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With summer on its way, there has never been a better time to visit the Northern California Coast. There is almost a reversed effect with the weather, as the valley gets hot and the coast cools off. Growing up in Northern California, when the sun would be in full force, we made our way to the coastline.

Where to Visit Along the Northern California Coast

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Over the past years, I’ve worked my way up from San Francisco, popping into each of the towns all the way up the Highway 1 to Fort Bragg. There is so much to love — each town and city is unique in its own way and of course that wild coastline is hard to beat. There is always a ton to do in the summer in the Bay Area (see this post for things to do in Northern California) and can’t wait for the adventures to begin.

Read this ultimate Northern California Coast road trip itinerary to help plan your trip.

Here’s a look at where to visit along the Northern California Coast

Northern California Coast Weather

I will be honest that the weather on the coast is always hit or miss. If you’re looking for guaranteed sunny days, then I would say it’s not here. The weather in the summer months can often be the coldest, especially in San Francisco. So I would be sure to pack a few layers and prepare for some variant temperatures. On Highway One, the weather can be clear and then suddenly foggy.

Personally, I enjoy the colder days as it’s a reprieve from the hot sun. When you get up north, closer to Sonoma County, the summer months are often in the mid-sixties to seventies for temperature. The light breeze often will cool off as well at night.

For more information on the best time to visit Northern California, read this full guide.

Where to Visit Along the Northern California Coast

Where to Visit Along the Northern California Coast

Northern California Map & Overview

Where to Visit Along the Northern California Coast

The areas I will be talking about will be from San Francisco up to Mendocino County. There is so much more to see past Mendocino, however, I have not been yet so I will add those areas into the guide once I do!

Destinations along the Northern California Coast
(all north from San Francisco)

Where to Visit Along the Northern California Coast

Where to Visit Along the Northern California Coast
Where to Visit Along the Northern California Coast

Point Reyes & Marshall

If you’re looking to discover one of the best gems on the coast’s highway, start with a trip to Point Reyes. There is so much love here like the Point Reyes National Seashore area. The town of Point Reyes Station is incredibly quaint and has a few local restaurants and a market to check out on the weekend.

In this area, you’ll find Tomales Bay which is really popular for hiking and grabbing fresh oysters for lunch at places like Nick’s Cove or Hog Island.

For more outdoor adventures, you can also rent some kayaks in Marshall and explore the area that way.

Read the full weekend guide to Point Reyes Station here.
Where to Visit Along the Northern California Coast

Bodega Bay

As you make your way up the coast, the next biggest town is Bodega Bay on the coast. Known for its beaches, it makes for a great family-friendly destination. You can make your way to Bodega Head and try your luck with whale watching here or head into Doran Regional Park for their public beach.

This is also another great spot to go sea kayaking, be sure to visit Bodega Bay Kayak to get your rentals this summer. There is a ton of fresh seafood here, so if you want to try the local catch, my favorite spots are Spud Point Crab Company and Terrapin Creek Cafe.

Where to Visit Along the Northern California Coast

Where to Visit Along the Northern California Coast

Jenner, Timber Cove, & Sea Ranch

One of the most iconic and scenic parts of the Northern California Coast is the section between Jenner and Sea Ranch. It’s wildly beautiful, with curvy roads that hug the cliff’s edge. Along the way, there is not a whole lot but an open landscape that is amazing for outdoor adventure.

Jenner is one of the smaller towns and near it is Goat Rock Beach, Fort Ross State Historic Park, and a lot of wildlife. You’ll often spot seals and sea lions basking in the sun off the coast. Nearby is Fort Ross Vineyard, which you could pop in for a wine tasting.

Further north up the coast, you will make your way to Timber Cove which is anchored by the stunning Timber Cove Hotel. I’d make this a destination for lunch or dinner and even consider staying overnight here.

The final spot is Sea Ranch, famous for its sprawling headlands and architecture. Take a look at Pebble Beach, the iconic Sea Ranch Chapel, hike the Gualala Point Regional Park, and walk on Stengel Beach.

Where to Visit Along the Northern California CoastWhere to Visit Along the Northern California Coast

Mendocino & Fort Bragg

The final destination up the Northern California Coast is the town of Mendocino. It’s one of my favorites to visit because of its outdoor beauty, charming town, and incredible food scene. We always go for at least two nights and make our way around our favorites. One of my top activities to do there is to rent an outrigger with Catch-A-Canoe to explore up the river, where you can see river otters and harbor seals.

We often grab a few picnic items and eat out on the outrigger. Russian State Gulch Park is also a beautiful area to explore and has a great walk along the cliff’s edge and its own beach. Some restaurants to check out in the area include Little River Inn, Trillium Cafe, Wild Fish, and Patterson’s Pub. (here’s my full guide)

The last spot just a bit more north of Mendocino is Fort Bragg. We grew up going here for soccer tournaments and always loved taking the Skunk Train for a scenic ride and then heading down to Glass Beach.

Head here for my recommended one-week itinerary for Northern California. 

Northern California Beaches

We do have some incredible beaches in Northern California. Most are destined for surfers or those willing to brave the cold Pacific Ocean waters. On the clear and sunny days, they make for a great afternoon excursion or part of a road trip north of the Golden Gate Bridge. Here are a few of the top ones I personally love:

  • Stinson Beach (45 minutes north of San Francisco)
  • Rodeo Beach in Marin County (30 minutes north of San Francisco)
  • Bodega Bay (1 hour 30 minutes north of San Francisco)
  • Russian Gulch State Park in Mendocino (3 hours 15 minutes north of San Francisco)
  • Glass Beach in Fort Bragg (3 hours 30 minutes north of San Francisco)

Where to Stay on the Northern California Coastline

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Where you want to stay is completely up to the experience you’d like to have. I’d recommend staying somewhere in the middle like Bodega or Jenner. Here are my top picks of hotels on the Northern California Coastline or read my full list of best hotels on the Northern coast of California:

Nick’s Cove

Manka’s Inverness Lodge

Bodega Bay Lodge

Timber Cove Resort 

Harbor House Inn

Brewery Gulch Inn

Mendocino Grove Glamping

There are also some incredible Airbnbs in the area:

+ Check out this post for incredible Airbnbs in Sonoma County.

+ Check out this post for some great Airbnbs in Northern California.

Search For Northern California Airbnbs here:

Where to Visit Along the Northern California Coast

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Where to Visit Along the Northern California Coast

Where to Visit Along the Northern California Coast

PS — Are You Booking a Trip Soon? Use My Booking Checklist!

These are the sites I use most to book my own trips. Using the links below is a great way to support Bon Traveler’s travel journalism at no extra cost to you. If you need help organizing your itinerary, get my free travel itinerary template here.

1. Book Your Flights

Use Skyscanner to find the best flights. It searches 100s of airlines and websites across the globe to ensure you’re not missing out on any route options or deals.

2. Book Your Accommodations

Use for hotels and guest houses. They have the biggest inventory and consistently offer the best rates.

3. Book Your Tours & Experiences

Use Viator or Get Your Guide to find the best tours and experiences. They are my favorite tour search engines. I always check both as their inventory varies depending on the destination.

4. Book Your Car

Use Discover Cars or to find the best car rental deals. I recommend comparing rental agency reviews on Google to ensure you are booking with the best company in that destination, as the reviews are often more accurate than the car rental search engines.

5. Don’t Forget Airport Lounge Access

Get a Priority Pass membership to gain access to 1,400+ VIP lounges and airport experiences worldwide. The Priority Pass app is the first thing I check when I have a layover. I’ve been a member for over a decade, and having a comfortable place to relax before and between flights makes air travel so much more enjoyable.

6. Don’t Forget Travel Insurance

I never leave the country without travel insurance. It provides comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong (ie. illness, injury, theft, and cancelations, etc.). I use it frequently for my travels to stay protected.

My favorite companies that offer the best coverage and rates are:


1 Comment

  1. So many reasons to love California. Absolutely great article! Love the footage! You’re so good writer! Very well researched blog…Redwood Forest is Incredibly Awesome!

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