Northern California is filled to the brim with some of the greatest road trip destinations of all time. Whether you’re looking to go on an unforgettable hike, experience life at the beach, taste delicious wines, or immerse yourself in breathtaking views, Northern California has got you covered. Follow along for your next big adventure.
The first thing that comes to mind when you hear ‘Northern California’ might just be wine country. Napa Valley is one of the biggest producers of wine in the entire world! Not only is a trip to Napa an amazing experience to share with friends or family, but you’ll also be experiencing some of the most phenomenal wines on the planet while reveling in a spectacular atmosphere in the mountains. It’s hard to go wrong with a trip to Napa.
Sonoma is Napa’s more affordable and laid-back cousin next door. There’s less glitz and glamour, but it’s just as sensational in the wine department. Whether you prefer to linger around Sonoma or Napa is based purely on a personal preference, but the close distance between the two means you don’t necessarily have to choose. You can easily hit up both in one trip!
Picturesque Yosemite is a wildly fun getaway destination just 3 hours east of San Francisco. You will feel as if you traveled back to a simpler time– where nature (waterfalls, plants, and mountains) heavily triumphs our technology-obsessed era. This is a relaxing escape where you’ll be able to focus on nothing but the peace and serenity of natural beauty.
Lake Tahoe is one of my favorite destinations in the world. It has everything an adventure junkie would want– skiing, snowboarding, swimming, jet skiing, kayaking, camping, boating– you name it! If you have a big love for the great outdoors, make Tahoe your first stop.
Angel Island is a California Historical Landmark that is accessible by Ferry from San Francisco, Tiburon, or Vallejo. Dubbed the “Ellis Island of the West,” Angel Island was an immigration holding place from 1910 to 1940 for immigrants wishing to gain U.S. citizenship. Stop by for the historical tours, hiking, biking, and dining with 360 degree skyline views of the Bay.
The quaint city of Sausalito is a popular tourist destination in the Bay Area. It’s home to charming boutique shops and restaurants on the waterfront, with views of The City just across the water. If you’re coming from San Francisco, the most scenic (and fun) route to travel is by ferry.
Humboldt Redwood State Park
Humboldt Redwoods State National Park contains the world’s largest remaining old-growth forest of California Redwoods. These sequoia sempervirens include the tallest living trees on earth, reaching up to 380 feet tall with a diameter of 30 feet. Go on an unforgettable hike at this state park for a chance to marvel at these beauties.
Although Big Sur is technically in central California, its worth including based on its proximity to northern California. This gorgeous stretch of land on California’s central coast is merely sprinkled with inhabitants, yet its a popular destination for tourists and those seeking a quick getaway. Big Sur is renowned as one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world.
Famous for its massive Redwood Trees, Muir Woods is a scenic park that’s the perfect destination for hiking and exploring. The trees are anywhere from 400-800 years old and up to 380 feet tall. This is the perfect place to experience the redwoods without making the long trek up to Humboldt.
Santa Cruz is known as a hub for laid-back surfers and chilled out residents, it’s epic beach vibes, and of course the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. It’s completely packed with amusement. Outside of the Boardwalk, there are a lot of interesting breweries, wineries, and shops. Head downtown to Pacific Avenue or take a drive to the Mystery Spot.
The Winchester Mystery House is a mansion located in San Jose that was originally owned by Sarah Winchester. Following the death of her husband and father, Sarah inherited a sum of $20 million (equivalent to $496,344,828 in 2016), making her one of the richest women in the world at the time. After the death of her infant daughter, she moved to California to have this house built. She, along with many others, believed the Winchester Mansion to be haunted. Today, you can take an extravagant maze tour through the spooky palace to see the bizarre rooms and artifacts that gave rise to its fame.
Alcatraz is a piece of history that everyone should visit once. The former prison is now home to a self-guided cell-house audio tour detailing its background as well as intimate stories from within the penitentiary. Make sure you book your tickets several weeks in advance, as Alcatraz tends to sell out quick.
This inland county is boasting with fascinating wonders, including Mount Shasta, Lassen Volcanic National Park and McArthur-Burney Falls (pictured above). The Sundial Bridge at Turtle Bay is also notable for its unique design. If you’re looking for a trip with out-of-the-box sights, head over to Shasta County.
Bodega Bay is a town located in Sonoma County where there is no shortage of things to do. Take a stroll at the beach or through town where you’ll find plenty of shops, restaurants, art galleries, wineries and breweries. From Bodega Head to Doran Beach to Sonoma Coast State Park, Bodega Bay is the perfect road trip destination.
Half Moon Bay
Half Moon Bay includes several state parks and beaches and is boasting with local artists. Be sure to check out the Mavericks, as Half Moon Bay is a top destination for big-wave surfers. Some other great places include the Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve and the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve.
A small town in Marin County, Point Reyes is a well-known tourist destination and natural sanctuary that is filled with 1500 species of plants and animals, open grasslands, and a stunning coastal location. It’s easily recognized by the iconic Point Reyes lighthouse and it is part of the National Seashore Association.
One of the most famous cities in the world, San Francisco is the ultimate playground for all things eclectic– including its architecture, landmarks, and culture. If you only have time to visit one place in northern California, let San Francisco be it. The City is comparable to no other place in the world.
North of Mill Valley, this Marin County beach is one of the best swimming beaches in California. It’s a popular spot for surfing, boogie boarding, windsurfing, hang gliding, sunbathing, beach volleyball, and gathering for picnics and BBQ’s. Stinson Beach is a great escape from the fast pace of everyday life.
There’s about a million fun things to do in the city of Oakland, so I’ll try to narrow this down. From events at Fox Theatre and Oracle Arena, to exploring areas in Tilden Regional Park, Jack London Square, and Lake Merritt, you are bound to have a great time visiting Oakland. There is a plethora of events, parks, bars, shows and restaurants that will keep you thoroughly entertained.
Berkeley is a great place for unique shops, theater, and fine dining. Take a tour of the UC campus or it’s Botanical Gardens, visit Grizzly Peak, or head downtown to see a movie or show. A beautiful park to see is the Berkeley Marina which is regularly packed with kite-flyers and dog walkers.
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