Northern California Coast Vacation Ideas Northern California Coast - Road Trip Planner

Mendocino, Eureka Attractions, Northern California Coast Road Trip Getaway Planner

Things to do / Travel Guide

Northern California Getaways

If you liked the drive up the coast from Malibu to Monterey and the scenic coast around San Francisco, then you will love what happens in the northern few hundred miles of California. Not only are there almost 400 miles of California north of San Francisco, but the traveler is rewarded by some of the most dramatic scenery in California…without the crowds. The quaint and historic towns that are scattered along the Northern California coast each have its own distinct personality. Be prepared to drive for sometimes 50 miles at a time between towns—but don't worry, the views along the way will make the drive worth your while.
Head inland in search for more towns and more varied scenery…this is, if you can find the road. Get a good map of Northern California.

Walking, fishing, and surfing are popular activities along the rocky coast. Old-growth redwood forests are preserved in a series of parks. If park-hopping or beach-hopping are at the top of your Northern California getaway itinerary, then you'll have no shortage of activities here.

Northern California Coast Tourist Attractions

Starting your San Francisco to Mendocino road trip by driving south to north from Marin County through the Northern California Coast, you'll arrive at Bodega Bay. This small fishing town located in Sonoma County was once famous only as being the set location for Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds," but has since become much more popular as a weekend getaway spot for people traveling from all over the state, particularly the Bay Area.

Next major tourist attraction on your drive up north will be the historic coastal town of Mendocino. This quaint little town is ideally situated on the dramatic, tall cliffs that loom over the Mendocino Bay. The area is popular for wine tasting tours and the Whale Watching Festival. It's also a great place to park for the nearby giant redwood trees.

Just north of Mendocino is Fort Bragg, California, another spot you'll want to hit for the sake of the redwoods, the microbreweries, and, of course, to see the fort. A fort was built around 1820 after a ship wrecked off the coast, drawing the Pomo Indians to what would soon become Fort Bragg for looting the shipwreck treasures. While you're in the area, you should also plan for a ride on the Skunk Train.

Northern California Getaways

Continue to drive up the "lost coast," stopping whenever the fancy strikes to go for a swim or snap a photo of the magnificent scenery that never seems to fade.

The next vacation spot you'll hit on your Northern California getaway is the old fashioned town of Ferndale, California. Stop here for two reasons: first, to visit the local ice cream factory, and second, to celebrate the arbor kings at the nearby Avenue of the Giants, a redwood forest like no other that also offers ample hiking and rafting opportunities.

The last two major vacation spots on the Northern California coast are the towns of Arcata and Eureka. Arcata is home to Humboldt University, and so, has blossomed into quite a nice college town. But the fact that Arcata is located on the Redwood Coast makes this small town also the popular hub for much nature exploration, including a visit to a great wildlife sanctuary. Humboldt University's Natural History Museum will work for getting your nature fix if the weather is inclement.

Mendocino and Eureka Tourist Attractions

Eureka is a good choice for a final destination for your California Coast adventure. It's a sleepy little city that hosts unique architecture, a vibrant artists' community, and an offbeat local flavor. The Humboldt Bay on one side and the giant redwood forests and mountains on the other make Eureka a fantastic spot for strolling, swimming, hiking, fishing, and just plain ol' lazing around with a cup of coffee and a book.

Unlike Mendocino which doesn't contain any supermarkets, motels, or fast food joints, Eureka offers all of the above, plus more upscale shopping, lodging, and dining options. There are also family-friendly tourist attractions in Eureka, such as the Sequoia Park Zoo or the nearby Redwood State Park.

Northern California Coast Road Trip Planner

Drive the length of the coast in 3-5 days. The roads are slow going and the pace of life in the towns along the way is relaxed, so there's no need to rush your Northern California getaway.