The Northern California coast proves a stunning wonderland for outdoor adventurers.
Surf the massive waves. Dive for abalone. Enjoy the bounty of seafood. This route weaves past some of the most lovely oceanfront picnic spots in the world, redwoods, and hidden hamlets.
The lip of CA-1 winds atop cliffs, with the raging sea below. Spend some time exploring Stinson Beach and Bolinas, twin towns populated by San Francisco expats.
Spend a weekend hiking Point Reyes National Seashore — a Bay Area treasure. Spot elk, elephant seals, whales, or just frolic at lovely Limatour Beach. Camp, or check into one of the region’s chic retreats.
In the morning, kayak one of the oyster farms on the shores of Tomales Bay for lunch.
This strip of sea was made famous by Alfred Hitchcock, whose masterpiece The Birds was filmed here. The town is ideal for folks wanting to commune with the 17 beaches strewn along 12 miles.
Notable accommodations include The Bodega Bay Lodge, which offers lofty quarters with ocean views, and a hot tub that gazes out at the Pacific.
Continue on CA-1 past the prehistoric looking beach boulders. Along the Russian River, the tiny town of Duncans Mills is home to a trucker-sized breakfast spot — Capé Fear Café.
Throw on your thickest wetsuit to surf the big waves at Salmon Creek Beach, or whale watch from your perch at Bodega Head. Line up at Spud Point Crab Company for epic crab sandwiches.
Gualala, with its cypress trees and boulder covered beaches inspires folks to stay awhile. Stroll through the few shops lining CA-1. Sip brews and grub on wood-pit smoked BBQ sandwiches at Bones Roadhouse. This isn’t the classiest town on the coast, but it sure is fun.
Check into the Russian-inspired castle, St. Orres. Complete with minarets and domes, this wacky property is an institution in the area. Lovely cottages pair well with the unlikely creations that come out of the kitchen at dinnertime.
Meander north until you strike Bowling Ball Beach. Hike the half-mile trail to the beach during low tide to spot huge boulders that look like, you guessed it, bowling balls.
Pass through tiny Point Arena, a haven for abalone divers, to reach Elk (also confusingly called Greenwood). Grub on strong coffee and hearty sandwiches at Queenie’s Roadhouse Café.
In Mendocino, a stroll around town guarantees entertainment. Explore the World of Suzi Long, a fun gallery in a skinny water tower. Enjoy the stacks in the Gallery Bookshop. Duck into Dick’s Place for a pint of lager. Sample mushroom flavored ice cream at Frankie’s Handmade Ice Cream. Don’t miss Mendocino Headlands State Park, quite possibly the most alluring part of the coast. Gentle trails along a rugged coastline guide you to secluded beaches, hidden sea caves and grottoes.
Mendocino Café promises a fitting glimpse at town culture for dinner. Here you can have a Thai inspired burrito, a heaping plate of pasta, or hunk of cake on a pitch perfect patio surrounded by butterflies and flowers.
In the morning explore the dramatic Russian Gulch State Park, where you can walk to a 60-foot blowhole (best at high tide) or a fern covered area straight out of the Mesozoic Era. Grab lunch at North Coast Brewing Company.
Wander the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens — the only coastal botanical gardens on the West Coast. Enjoy seafood dinner at Fort Bragg’s Silver’s on the Wharf.
Travel east through the redwoods to Highway 101 and check out these North Coast itineraries.
Epic Northern California Vacation … “Simply the best, better than all the rest” — Northern California
Northern California for Families … hiking, beachcombing and gold panning through the wilds of NorCal
Northern California Gardens … Exploring publicly accessible gardens from Monterey to Mendocino
Northern California Off the Beaten Path … Epic nature meets quirky small towns in Northern California