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East Bay residents tend to play as hard as they work. Fortunately, the region features a number of idyllic places and opportunities to escape the daily grind.
There are Mount Diablo and Tilden Park, of course, but here are five other wonderful possibilities — and we’re just barely scratching the surface. Given the ever-changing nature of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s always wise to consult official websites for closures and/or operational changes.
Break out the paddles
Kayaking the Oakland Estuary: Many of the eateries that line Jack London Square offer fine views of the Oakland Estuary. But instead of simply gazing at it, why not get out on it? If you don’t have your own watercraft, head to California Canoe & Kayak, a paddlesports company in the Square that offers a variety of rental opportunities, classes and guided trips with easy access to the channel.
Once out on the water, you’ll get an exhilarating taste of urban kayaking as you paddle past the giant cranes of the Port of Oakland, the Park Street Bridge and other sites, all while giving those arms a good workout. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for wildlife, including seals.
Cycling in Benicia: We’ve been told that a bike is more than a mode of transportation — “it’s a happiness machine.” A great place to get your happy on is Benicia.
Recognized by the Amgen Tour of California and Ride Chronicles for its top-notch cycling, Benicia offers a marvelous range of treks — from low-stress, family-friendly paved trails to hardcore hills for experienced cyclists. As you pedal about, soak in scenic views of the Carquinez Strait and the city’s historic architecture. Need inspiration? Check out these Ten Great Bike Rides and Walks in Benicia.
Stroll through Berkeley’s botanical garden: So you want to enjoy the outdoors without amping up the cardio? The 34-acre UC Botanical Garden is a great place to chill out while taking what the staff calls a “contemplative tour.”
This East Bay jewel, which recently reopened after a three-month closure and requires reservations now, is one of the most diverse landscapes in the world, with more than 10,000 types of plants, including many rare and endangered species. It features nine regions of naturalistic plantings from Italy to South Africa, along with a huge collection of California native plants.
Drop in a line
Fishing at Lafayette Reservoir: The Bay Area is blessed with a number of great fishing spots, and the kid-friendly Lafayette Reservoir is among the best. Each year, thousands of trout are planted — joining bluegill, black bass, black crappie and several kinds of catfish.
The Lafayette Reservoir attracts hikers, strollers and anglers. (Photo by Haley Nelson)Due to the pandemic, the boat rental and launch area have been closed. But the good news is that the reservoir features plenty of reliable spots for shoreline fishing.
Hike (or bike) among the redwoods
Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park: This oasis away from nearby city life offers 38 miles of shaded trails, along with peaceful groves and jaw-dropping views. Take a deep breath and feel your worries melt away.
In addition to a lush forest of towering coast redwoods, the park’s 1,830 acres also contain other evergreens, chaparral, ferns and grasslands. Wildlife includes rare species, such as the golden eagle and Alameda striped racer. Deer, raccoons, rabbits, and squirrels are often spotted, as well. Find details at www.ebparks.org/parks/redwood.