encounter'.

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) is where you'll find art history on steroids. Recently it closed for three years, emerging as a massive experience that could easily take several days to discover. Check out the exhibition offering carefully, so that you see the stuff that resonates perfectly with your inner art critic. 

Art certainly isn't all highbrow in this city. Down at the waterfront is the Musee Mecanique, a living tribute to the arcade games that spawned today's video gaming culture. Armed with a pocketful of quarters, you’ll have the hands-on time of your life.

Beyond the city

Leaving the city behind could be as simple as jumping on a ferry or as all-consuming as a multi-day road trip. If you're keen to drive the coast, the general opinion is that getting out of San Francisco is much easier than trying to navigate the city. Once you're on Highway 1, it's a cruise.

Day trips from the city include ferrying from Fisherman's Wharf to Sausalito, a National Seashore area on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge; catching a BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) train to East Bay; or checking out the beaches south of San Francisco - Half Moon Bay, Pacific and Santa Cruz. If you’re a propeller-head, Silicon Valley is just an hour's drive away. 

For a longer itinerary add-on, consider the famous fishing town of Monterey, Big Sur or Sacramento. And then there's Yosemite, with its glacier-carved valleys and towering rock cliffs. Watching climbers scamper up vertical rock faces is mesmerising, in a toe-tingling kind of way. East of San Francisco is Lake Tahoe, where water or snow sports can be combined with gambling and fine dining.

Keep exploring San Francisco