EV Trip: San Francisco Presidio, Wine Country and Sausalito

By · June 25, 2014

The San Francisco Bay Area is a hotspot for electric cars. With abundant EV charging opportunities, there’s no reason to spew tailpipe emissions while soaking up the region’s unique blend of natural beauty, colorful history, and foodie culture. The key points of interest—and intriguing roadside diversions—are close enough for drivers of all major battery-powered cars. There’s enough flexibility to customize your itinerary without concerns about range anxiety.

EV Trips: Northern California

Source: Google Maps

1Crissy Field Center, San Francisco

Crissy Field and EV Charging

Photo of Crissy Field from Flickr/Creative Commons.

Start your NorCal weekend EV getaway at Crissy Field, arguably the world’s coolest electric car charging location. The two free Level 2 chargers and four 120V outlets—courtesy of Adopt-A-Charger—allow you to top up your car for up to three hours. While you’re there, recharge your personal batteries with a stroll along the Presidio shoreline.

On your walk, take in breathtaking views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz—and spy rare birds migrating along the Pacific Flyway. Nearly 100 bird species have been spotted, including the Great Egret, the Great Blue Heron, the Caspian Tern, and the Brown Pelican. If time allows, take a self-guided tour of Fort Point National Historic Site, under the Golden Gate. This Civil War era fort was built to defend San Francisco Bay against hostile warships.

If the famous San Francisco fog rolls in, it can get chilly. So warm up at Beach Hut Café directly next to the chargers. The menu is not extensive, but fresh, wholesome and delicious (with a full espresso bar). The views of the Bridge and Bay from the patio—or from inside where WiFi is password-less and free—are unbeatable. And it’s fun to watch the whirligig windmills spin around. They partly supply the EV chargers with power.

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Muir Woods National Monument, Mill Valley

Muir Woods and EV Charging

Photo of Muir Woods from Flickr/Creative Commons.

An alternative first stop for your EV getaway is Muir Woods National Monument, just 12 miles away from Crissy Field. Adopt-a-Charger also installed two free Level 2 charge stations plus 120V outlets at Muir Woods. The parking lots at Muir Woods can get overcrowded, so the proximity of the chargers to the site’s entryway is a big perk.

Every year, more than a million people visit Muir Woods and its cathedral of redwood trees. The natural monument was established on January 9, 1908, when President Roosevelt signed legislation to protect the old-growth coast redwood forest from destruction.

It’s a magical place. The age of the trees ranges from 400 to 800 years. They grow as high as 250 feet. There are a number of easy trails—ranging from two to eight miles—that weave through the redwoods. Mt. Tamalpais State Park, which surrounds Muir Woods, offers its own hikes, with superb mountain and ocean views.

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3Point Reyes Station - SunTrail Hub, Point Reyes

Point Reyes Station and EV Charging

Hop back into your EV, and head to Point Reyes Station (about 35 miles from Crissy Field and 25 miles from Muir Woods). The switchbacks and hairpin turn along coastal Highway 1 toward Stinson Beach (and further north) offer spectacular views of the mighty Pacific. The trip is even more enjoyable in a silent electric car. Given the winding road, and the undeniable temptation to stop at turnouts along the way, it should take about an hour to reach Point Reyes Station, home to Sunspeed Enterprises, an EV infrastructure company that installed a CHAdeMO quick charger and a Level 2 charger. (Quick charging costs $0.79 per kilowatt hour.)

Point Reyes Station, the largest town at the edge of the region’s national seashore, consists of a couple of dozen buildings that line both sides of Route 1. It's a glimpse back in history. The commercial district was the hub for the railroad, which ran through town from 1874 to 1933. Many of the buildings along Main Street date back to the railroad era. Check out the brick Grandi Building, built in 1915. It once housed a grand hotel, ballroom, and general store.

These days, there are dozens of places to eat and drink while your car is charging. Favorites include Tomales Bay Foods, home to Cowgirl Creamery; Cafe Reyes, where you can enjoy a wood-fired pizza on the deck; and the Old Western Saloon to enjoy drinks served in a classic old western bar.

Four miles north is Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company, which offers tours and tastings, and the occasional farm dinner. Drive another couple miles north along the east side of the bay to Tomales Bay Oyster, for a picnic of fresh farmed local oysters, clams, and mussels. Book ahead for a picnic table.

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4Chateau Montelena Winery, Calistoga

Point Reyes Station and EV Charging

With a full or near-full charge at Point Reyes Station, you’re ready for the 60-mile trip into the heart of wine country. There are countless wineries—with their gorgeous grounds and inviting tasting rooms. Chateau Montelena is currently the only winery with a quick charger. (It’s capable of charging two cars at once). There’s also a Level 2 available. To sweeten the deal, Montelena offers 2-for-1 tastings for EV owners.

Chateau Montelena, located in Calistoga, is a majestic stone castle carved into a hillside overlooking the vineyards. It was established in 1882. By 1896, it was the seventh largest in Napa Valley. The winery’s 1973 Chardonnay won for best white in the historic “Judgement of Paris” competition, a victory which was immortalized in the 2008 film, “Bottle Shock.”

Chateau Montelana is just one of about 40 wineries in Calistoga. Check out award-winning Castello di Amorosa. The 13th century Tuscan-style castle and winery offers a variety of tour options including Reserve wine tours, food and wine pairing tours and vineyard education tours. And there’s the more laid back, Vincent Arroyo Winery, with its comfortable atmosphere of a big barn full of oak wine barrels. Other nearby stops include Bardessono Hotel and Spa (which has Level 2 charging); Lavender Hill Spa; Calistoga Ranch; and Solage Calistoga. Or treat yourself to a mud bath at Indian Springs.

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5River Inn, Napa

River Inn Napa and EV Charging

Refreshed from a mud bath, continue your trip for about 30 miles to Napa, California—the county seat for Napa County. The town, with a population of 75,000, is home to 10 charging locations. Consider staying the night at Napa River Inn, which offers free 20-minute CHAdeMo quick charge, or three-hour Level 2 chargers. It could be the perfect hub for the final stretch of a wine country EV trip.

The River Inn, Napa’s highest Michelin-rated hotel, is located downtown in the riverfront district. As your car charges, you can walk to specialty shops, boutiques, art galleries, and outdoor cafes. There's easy access to more than 20 tasting rooms. Napa features world-class dining at places like Mustards, The Farm at Carneros Inn, Carpe Diem Wine Bar, and Celadon.

Other options for accommodations include the extravagant Silverado Resort and Spa in Napa, which offers Level 2 charging; or the Leed Platinum Certified Bardessono Hotel, Restaurant and Spa in Yountville. Nine miles north of Napa, Bardessono has its own Level 2 chargers, accessible by valet-only service for guests of the swank hotel.

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Back to San Francisco

There are no fewer than seven quick charge stations—and close to 50 Level 2 chargers—between Napa and San Francisco. If need be, consider one last Level 2 top-off in Sausalito, the charming scenic waterfront town on the Bay. You can charge either at Mollie Stone’s natural and organic market on Harbor Drive, or Marina Office Plaza on Marinship Way. From there, it’s a short 10 miles back to the city.

New to EVs? Start here

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  3. Buying Your First Home EV Charger
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