How to Travel from San Francisco to Napa Valley

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San Francisco Ferry in port at San Francisco Ferry Building. Photo Credit: Accidental Travel Writer.

70 Days Across America

Napa Valley is 67 miles north of San Francisco, and it takes about 90 minutes to get there by car. If you can’t drive, the easiest was to go is by Uber. However, the cheapest and most fun way to go is taking the ferry to Vallejo and going the rest of the way by Vine Transit.

Why I’m Going …

I was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, but I’ve been living in Hong Kong for more than 25 years.

To celebrate a milestone birthday, I decided to fly back to the United States and make a 70-day trip across the country.

My first stop was Northern California, and Napa Valley was going to be the fourth stop on the Northern California leg of my epic jounrey, 70 Days Across America. I had already been to South San Francisco, Los Altos, and San Francisco.

Getting There …

Since my California driver license had expired many years earlier, I had no choice but to get to Napa on public transit.

Should I go by train or bus or uber? What about taking the ferry? I wasn’t really sure what the options were, but I quickly discovered that it was going to be more complicated that I had expected.

I started by checking out what it would cost to go all by way by Uber, but the amount was out of the question.

San Francisco Bay Ferry 

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The San Francisco Bay Ferry operates ferries between Alameda, Oakland, San Francisco, South San Francisco, and Vallejo.

While there are no ferries going all the way to Napa, there are some going to Vallejo. And Vallejo is the closest city on the ferry network to Napa.

Since I love boats, I thought going at least part of the way by ferry was a good idea.

In fact, the San Francisco Bay Ferry has 13 trips a day to Vallejo. That included five in the morning and eight in the afternoon and evening.

The first voyage departs at 6.35 am. And the last boat departs at 8 pm. I decided to take a late morning boat, which departed at 11.10 am. The trip would take one hour and 20 minutes. It would arrive at 12.20 pm, just in time for lunch.

San Francisco Bay Ferry has routes crisscrossing San Francisco Bay. And that includes a route linking the Ferry Building on the San Francisco waterfront with Vallejo,. Vallejo is  considered the Gateway to Napa Valley.

The distance from the Vallejo Ferry Pier to downtown Napa is about 17 miles. The drive would take 26 minutes.

I decided to make the ferry’s schedule my starting point and work backwards and forwards from there.

It took a while to figure things out, but this was the easiest way of doing it.

The Trip to Vallejo …

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San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge viewed from the Ferry Building. Photo Credit: Accidental Travel Writer.
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Seating aboard the San Francisco Ferry. Photo Credit: Accidental Travel Writer.
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Interior of the San Francisco Ferry. Photo Credit: Accidental Travel Writer.
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Snack bar on the San Francisco Ferry. Photo Credit: Accidental Travel Writer.
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Leaving port on the San Francisco Ferry. Photo Credit: Accidental Travel Writer.
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Vallejo bound on the San Francisco Ferry. Photo Credit: Accidental Travel Writer.

I  booked a trip on Uber from my hotel, The San Remo, to the Ferry Building. I would check out early. And I would leave plenty of time in case of any problems.

I arrived at the pier with time to spare. However, it was a good thing because I wasn’t sure where to buy my ticket. And I looked all over the place.

In the end, I was able to purchase my ticket aboard the ferry. Better yet, I was offered a senior citizen discount even though I didn’t have the needed ID.

The ferry was spacious and comfortable. Firstly, there was lots of rooms between seats. Secondly, there was lots of leg room. Next, the boat was practically empty. Finally, there was a cash-only snack bar.

So I bought myself a double espresso and a bagel and enjoyed the view.

Vallejo Ferry Pier

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San Francisco Ferry docked at Vallejo Ferry Pier. Photo Credit: Accidental Travel Writer.
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Vallejo Ferry Terminal. Photo Credit: Accidental Travel Writer.

As it was chilly and overcast when I left San Francisco, I wondered what the weather would be like in the Wine Country.

In fact, halfway through my voyage, the skies cleared and the sun came out.

“Welcome to California!” I thought.

Following the 80-minute ferry ride from San Francisco, l arrived at the Vallejo Ferry Pier.

Should I continue to my hotel on uber? I considered the cost and the time. I wasn’t sure of the exact location of the hotel. But the drive from the pier to downtown Napa would take about 26 minutes.

Panama Bay Coffee

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Panama Bay Coffee Co. at Vallejo Ferry Terminal. Photo Credit: Accidental Travel Writer.
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Panama Bay Coffee Company interior. Photo Credit: Accidental Travel Writer.
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Grilled turkey sandwich and orange juice. Photo Credit: Accidental Travel Writer.

I discussed my options at the information counter. And the attendant suggested I take the bus to downtown Napa. Then I could go the rest of the way by Uber.

The next bus wouldn’t be leaving for more than an hour. So I decided to have lunch before continuing on my way.

There weren’t many options. So I settled on Panama Bay Coffee, which was in the terminal, and ordered some juice and a sandwich.

“The sun is shining, everyone is super friendly, and my sandwich is DELICIOUS!” is what I posted on Facebook.

Vine Transit

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VINE Transit serves Napa County, Solano County, Sonoma County, and one city in Contra Costa County: El Cerrito.

Following a leisurely lunch, I wandered across the street to the Vine Transit bus stop.

VINE, which stands for Valley Intercity Neighborhood Express, serves Napa County, Solano County, Sonoma County, and one city in Contra Costa County: El Cerrito.

My game plan was to take the bus in downtown Napa and then Uber it the rest of the way to my hotel.  And check this out! The senior citizens fare was a paltry 80 U.S. cents!

Sooooo ,,,  how long would it take?

From Vallejo to Napa Valley …

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Vine Transit bus parked at Vallejo Ferry Pier. Photo Credit: Accidental Travel Writer.
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Stopping for a train en route from Vallejo to Napa Valley. Photo Credit: Accidental Travel Writer.
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View of coutry side from Vine Transit bus. Photo Credit: Accidental Travel Writer

I crossed the boulevard in front the the ferry terminal. There was a bus stop on the other side.

When the bus arrived, I got on, and asked the driver where I should get off.  He said he would tell me. So I took a seat.

In fact, the ride was long and circuitous. We traveled through small towns and open countryside. There were rolling hills on either side of the valley we traveled through. It was a typical rural California landscape.

Finally, the bus pulled into some sort of transit depot, and I was a bit confused. The driver got off the bus without speaking to me. Had he forgotten?

I followed the bus driver off the bus and asked him where I could catch a taxi to my hotel.

“Your hotel is across the street,” he said.

“OIC,” I responded.

I guess I had misunderstood. I thought the last stop was in downtown Napa. As it turned out, it was right across the street from my hotel!

So much for the efficacy of the man at the information desk in the ferry terminal. But I won’t hold it against him. He was probably a volunteer.

Napa Marriott Hotel & Spa

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Arrival at the Napa Marriott Hotel & Spa. Photo Credit: Accidental Travel Writer.

I wandered through the parking lot and across the street. Behind the greenery was a low-rise building with a sign that said, “Marriott”.

“What a pleasant surprise!” I thought.

This post on how to travel from San Francisco to Napa Valley is part of a series chronicling my epic journey, 70 Days Across America. 

 

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