The amazing thing about the West Coast is that it is still mostly wild, open, and astoundingly beautiful country, where you can drive for miles and miles and have the scenery all to yourself.
Across San Francisco
From the north, Hwy-1 enters San Francisco across the glorious Golden Gate Bridge, where parking areas at both ends let you ditch the car and walk across the elegant 1.7-mile-long span. South from the bridge, Hwy-1 follows 19th Avenue across Golden Gate Park, then runs due south through the outer reaches of San Francisco, finally reaching the coast again at the often-foggy town of Pacifica. The most scenic alternative is the 49-Mile Scenic Drive, the best part of which heads west from the bridge through the Presidio, along Lincoln Boulevard and Camino del Mar, following the rugged coastline to Lands End, where you can hike around and explore the remains of Sutro Baths, eat a burger or grilled cheese at Louis’ (902 Point Lobos Ave., 415/387-6330), a historic diner with amazing views, or dine at the wonderful (and not all-that-expensive) Cliff House (1090 Point Lobos Ave., 415/386-3330).
From Lands End, this scenic route runs south along the oceanfront Great Highway, which eventually links back up with Hwy-1 near the small but enjoyable San Francisco Zoo (Sloat Blvd. at the Great Highway, 415/753-7080, daily, $18 adults).
Since driving and parking in San Francisco can be frustrating and expensive (Steve McQueen could never make Bullitt in today’s traffic!), consider parking out here in the ’burbs and taking public transportation into the center of town. The N Judah Muni trolley line runs between downtown and the coast just south of Golden Gate Park, via the Sunset District neighborhood, where parking is comparatively plentiful.