AÑO NUEVO STATE PARK
Due to their penis-noses and penchant for lazing about, no animal invites as much tittering as the male elephant seal. We are currently in the thick of their molting season (older males nap and shed on the beach from July until the end of August), the perfect time to hike out to their hangout on the tip of Año Nuevo. Be sure you snag your visitor's permit — you'll need one to enter from April-August — from the entrance station.
Open March–Sept., 8 a.m.–6 p.m. 1 New Year's Creek, Pescadero. (Off Highway 1) (650) 879-2025, www.parks.ca.gov
ALAMEDA BOOZE DISTRICT
On the western edge of the island of Alameda, a one-time naval station has been repurposed into the discerning boozehound's day trip of choice. Located within a easy block's stumble of one another lie the tasting rooms of St. George Spirits (boasting absinthe, flavored vodkas, and coffee liqueur on the shelves) and Rock Wall Wine Company, a co-op of local wineries. They're both a sunny walk from the ferry terminal — stroll by the massive aircraft carriers docked farther down the shore if you need to sober up after, or west to Rosenblum Cellars (2900 Main, Alameda) if you need more tastes.
CANDLESTICK POINT STATE RECREATION AREA
Candlestick Point has gone through a lot of changes in its varied history — but its current incarnation as a well-tended, if sometimes landscaped-feeling, urban refuge perfectly jibes with our times. Refreshing views of the bay, some fantastic hiking trails, and a sense of seclusion (despite the nearness of Highway 101 and the stadium) make this a neato spot to picnic, bird watch, or fish. Don't forget to bring those layers though becuase sometimes the wind attempts to rifle gently through you.
Candlestick Park exit off Highway 101, SF
CHINA CAMP STATE PARK
Historically this waterfront slice on San Pablo Bay is important as the site of a Cantonese immigrant shrimp-fishing village in the 1800s (there's a wee museum). For nature, there's a delightful salt marsh and lazy-day winding paths drenched in sunlight and the calls of waterfowl. But — why hide it? — this is one of the best make-out places on the bay, with couples gladly making hay in the grasses. After the picnic, of course. Wet your whistle for the Annual Heritage Day Celebration on Aug. 27, 11:30 a.m.–4 p.m.
101 Peacock Gap Trail, San Rafael. www.parks.ca.gov
Damn this SF summer fog! Escape north to Marin, where just past Boonville and just inside the border of Samuel P. Taylor State Park lie these cool pools. The rocky, clothing-optional swimming holes cascade into each other and feature prime jump-off spots for the daredevils among us who can't be satisfied with a shady forest and some cold water on a hot day. Park your car just past Shafter Bridge (coming from Lagunitas) and walk underneath the copper-colored bridge to arrive. Samuel P. Taylor Park, Sir Francis Drake, Lagunitas