It is stunning to see the diversity of the California coast. The Northern end dives inland into massive redwoods lining the roads. The gigantic ancient trees are impressive to see as they cast a dark shade across the road even in the daylight. The dark roads were narrow with constant twists & turns that made them challenging and stressful to drive, while trying to enjoy the scenery along the way.
As we continued down the coast we moved from forest and trees to ocean with rocks littering the landscape as far as the eye could see.
North of San Fransisco there are wineries galore through Mendocino, Napa, Sonoma, and Santa Ynez valleys just to name a few.
As we got past San Francisco / Oakland area our landscape changed to agricultural. We stopped at Gilroy for some of their famed garlic, and Salinas, known as the ‘Salad bowl of the world’ for fruit & nuts – something CA is known for.
It was fascinating to see the change in landscape along the long coast, as we made our way.
After all the scenic overviews we had along the Oregon coast, we were a bit surprised by the lack of ocean views along the Northern California Coast. Granted California has a lot of beach and ocean views… but I’m not talking about San Diego, Mission Beach, or Redondo Beach. I’m talking about the section from Crescent City, CA to just north of San Francisco.
This area tucks inland and goes through some very pretty red wood country. There are a number of ‘alternate routes’ like the Humboldt State Park that are certainly worth doing to get the full exposure to the redwoods… not just highway driving, which is what most of this drive feels like. While there are small towns in between, they seem to be working towns, run down and dilapidated. They aren’t the popular tourist towns bustling with people and shops like Sausalito.
There are the occasional signs that says ‘Coastal Access’ … turn here. If you drive down the long dirt road (and back) it’ll take an hour with no premonition of the view until you get there. Once you do, it yield beach access to the ocean and beach, but no great views, no jutting rocks.
The best ocean views along this stretch is between Jenner and Bodega Bay… with the added advantage that you can tuck into the quaint charming winery towns from Jenner. You can visit Duncan Mills, Guerneville, Sonoma, many more.