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Bay Area Spots Perfect for a Spring Picnic

Montara State Beach

Montara State Beach, Photos by Dana Rebmann

Spring is officially here. The weather is warmer, days are longer, so you've got no more excuses for not getting off the couch and doing something outside. Combo that with an easy picnic in a locale that can’t be beat and you’ve got the perfect way to spend a day off.

But finding a sweet place doesn’t have to be hard. Whether you’re in the mood for sun, shade or sand, there are plenty of choices out there. Find some ideas to jump start your inspiration below.

Golgen Gate view from Angel Island

One of many views from Angel Island

If you like water...

Located one mile south of the Tiburon Peninsula, Angel Island is the largest island in San Francisco Bay. Jump on a ferry and head for the main Visitor’s Center, located in Ayala Cove. When you arrive you can pick up a map and, if you’re interested, a brochure with a good park history refresher. You’ll see picnic tables in the arrival area. If you’re starving go for it, but don’t be afraid to leave the crowds behind and set off on your own. Think about bringing your bike along or renting one when you arrive; cyclists have access to nine miles of paved roadway. Picnic possibilities abound. Visitors can buy lunch at the Angel Island Café, near the Visitor’s Center or bring along their own goodies.

If you like sand...

So close, yet so different than San Francisco, you can have a picnic at Montara State Beach and be home for dinner with friends afterwards. Soft sand, great views and rarely a crowd, so bring a blanket and be ready to lounge. If you didn’t pack anything, run into Gherkins Sandwich Shop a block or so south on Highway 1.

Armstrong Woods

Armstrong Woods State Natural Reserve

If you like trees...

More than 800 acres strong, Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve, is home to an amazing grove of coast redwoods, some of which have been growing strong starting 500 years before the Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth Rock. Good things are waiting the minute you enter the park. The Parson Jones Tree, standing 310 feet tall, is the tallest tree in the park and just a .1 mile walk from the park entrance. A map of Armstrong Grove can help you plan your route. Pack your own picnic, or grab necessities nearby on Guerneville’s Main Street. There’s no food for sale in the park.

If you like fishing and cheese and wine...

Head to the Marin French Cheese Company, the oldest continuously operating cheese factory in the United States. You can be completely unprepared here and still have a killer picnic. The Petaluma store stocks everything you’ll need from cheese (obviously), to wine and ice cream. There are plenty of covered picnic tables and a trout-stocked pond.

Bale Grist Mill

Bale Grist Mill Historic State Park

If you like cool history..

Good wine and the tallest waterwheel west of the Mississippi can be found in Napa County. The Bale Grist Mill Historic State Park is off of Highway 29 between Calistoga and St. Helena. The park is closed during the week, but milling demonstrations and historic tours make it worth a weekend visit. Everything in the mill, except the light bulbs, is powered by the 36-foot waterwheel. Outside the mill you can eat lunch at picnic at tables in the grass and zen out while watching the waterwheel turn melodically. Pack your own, because there’s no lunch-like grub on site. Inside, watch as corn and wheat is milled into usable ingredients like cornmeal, pastry flour, rye, spelt, and polenta. Take a bag home and make something for next weekend’s picnic.

Dana can be found on Twitter @drebmann