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The Ultimate North Coast Vacation
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The Ultimate North Coast Vacation

This season, go to Northern California to experience the spectacular North Coast. The idyllic coastal area must be seen to be believed.

California.com

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7 min read

November 06, 2020

Also known as the Redwood Empire, the North Coast stretches from sandy beaches in Del Norte at the Oregon border down to the remarkable Marin County. With centuries-old towering redwoods and pods of whales swimming through the deep-blue waters, the mostly rural region is home to fantastic destinations you just can’t miss. Discovering the Lost Coast, exploring parts of Wine Country, and going on a North Coast boat tour are merely a handful of the exciting opportunities awaiting you. The idyllic coastal area must be seen to be believed—the spectacular sights and incredible attractions call for a North Coast vacation

Can’t-Miss Northern California Coast Trip Sights

When traveling through the North Coast, don't miss Alamere Falls, a rare tidefall that flows directly into the ocean.

1. Marin

As you’re cruising along the Pacific Coast Highway in Northern California, Marin County is the first stop on your North Coast vacation. The symbol of the county, Mount Tamalpais, comes into view as you drive past the Northern California Coast Ranges. The peak is the main feature of Mount Tamalpais State Park, which spans 6,300 acres and boasts 60 miles of hiking trails.

A must-see in Marin is Point Bonita Lighthouse. Located in the Marin Headlands, the lighthouse was built in 1855 and is still active. A partially steep half-mile trail leads you to the locale, where you can discover the fascinating geology, wild landscape, and lighthouse’s interesting history.

Your North Coast vacation wouldn’t be complete without paying a visit to the Point Reyes National Seashore. Home to the iconic Alamere Falls, a tidefall that drops down to Wildcat Beach, the vast expanse of protected coastline is a natural sanctuary that you just can’t miss. 

Head to the coastal state parks of Sonoma for crystal-clear waters, tide pools, and beautiful vistas.

2. Sonoma

A premier destination in California Wine Country is Sonoma, located in the county of the same name. Offering a wide range of year-round festivals and events such as the Sonoma International Film Festival, the valley has many breathtaking attractions: Quarryhill Botanical Garden, Mission San Francisco Solano, and Sonoma State Historic Historic Park.

Take the family to Salt Point State Park; it's a must when visiting Sonoma on an exciting North Coast vacation. Covering 6,000 acres with 20 miles of hiking trails—plus six miles of a rugged, rocky coastline—the park features the first underwater preserves in California and a large variety of watersports opportunities. 

Gaze upon the awe-inspiring magnificence of Glass Beach, one of the many natural wonders awaiting in Mendocino.

3. Mendocino

Home to a picturesque downtown, gorgeous landscapes, and top-notch wineries, Mendocino is the ultimate destination on your North Coast vacation. One of the most stunning sights here is Glass Beach, a former dumpsite that’s now an attraction; years of garbage being dumped into this stretch of coastline resulted in shores dotted with colorful sea glass.

For spectacular views of the Mendocino Headlands, Russian Gulch State Park is your go-to destination. Combining a verdant, three-mile canyon with pristine beaches along the rocky coastline, the park boasts dramatic sceneries such as the Frederick W. Panhorst Bridge and a 36-foot waterfall that plunges down into a bower of redwoods, mosses, and ferns. A top California attraction you can visit at any time is the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens. Covering 47 acres of canyons, wetlands, coastal bluffs, and a closed-cone pine forest, there’s always something in bloom here.

Is there any place on the north coast that's as dazzlingly green as Humboldt? Spend some time exploring this paradise.

4. Humboldt County

As you make your way to the north, Humboldt is the next stop. This destination is famed for its magnificent coastal redwoods, but that's not all it offers—the county is home to dozens of parks, beaches, and preserves. The county seat, Eureka, is unlike any other city you’ve ever seen; it is bordered by the majestic multi-basin Humboldt Bay on one side and by mountains lush with giant redwoods on the other. The oldest zoo in California is also found right in this city: Sequoia Park Zoo, a seven-acre zoo hosting about 200 vertebrates, hundreds of invertebrates, and different varieties of rhododendrons.

You must also pay a visit to Humboldt Redwoods State Park, where you’ll find the world's largest remaining contiguous old-growth forest of coastal redwoods. Drive along the scenic, 31-mile Avenue of the Giants and admire the views of the towering trees as you travel through the depths of the forest. 

When in Del Norte County, lose track of time amongst the trees and leafy greens. Photo courtesy of the Trees of Mystery.

5. Del Norte County

The final destination of your North Coast vacation is Del Norte. Composed of California redwoods, rugged coastline, and historic lighthouses, the county is popular amongst Bigfoot enthusiasts and nature lovers seeking outdoor adventures. For an exciting experience in Del Norte Couty, visit the Trees of Mystery, one of California's quirky roadside attractions. Featuring interpretive trails through giant redwoods and a number of unusual tree formations, the park is best known for its 49-foot statue of Paul Bunyan and its 35-foot statue of Bunyan's companion, Babe the Blue Ox. 

A visit to the Redwood National and State Parks will take your breath away, too. The protected forests, beaches, and grasslands along Northern California’s coast showcase vast prairies, oak woodlands, wild riverways, and nearly 40 miles of rocky coastline. 

North Coast Vacation Properties to Stay At

Spend your vacay doing yoga in the great outdoors. There's no better way to refresh and rejuvenate. Photo courtesy of Casa Madrona Hotel and Spa.

1. Casa Madrona Hotel and Spa

Location: 801 Bridgeway, Sausalito

Providing a luxurious escape in Marin County’s gorgeous landscapes, Casa Madrona Hotel and Spa is the ideal North Coast vacation property to stay at. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the hotel is perched on a hill overlooking the San Francisco Bay. Casa Madrona offers guests different types of accommodations: mansions, hillside cottages, and harborside rooms, each more beautiful than the other. The spa menu is just as impressive—facial treatments, peels, specialized massages, and wellness journeys are available for guests seeking relaxation. 

Unwind with a weekend full of exploration while staying at this rustic-chic resort. Photo courtesy of Timber Cove Resort Sonoma Coast.

2. Timber Cove Resort

Location: 21780 North Coast Highway 1, Jenner

Timber Cove Resort is the coastal escape you didn’t know you needed. Nestled on a dramatic bluff high above the Pacific Ocean, the resort is one of the best North Coast vacation properties to stay at in Sonoma County. Offering 46 guest rooms with eight newly constructed suites, Timber Cove is also pet-friendly. Besides the basics, each room features a variety of amenities, including Crosley LP record players complete with an enviable collection of vinyl records. The resort also offers daily activities for guests such as hikes and wine tastings; the surrounding area has even more entertainment opportunities. The outdoor living room is equipped with firepits, where you can relax in the evening at this lovely North Coast vacation spot. 

The extraordinary views from The Stanford Inn by the Sea beckon to all travelers. Photo courtesy of The Stanford Inn by the Sea.

3. The Stanford Inn By The Sea

Location: 44850 Comptche Ukiah Road, Mendocino

The wonderful Stanford Inn by the Sea is located on a meadow overlooking organic gardens and the Mendocino Bay. The peaceful inn is undoubtedly among the best North Coast vacation properties to stay at. The on-site Ravens Restaurant is nationally acclaimed for its gourmet plant-based cuisine, which is inspired by the hotel's certified-organic gardens. The activities here are abundant—gardening, cooking, and yoga classes; complimentary mountain bikes; and creative workshops to express yourself through painting and drawing. Your North Coast vacation gets even better once you check out the inn’s wellness center. 

With a view like this, it'll be difficult to pull yourself away from the Front Porch Inn. Photo courtesy of The Front Porch.

4. The Front Porch Inn

Location: 150 G Street, Arcata

Offering handcrafted lodging in true Humboldt style, The Front Porch Inn provides comfort, quality, and quirk to guests seeking a getaway. As one of the top North Coast vacation properties to stay at, the inn was heavily renovated in recent years to achieve its signature rustic-chic style. With private outdoor deep soaking tubs surrounded by living fern walls, open skies, and fresh air, the bathhouse creates a one-of-a-kind experience where you can discover a new sense of serenity. Enjoy a secluded North Coast vacation while relaxing by the pond and admiring the tranquility of the garden.

With magnificent views of the ocean and surrounding forests, this resort is simply divine. Photo courtesy of White Rock Resort.

5. White Rock Resort Ocean Rentals

Location: 16800 Highway 101, Smith River

Find a home away from home at White Rock Resort Ocean Rentals. Offering impeccable service and spectacular views of the ocean, each of the fully furnished beachfront cabins has its own unique style, character, and history. Every cabin at White Rock Resort comes with its own hot tub and deck, where you can watch the last bits of light disappear into the horizon. Equipped with all utilities and amenities, your North Coast vacation getaway has never been better. 

North Coast Boat Tours to Book Now


1. Blue Waters Kayaking

Location: 11401 Highway 1, Point Reyes Station

Providing rentals, tours, and classes for any group size, Blue Waters Kayaking offers high-quality outdoor adventures in the Point Reyes area and beyond. Showing visitors the natural wonders of kayaking, guests learn how to serenely cross Tomales Bay under a moon-lit sky—definitely the highlight of your North Coast vacation. Dedicated to preserving the Marin County inlet, the kayak programs accentuate environmental awareness.

2. Bodega Bay Sailing Adventures

Location: 1410 Bay Flat Road, Bodega Bay

A three-hour sailing tour of Bodega Bay might be exactly what you need during your North Coast vacation. Bodega Bay Sailing Adventures’ beautifully maintained 33-foot sailboat offers a once-in-a-lifetime experience where you can create memories with your loved ones. Watch out for whales, dolphins, sea lions, and harbor seals—make sure to say hello to the creatures. 

3. Noyo Harbor Tours with Captain Dan

Location: 32399 Basin Street, Fort Bragg

Take in the gorgeous sight of Noyo Bridge as you experience boat life with Noyo Harbor Tours. The hour-long North Coast boat tour is exactly what you’d expect—harbor seals, ducks, and sea lions come into view as you soak in the beautiful scenery. Relax and unwind as you glide across the magical waters.

4. Kayak Trinidad

Location: 1 Bay Street, Trinidad

Offering some of the best coastal paddling in the world, Kayak Trinidad provides a variety of options for paddlers of all skill levels to enjoy their North Coast vacation to the max. Discover what makes the waters here so special while going on a whale and wildlife tour of Trinidad Bay.

5. Klamath Jet Boat Tours

Location: 17635 Highway 101, Klamath

Take a two-hour jet boat tour on your North Coast vacation with Klamath Jet Boat Tours. Learn about the Klamath River’s history, the Yurok Tribe’s culture, and the area’s wildlife while cruising 45 miles up the river. Catch a glimpse of bears, ospreys, hawks, bald eagles, golden eagles, deers, and elks.

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