California’s North Coast is a magical place, where gorgeous redwood trees and rugged shoreline form a picture-perfect backdrop. This idyllic setting can form the basis of a memorable road trip. There’s nothing quite like cruising through dense forests and friendly towns, stopping occasionally for a tasty meal or a thrilling hike. Every California North Coast road trip takes considerable planning, but that’s part of the fun.
What You Need To Know Before Your Coastal Road Trip
First, it helps to know what, exactly constitutes the North Coast. Definitions vary, but typically involve the coastal areas between San Francisco and the Oregon border.
Once you understand the scope of the area, it’s time to plan your Northern California coastal road trip. While some people tackle this adventure in just three days, you’ll feel far more relaxed if you can dedicate a full week to this expedition. As with any multi-point road trip, preparation and itinerary planning are crucial. As you prepare, keep mishaps and unhappy surprises at bay by keeping these helpful hints in mind:
- Arrive equipped with offline maps. Service is often shoddy, so it’s absolutely essential to have offline maps available.
- Wear layers. It can be difficult to predict the weather, so you’ll want plenty of layers on hand. Rain gear is also important.
- Reserve campsites in advance. Campsites can be competitive at the area’s most beloved state parks. Thankfully, there are also plenty of homes for rent in charming small towns, as well as quaint coastal cabins worth checking out.
Must-Visit Attractions and Things To Do Along The North Coast
With so much to do and see, you could spend months on the North Coast and still only scratch the surface. If you’re short on time, however, stick to these California Coast road trip essentials & bucket list items:
Drive just over an hour north of San Francisco, and you’ll discover a coastal wonderland featuring some of the state’s most stunning cliffs. The entire area is teeming with wildlife, including tule elk, elephant seals, and migrating whales. Don’t forget to stop by the historic Point Reyes Lighthouse, which was constructed in 1870 and remains a compelling sight to this day.
Home to the most unique rock formations you’ll spot during your California North Coast road trip, this gem contains its fair share of tide pools. Take your time as you search for sea lions lounging or whales swimming in the distance. Sentinel Rock provides an especially memorable overlook. You can also enjoy great views along the Stump Beach Trail. In the spring, the adjacent Kruse Rhodendron State Natural Reserve is stunning to behold as the flowers bloom.
Beautifully manicured gardens form a pristine and diverse oasis at this lovely getaway. The rhododendron and succulents are gorgeous, as is the view of the ocean. If you visit during the spring or summer, you can stop in Rhody’s Garden Cafe for a tasty lunch that incorporates produce from the nearby vegetable garden.
Fort Bragg could form the basis of a spectacular vacation all on its own. If you’re only able to dedicate a few hours to this vibrant city, however, you’ll want to spend that time at Glass Beach. This unique destination is covered in tiny pieces of smoothed glass, which arrived way back when the area was used as a dump site. Since then, extensive cleanup efforts have transformed the beach into a sparkly oasis.
Located just north of Shelter Cove and within the King Range National Conservation Area, Black Sands Beach looks a lot like its simple name implies: it’s a vast stretch of black sand surrounded by dramatic shoreline. If you’re in the mood for a hike, check out the acclaimed Lost Coast Trail, which meanders along some of the most rugged coastline imaginable.
Humboldt Redwoods State Park is not to be missed, as it’s home to towering redwoods that are among the tallest in the entire world. There’s a lot to keep you occupied at this vast park, but the hiking, in particular, is sure to please. If you prefer to remain in your car, try the Avenue of the Giants, which is often referred to as the world’s most impressive forest drive.
Hit Up Some Coffee Shops
Quaint coffee shops can be found in most of Northern California’s charming towns, so be sure to stop by a few as you make your way up the North Coast. This is a great way to recharge while also getting a sense of the local scene. There are too many to mention, but a few worthwhile stops include:
- Harbour Coffee and Wine
- Black Oak Coffee Roasters
- Mind’s Eye Manufactory & Coffee Lounge
- Little Green Bean
- Cove Coffee
- WhiteCap Coffee And Tea
- Signature Organic Coffee
Go Beyond Napa
Napa may be iconic, but it’s by no means California’s only impressive wine destination. There are several hidden gems to discover during your California North Coast road trip. The region’s best vineyards and wine bars encourage you to enjoy world-class wine without the crowds. Favorites include:
- Seabass Family Wines Tasting Room
- Navarro Vineyards & Winery
- Lula Cellars
- Occidental Wines
- Seprentrio Winery
- Old Growth Cellars
- Briceland Vineyards Winery
Explore Northern California Art Galleries
Not every Northern California Coast road trip needs to be dedicated to hiking. If you prefer to hang out in town when you’re not on the road, add some art gallery exploration to your itinerary. You’ll be blown away by the talent of North Coast artists and might even view the region in a new light after viewing their work. This is also a great opportunity to score some excellent gifts or souvenirs. Be sure to check out:
- Northcoast Artists Gallery
- Coast Highway Artists Collective
- Artists’ Co-op of Mendocino
- Glass Fire Gallery
- Ren Brown Collection
- Gallery Route One
Whether you’re trekking through redwood forests, sipping on wine, or exploring art galleries, you will quickly fall in love with the North Coast. Embark on an adventure like no other: a Northern California coastal road trip.
Where To Stay On Your North Coast Road Trip
Looking for a place to rest your head while on your coastal getaway? Casago has you covered. Check out our variety of vacation homes, costal cottages, and beach cabins in Trinidad, Arcata, & Eureka. Need help planning your perfect coastal California vacation? Call us at (707)-602-5800 or contact us online. Casago Redwood Coast has you covered.