Sometimes the Discovery Channel just isn’t enough. Sometimes you want to get down on the farm. And sometimes you just want to go wild. Whether you’re hankering to hang with massive elephant seals, pet a rhino or ride a horse, you’ll find it all and more in our picks for the best “wild” bay area adventures.
1. Safari West Adventures | 3115 Porter Creek Road | Santa Rosa
Here’s a little bit of Africa (or the next best thing) in your own backyard. Get up close and personal with rhinos, lemurs, wildebeest and more during either a day safaris or an overnight stay in a luxury tent.
Directions: Take Golden Gate Transit bus #101 to Santa Rosa Transit Mall and transfer to Santa Rosa CityBus #1 towards Loop. Get off the bus at Stagecoach Road and Fountaingrove Parkway, and from there it’s about a 13-minute cab ride to the park. The entire journey takes about three hours and 20 minutes.
2. Año Nuevo State Park | 1 New Years Creek Road | Pescadero
Northern elephant seals weigh up to two tons, and they take over Año Nuevo State Park each winter to give birth and breed. Take a walk over the rolling sand dunes and along rugged beach to watch the show.
Directions: It’s best to drive to this one. The park is located 30 miles south of Half Moon Bay, just west of Highway 1. The hardcore, and those staying overnight, could take SamTrans to Cabrillo Highway and Pomponio beach and bike from there. The bus journey with transfers takes just under 3.5 hours, with an additional 1.5 hours of biking.
3. SF Bay Whale Watching | 10 Marina Blvd. | San Francisco
Get out on the open waters for a unique view of California’s coast, plus whales, dolphins, sea lions, and more.
Directions: Tours depart from Gas House Cove Marina. Take Muni #30X (to Chestnut and Laguna) or #72X (Van Ness and Chestnut).
4. Monarch Grove Sanctuary | 165 Forest Ave. | Pacific Grove
More than 20,000 butterflies clustered in the branches of eucalyptus trees. Can you picture it? You can if you visit Pacific Grove, otherwise known as “Butterfly Town, U.S.A.” (yes, it really is).
Directions: It’s easiest to drive to Pacific Grove, but once in the area you can get around by bike.
5. Isabella Farms | 6115 Morgan Territory Road | Clayton
The horses at Isabella Farms are treated like kings (or nearly). And the humans who visit the 15-acre ranch get to truly bond with them, over all-day riders through the gorgeous hills surrounding Mt. Diablo.
Directions: Take BART to Concord and catch the County Connection 10 bus to Marsh Creek Road/Bigelow Street (the journey takes about an hour and a half). From there it’s about a 13-minute taxi ride to the farm.
6. Marine Mammal Center | 2000 Bunker Road | Sausalito
Set on a pretty stretch of beach just north of the Golden Gate Bridge, the Marine Mammal is a veterinary hospital and rehabilitation center for marine mammals who are sick or have been injured by humans. And the public is free to visit, learn, and even volunteer.
Directions: Take Muni bus 76 to Mitchell Road & Bunker Road. The Center is a 10-minute walk from there.
7. Tilden Nature Area | Central Park Dr. | Berkeley
With hiking trails, camping sites, a learning center, and miniature farm, the Tilden Nature Area provides hands-on fun for all.
Directions: Take BART to Rockridge and then catch AC Transit Bur #67 in to the Canyon Drive. Or take BART to Downtown Berkeley. from there, you can either take the AC Transit Bus #67 to Grizzly Peak Boulevard, or rent a bike from the BART bike station and hit the park on two wheels.
8. Monterey Bay Aquarium | 886 Cannery Row | Monterey
Rub fins with sting rays, seahorses, sea otters, and other fascinating creatures at this gorgeous, interactive water wonderland.
Directions: Take BART to the San Francisco Airport (about 20 minutes) and catch the Monterey Salinas Airbus (approximately 2.5 hours) and then get the free WAVE bus from downtown Monterey to the Aquarium..