If you live in, or are considering a trip to, Northern California you are likely familiar with the bigger cities like San Francisco, Oakland and Sacramento, and escapes like Monterey, Napa and Tahoe. If you are interested in something a bit more unique, however, take a detour with us and check out our list of NorCal getaways off the beaten path. From freshly shucked oysters, to a gold rush town, to a lighthouse that lets you lodge over the dramatic cliffs of the National Seashore, here are our top picks.
Tomales boasts vineyards, a quiet countryside dotted with farms and the bay. It is also a veritable foodie paradise. While wine tasting is a given, you can also visit a handful of local creameries for cheese tastings then finish your stay off with a trip to Hog Island Oysters where you can dine on freshly shucked oysters on long picnic tables over looking the water.
2. Humboldt County
If you are interested in visiting some seriously big trees, Humboldt is the way to go. They have both the Redwood National Park which contains nearly half of the remaining old growth redwoods (which can grow up to 375 feet), and the historic Avenue of the Giants, a stretch of old highway 101 which contains the largest remaining stand of virgin redwoods in the world. There is no shortage of ways to explore the redwoods of Humboldt from simply driving through, to hiking, biking, camping or even horseback riding ($70+).
3. Plymouth, California
Established during the gold rush as a mining town, Plymouth has the charming feel of an old western. Nestled in the base of the Sierras, it is surrounded by a beautiful landscape and its proximity to the Shenandoah Valley means it boasts over 30 wineries. It is also home of the famous Amador County fair taking place in July and the Amador Flower farm with its 12 acres of gardens.
4. Point Reyes National Seashore
Point Reyes is a stretch of the Northern California coastline that encompasses over 71,000 acres as a preserve. It is the perfect place to go for seasonal whale watching and include the scenic Point Reyes Lighthouse which has both a visitor center and an adjacent hostel, the only lodging within the bounds of the National Seashore.
5. Glen Ellen (Sonoma Valley)
Glen Ellen is in the heart of the Sonoma Valley but has a quiet, small town feel. You can expect to be surrounded by small, local vineyards and the Glen Ellen village market has great deli sandwiches so you don't head out for tastings on an empty stomach. Be sure to venture out to nearby downtown Sonoma as well for the great local shopping and dining, The Girl and the Fig is a personal favorite.
Let us know your own Northern CA favorites (if you're willing to share) in the comments below.