There's plenty to do, see and eat in San Francisco, writes Cameron Carpenter

San Francisco is a damn good looking town and home to some of the friendliest people on earth.

It's also a city that has constantly been reinventing itself. During the 60s it was the centre of the hippie movement. Now it's home to such new-establishment icons of the digital economy as Airbnb, Uber and Facebook.

What is clearly evident about San Francisco is that the hippie protest roots live on.

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We arrived the day after Donald Trump was inaugurated. It was pouring with rain yet more than 100,000 people left the comfort of their homes to march in protest at his election.

There's something magical about being in this city. The view of the Golden Gate Bridge is breath-taking at any angle and steep hills over the bay are filled with beautiful Victorian homes.

GETTING AROUND

Getting around is easy, with cable cars linking up to the tourist hotspots and UberPOOL, recently launched in the city, which allows you to split your ride with strangers headed in the same direction.

Lands End overlooking Golden Gate Bay. Photo / 123RF
Lands End overlooking Golden Gate Bay. Photo / 123RF

EXPLORE

Morning stroll with a breathtaking view

If you take only one hike, take this one. The Land's End trail is popular with local runners and walkers, and the best place to soak up views of the Golden Gate. Start by calling in to the new visitor centre, The Lands End Lookout, where you can learn about the area's history.

Along the walk you'll see the Sutro Baths ruins (680 Point Lobos Ave), the memorial to the USS San Francisco — a World War II cruiser that sustained 45 hits and 25 fires during the Battle of Guadalcanal in 1942, and the West Fort Miley batteries.

The art museum that sets the standard

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (151 3rd Street) reopened last year after a three-year, US$305 million makeover. The span of artists is remarkable, and your senses will delight as you soak up photography, sculpture, multimedia and painting. You'll recognise many of the big names, including Andy Warhol, and be introduced to much more.

Hang with the sea lions

Make your way through the crowds out to the end of Pier 39 (Pier 39, Beach St & The Embarcadero) and catch a glimpse of the famous sea lions that have made the marina their permanent home. The herd's number has varied over the years, but reached a record high of 1701 in 2009. From there, hop on a cable car and rattle your way into Union Square.

Pier 39, where sea lions live to bask. Pihoto / 123RF
Pier 39, where sea lions live to bask. Pihoto / 123RF

EAT

The greatest pizza in town

Your first stop has to be Tony's Pizza Napoletana (1570 Stockton Street), a little joint in the historic Little Italy district with numerous international pizza prizes. What makes Tony's pizza so good is the owner Tony Gemignani has seven different ovens, each ideally suited to the particular style of pizza cooked in it.

DRINK

A vibe like no other

The Saloon (1232 Grant Avenue) gets the proud title of San Francisco's Oldest Bar and hasn't changed much since it opened in 1861. It's nothing fancy, but a true American dive with great staff who pour stiff drinks and the friendliest locals who make sure every visitor leaves with a smile. San Francisco's best blues bands play here regularly so it's a must for any music fan.

Cocktails on a boat

Walking into Smuggler's Cove ( 650 Gough Street) is like stepping inside a pirate ship. The bar is decked out with ropes and fishing buoys, lanterns and old bottles of rum. It's a local favourite and the menu features more than 75 different cocktails. There's nothing pretentious about them, but they are lavishly garnished and served out of a giant tiki mug.

Shake your booty

The place to be in San Francisco for a party night is the Mission District. You'll be sure to break a sweat at Bissap Baobab (3372 19th Street) — a funky bar that plays a mix of Reggaeton, African, Latin and world beats. There's not a whole lot of room inside — but that makes it so much more fun. The cocktails are as delicious as the vibe.

Smugglers Cove bar in San Francisco.
Smugglers Cove bar in San Francisco.

CHECKLIST

Getting there:

has return flights to San Francisco on sale from $899 return. Or combine flights, four nights' accommodation and daily breakfast from $1399pp, twin share.

Getting around: Jucy RV rentals can be hired from San Leandro, five minutes from Oakland airport.

Online: See visittheusa.com
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