weekend escape: along highway one.
by Jessica Wright comment


northern California coastline. / sfgirlbybay

As a weekend warrior, some of the best trips have been a few nights exploring up and down the coast of Northern California. Being based in the Bay Area, it has been a goal to get outdoors as often as possible and see some of the smaller towns that hold so much character to them.

With Highway one connecting the coast, these three coastal destinations make for a perfect getaway. You could even create a mini road-trip itinerary, visiting each of these spots in a week or so. The wild landscape of Northern California with dark blue ocean waters, deep green foliage, and the often spotting of wildlife is the ultimate setting for a seaside escape.

Here’s a look at three unique coastal locations in Northern California.

happy travels! bon traveler.

nor cal tomales bay. / sfgirlbybay

Tomales Bay

Just a bit north of San Francisco is Tomales Bay. Most famed for its oysters (and for good reason), this inlet cuts into Marin County creating a tranquil bay. When I visit here, a stop at Nick’s Cove in Marshall is a must for lunch. Grilled oysters and bloody marys are my go-to and if the sun is shining, then the patio it is. Nick’s Cove also has these restored seaside cottages, with views over the inlet so you can stay overnight if you’d like to.

norther California boat shack. / sfgirlbybay

oysters at Nick's Cove in tomales bay. / sfgirlbybay

You can work your way around Tomales Bay, stopping into one town after the next like Point Reyes Station. Some of my favorite spots there include Cowgirl Creamery for artisanal organic cheese and Station House Café, a Point Reyes classic with local farm to table food and a lush garden patio. When it comes to getting outdoors, I would head straight out to Point Reyes National Seashore. The Cypress Tree Tunnel is always worth a stop to see the towering trees and then you can continue ingrained the coast.

tomales bay in northern california. / sfgirlbybay

big sur california bixby bridge. / sfgirlbybay

Big Sur

If there is one image ingrained in my mind of California’s coast, it’s the color of the water of Big Sur. Pastel blues and turquoise mix together to create a dreamy view. This slice of the coast has great stops along the way like Bixby Bridge, McWay Falls, and hiking in beautiful Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park.

big sur coastline in northern california. / sfgirlbybay

Glen Oaks cabins in big sur, ca. / sfgirlbybay

glen oaks cabins in big sur, california. / sfgirlbybay

There’s an array of accommodations from high-end hotels to local getaways in Big Sur. One of my favorites and often overlooked is Glen Oaks’ cabins in the redwood grove. These modern and luxe cabins sit hidden off of the highway in the heart of the forest, just footsteps away from everything.

When it comes to dining in Big Sur, the Big Sur Roadhouse at Glen Oaks is a favorite for lunch or dinner. Breakfast is always at Big Sur Bakery as their freshly baked goods are delicious and you’ll want to pick up a snack for your day’s adventure. Be sure to catch the sunset at Nepenthe and if you’re looking for an unforgettable dinner, then reserve a table at Post Ranch Inn’s Sierra Mar.

hiking trails in Mendocino. / sfgirlbybay


Further north of San Francisco, about three hours or so, is Mendocino. This coastal community has a rich history of artists and travelers retreating here to unwind and disconnect. Today, Mendocino is an outdoor haven with so much to do. To get the best of a hotel and the outdoors, stay at Mendocino Grove in their glamping tents. I spent a few nights here in these luxury tents (with a beautiful communal bathroom) which made for a fun experience on the coast. You’re a few minutes outside of town and can easily access everything in the area.

Mendocino Grove glamping tent. / sfgirlbybay

Mendocino Grove glamping tent accommodations. / sfgirlbybay

For spending time outdoors, head to Catch-a-Canoe and rent a traditional outrigger to use for the day. You’ll make your way up the river, getting to see the local wildlife like sea otters and seals. Nearby is Russian Gulch State Park, where if the weather is warm enough, you could lay out on the beach or hike around its coastal trails. Further north of town, head to Point Cabrillo Lighthouse for a picturesque view at sunset.

northern california coastline. / sfgirlbybay

canoeing in norther california. / sfgirlbybay

One of my favorite places to go sit and stay a while is the bar at Little River Inn. You can dine in the back in the restaurant for dinner or eat in the bar while soaking in ocean views. It’s my favorite stop each time I’m in Mendocino. In town, restaurants like Trillium Café or the more casual Patterson’s Pub is always a win. For the afternoons while out exploring, I’ll pick up some local cheeses, bread, and charcuterie at Harvest Market in town to take out for a picnic.

harvest market camping supplies. / sfgirlbybay

the bar at little river inn. / sfgirlbybay

• all photography by bon traveler.

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