Otto boating on Carquinez Strait. Photo Credit: ejbSF (CC)
It’s almost always sweater weather in this snug little community on the Carquinez Strait. And Benicia’s friendly residents can afford to be smug as well as snug, for they enjoy a small-town atmosphere just a hop, skip and jump from teeming San Francisco and a shade over an hour from Sacramento.
Thanks to a welcoming atmosphere and plethora of live-work spaces, many artists call Benicia home, and the town is chock-a-block with art galleries. It’s not by accident that many pedestrians strolling and shopping their way down First Street, the main drag, are accompanied by friends on a leash. A community of committed dog lovers worked years to create amenities such as Phenix Community Dog Park and a pair of leash-free stretches of shoreline on the Carquinez Strait at the foot of the walkable downtown.
Visitors can work up a pant by hiking the Bay Area Ridge Trail for as many miles as serendipity carries them along the Benecia-Vallejo waterfronts. It’s 3.5 miles from Benicia Point to the Carquinez Bridge Overlook Trail at Benicia State Recreation Area on the north side of the strait at Dillon Point. Also nearby is Crockett Hills Regional Park, which adjoins the Carquinez Regional Shoreline and contains almost 2,000 acres of rolling grasslands, shaded meadows and river shoreline laced with multi-purpose trails.
Once back from your hike, you’ll find many downtown restaurants that welcome wet noses at their sidewalk and patio tables. A favorite is Sailor Jack’s, serving fresh, seasonal seafood with a California flair. Other favorite DogTrekker meet-up spots include First Street Cafe, Union Hotel Restaurant & Bar and Camellia Tearoom. (The Union Hotel, by the way, is dog-friendly, as is the Best Western Plus Heritage Inn.)
Photo Credit: ejbSF (CC)