Whether you’re snapping away with your iPhone or your deluxe Nikon kit, you’ll no doubt take some print-worthy photos at one of these locations!
From a Frank Lloyd Wright House to a Japanese Garden and a Tuscan-style vineyard, you’re sure to find a unique angle at one of the top 10 photography spots in the Bay Area. So without further ado, grab your bike or your Clipper Card, and if you don’t have a good compact camera – consider getting a good one! You can check this best compact camera list, and let’s start exploring!
1. Capture the Adventure: Take a Boat Tour of the Farallon Islands
Famous for the great whites who frequent their surrounding waters, the Farallon Islands are also called “California’s Galapagos.” Translation: They’re perfect for nature lovers—or those with a taste for danger.
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Directions: Join up with a tour of the islands to get anywhere close enough for a good shot. San Francisco Whale Tours depart from Pier 39. You can also explore the sanctuary through day long volunteer programs with the Greater Farrallones Association such as crab removal and restoration.
2. A (Tasting) Room with a View: Kuleto Estate Winery
When you think of Napa, you don’t typically picture dramatic mountain scenery, but that’s what you get at Kuleto Estate. Less than two hours from San Francisco you’ll find delicious wines set against a backdrop of undulating geography, stunning flora, and a Tuscan-style property makes for crazy camera-fodder. (kuletoestate.com)
Directions: The winery is only accessible by driving, but it’s a beautiful route.
3. View from the Top: Mt. Diablo
This devilishly titled mountain is heaven for outdoor enthusiasts. Hike, bike, or climb to the top, where you can actually see for hundreds of miles —it’s rumored to be the second-most expansive view in the world. From Diablo’s 3,849-foot peak, visitors can see more of the earth’s surface than from anywhere else except Africa’s 19,340-foot Kilimanjaro. For a moderate 6.5 mile day hike, try the Mt. Diablo Grand Loop.
Directions: The hour and a half journey involves taking the BART to Concord and catching the County Connection 10 bus to Clayton Road & Mitchell Canyon Road. Or take BART to Walnut Creek or Pleasant Hill and bike from there (about a 2.5-hour ride).
4. The Hidden Gem: Hayward Japanese Gardens
Yes, we have our own Japanese gardens in Golden Gate Park, but sometimes you just want to get away and try something new. The tiny but mighty Hayward Gardens provide the perfect place to do that. They also hold the distinction of being California’s first Japanese gardens and sticking to traditional designs and materials.
Directions: Take BART to Bay Fair BART Station, then transfer to the AC Transit bus 99. Get off on the corner of C Street and Mission Boulevard.
5. The Wright Stuff: The Hanna “Honeycomb” House
See firsthand what makes Frank Lloyd Wright so important. Designed in 1936 by Stanford professor Paul Hanna, the Hanna House is the first—and one of the best—examples of Wright’s signature hexagonal buildings. While you’re in the neighborhood, don’t forget to explore the best things to do in Palo Alto.
Directions: Take Caltrain south to the Palo Alto Station, then transfer to the Stanford Marguerite Shuttle and get off at Campus Drive and Mayfield South.
6. Let Loose Your Inner Wild Child: Santa Cruz Boardwalk
Stretching out along Santa Cruz’s gorgeous coast, this historic boardwalk has everything you need to have a day of fun (and great photos). Smiling faces, tasty treats, colorful, and historic, coasters… all there for the photo taking. (beachboardwalk.com)
Directions: Take Caltrain to the San Jose Diridon Station. Then take the Santa Cruz Metro Bus 17 to the Santa Cruz Metro Center.
7. A Spanish Beauty: The Carmel Mission
Head to the Carmel Mission Basilica for its historic architecture, gorgeous basilica and myriad sculptures. This Spanish Mission is placed in one of the most lush locations in California which means pure photography gold. (carmelmission.org)
Directions: Take Caltrain to the San Jose Diridon Station. Then hop on an Amtrak bus down to Carmel, and transfer buses from Salinas. The trip will take about 5 hours, or you can drive (2.5 hours).
8: A Ghost-Hunter’s Paradise: Mare Island Naval Shipyard
Check out this spooky abandoned Naval Shipyard (at night, if you dare) to capture some lingering spirits. (discovermareisland.com)
Directions: Take a Blue and Gold Fleet Ferry to Vallejo.
9. Classic Coast Shots: Point Reyes
You can’t live in or visit California without getting some of those classic shots of its dramatic rocky coast. Point Reyes offers craggy cliffs in spades, plus a smattering of historic buildings, coastal towns, and wildlife to keep things interesting. Here you’ll find that the term golden hour is more literal than anywhere else in the Bay Area. (www.nps.gov/pore)
Directions: You can visit more popular locations by taking a Blue and Gold Fleet Ferry to Sausalito and a Marin Transit bus up to Inverness (the park offers shuttles), but if you want the freedom to really explore the area, driving is advisable.
10. People Watching Mecca: Alameda Point Antiques Fair
Catch a beautiful view of the San Francisco skyline while you watch the throngs who flock to this monthly football-field-sized antique fair. Colorful characters? Yes. Hand-me-down goodies and some seriously weird antiques? Definitely. Maybe you’ll even find a vintage camera. (alamedapointantiquesfaire.com)
Directions: Take the ferry to Harbor Bay, or take BART to Fruitvale and transfer to one of many AC Transit buses that link to Alameda.
Photos: Orin Zebest, jeffgunn, Ha-Wee, Mt. Diablo, Jonabel Perez, National Register of Historic Places, Thomas Hawk, Franco Folini, Nancy Pizzamiglio, Brett L.