The Local’s Guide To The Best Of The Oakland Hills

When most people think of Oakland, California they don’t usually think of stunning redwood forests, lush hiking trails or quaint cottages. The Oakland Hills fly under the radar of most, which makes it a wonderful Northern California destination to explore. This area is home to some of the Bay Area’s prettiest places to find tranquility, which comes as a surprise to most. I’ve explored much of the epic hiking Northern California has to offer. And so, I can safely say that this area is unbeatable when it comes to hiking, nature and stunning views.

Though I’m born and raised in San Francisco, I couldn’t believe how much I was missing out on by staying in my San Francisco bubble! From the city, it takes about 45 minutes or so to the hills. However, it’s certainly worth the drive.

For Out-of-Towners

For those looking to stay for a while, check in to the iconic Claremont Club & Spa which has been wowing guests since 1915. This California landmark can be seen from the highway as you drive into Oakland. Known as “The White Castle on the Hill,” this historic property is situated in the Oakland Hills, just 12 miles from San Francisco. Furthermore, the Claremont exudes luxury from every corner of its 2 acres of manicured grounds.

The Claremont Club and Spa in Oakland Hills.

Most of its 276 rooms boast epic San Francisco Bay and skyline views along with super plush beds. Moreover, the hotel offers a true country club feel with its activities offered which include tennis, swimming, fitness rooms and accompanying classes, Pilates and more. And of course, it’s called a spa for a reason! The Fairmont Spa has recently opened, so if you want to take your stay up a notch, book an appointment.

For both guests and visitors alike, the property has an on-site restaurant that overlooks the Bay Area—ideal for dinner with a sunset! Limewood Bar & Restaurant offers a menu of seasonally-inspired dishes prepared with local ingredients and the expert culinary experience of executive chef Joseph Paire, III.

Dishes include Prawns And Polenta with San Marzano tomatoes, parmesan; Roasted Bone Marrow Tartare with beef tartare, sourdough, parsley; Crispy Rockfish and hot sauce, buttermilk, & pickled onions; Dungeness Crab Bucatini with uni carbonara, Calabrian chili; and Cioppino with Dungeness crab, mussels, clams, and sourdough fennel tomato broth.

So how to best enjoy the day after a restful stay at the Claremont (or a drive over to the Oakland Hills if you’re local)?

Here’s what to eat, drink and do in 48 hours!

Breakfast In Oakland

Two incredible places for breakfast pastries include Fournée Bakery, which is right across the street from the Claremont, and L’acajou. Fournée Bakery has the flakiest, most unbelievable pastries and viennoiserie items. I am absolutely obsessed with almond croissants. I probably could have eaten two that morning!

Indulgent items include the ham and manchego croissant with Niman Ranch ham and manchego cheese; twice-baked chocolate almond croissant with almond cream spread, topped with almond cream; and the fruit croissant with organic apricot, vanilla bean cream cheese filling, topped with almond cream, it’s ridiculously tough to pick just one thing! Moreover, the prices are pretty reasonable! I suggest bringing a friend and splitting a few items.

If you want something closer to the hills, check out the neighborhood gem, L’acajou. While waiting to get my pastries and coffee, I casually spotted former Warriors superstar Shaun Livingston grabbing his favorite to-go order, so you know it’s good. L’acajou has a variety of delicious pastries, as well as, savory breakfast items like the Parisian with egg, Zoe’s ham, dijon, spinach and gruyere cheese on a croissant and the Eggs D’acajou with eggs on a bed of spinach, topped with melted gruyere cheese, Zoe’s bacon, and a side of roasted potatoes. I decided to go for the raspberry pistachio croissant which was absolutely indulgent.

L’acajou pistachio and raspberry croissant
L’acajou pistachio and raspberry croissant CHELSEA DAVIS

If you’re in need of something heartier, start your morning at Sequoia Diner. They have a variety of breakfast classics made to order. Popular items include the breakfast sandwich no 1. with over medium egg, pepper jack, bacon, avocado; the corned beef breakfast sandwich with spicy kraut, Swiss cheese, Russian dressing, rye & over-easy egg; and plates such as the goat cheese omelet with snap peas and green garlic or the corned beef brisket hash.

Lunch In Oakland

Before you head into the hills to hike, grab some upscale picnic food for lunch! Communite Table offers seasonal homestyle comfort food including deli case goodies that are perfect for packing in your picnic basket. Gourmet sides such as Yukon potato and green bean salad; deviled eggs; and grilled veggies to sandwiches that include French ham and gruyere sandwich and albacore tuna make it an ideal pre-hike pit stop.

Communite Table

For something fancier, stop by Farmstead Cheeses and Wines for, you guessed it, a nice selection of your favorite cheeses and wines. Grab a fresh baguette and you’re good to go!

If you’re in need of another great option for gourmet foods to-go, check out Market Hall Foods. They have a variety of deli items, prepared foods, salads and vegetable sides, and more. For example, quinoa with roasted veggies; curried chicken salad; beets with lemon and olive oil… there’s a ton to choose from!

Where To Play

Redwood Regional Park

One of the Bay Area’s most popular places to walk amongst the grandeur of redwood trees is Muir Woods. That said, a trip to this very popular hiking spot can be tricky and the logistics can be a pain. Instead of dealing with windy roads, the masses and traffic, check out Redwood Regional Park. Nestled within the Oakland hills, it’s considerably less crowded and doesn’t require any parking passes. This hidden forest is just a few miles over the ridge from downtown Oakland.

The short drive from the bustling downtown area takes you to what feels like towns away into a whole new, extremely peaceful place. It’s a place you’d probably find the characters of Narnia hiding somewhere in a wardrobe.

It’s a great alternative to other hiking areas that get filled with tourists and offers miles of trails that are lined with pretty ferns and looming coastal redwood trees. This park is nearly 2000 acres and is easily accessible for those with a car.

Before you head out, plan on parking at the Skyline Gate Staging Area at 8490 Skyline Blvd. located in the Montclair neighborhood of Oakland. Once you park, you’re steps away from being completely immersed in nature, including eucalyptus and pine trees, wildflowers, and of course, epic redwoods.  

Chabot Space & Science Center

If nature isn’t what you’re seeking, check out the nearby Chabot Space & Science Center. This non-profit institution is located on 13 trail-laced acres in the Redwood Regional Park. Chabot is a hands-on institution, ideal for those with a love of science and technology.

Chabot Space And Science
Dome of the planetarium at the Chabot Space and Science center, a science museum in Oakland, … [+] GETTY IMAGES

It features a 241-seat full-dome planetarium, interactive and hands-on exhibits, space artifacts, a giant screen theater, a Challenger Learning Center, and the only research-level telescopes regularly available to the public for weekly live viewing in the Western United States.

For Dinner

If you’re looking for a great place for dinner, you’re in luck because Oakland is home to countless exciting spots to eat and drink. Within a 10-12 minute ride back towards Downtown Oakland you can have a taste of nearly any cuisine.

FOB Kitchen

For inspired Filipino cuisine, check out Temescal neighborhood’s FOB Kitchen. Owner and chef Janice Dulce features all the Filipino classics including pancit sotanghon with glass noodles, veggies and soy; daing na bangus, a whole milkfish marinated in palm vinegar, garlic and spices; pork adobo with soy and vinegar; and the always addictive lumpia Shanghai which is similar to egg rolls. Lively vibes, traditional cuisine and a welcoming atmosphere make this Instragramable spot a 10/10.

Tea Leaf Salad

Also in the Temescal district is Burma Superstar. This hot spot is known for their authentic Burmese cuisine. Must-try dishes include tea leaf salad which is mixed table-side, made with a unique fermented tea leaf dressing tossed with a crispy mixture of nuts, beans, and garlic with lettuce; Burmese style beef or lamb; nan gyi dok with flour noodles with coconut chicken curry, roasted chickpea flour, hard-boiled egg, cabbage, wontons, turmeric, chili and fried onions; and Burmese samusas. Read more here.

Arthur Mac’s Tap and Snack
Arthur Mac’s Tap and Snack ARTHUR MAC’S TAP AND SNACK

For a fun, friends’ night-out-type of vibe, check out Arthur Mac’s Tap and Snack. This fu spots offers an expansive beer garden, with a large selection of beers, ciders and wine. They have a delicious selection of hand stretched specialty pizzas made with house-made, cold-fermented dough and locally produced ingredients. From pizzas like the bbq chicken and king salami to their Arty’s hot wings, it’s a great place to unwind and kick back! And it’s dog-friendly!

For more info on this part of Oakland, California, click here for my Forbes piece.

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Chelsea is a San Francisco-based journalist whose passion revolves around exploring the world, immersing herself in foreign cultures, and of course, eating and drinking everything delicious.

Her work can be found in TravelPulse, Forbes, INSIDER, SF Gate and more. She covers all things food, drink and travel and is always up for an adventure, whether that means an adrenaline-pumping excursion or trying a new cuisine.

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