Sightseeing along California’s northern coast

California’s northern coast surprised me at every turn.

First revelation? No crowds. And I could actually get to the beach at numerous places. I thought it would be built up and clogged with looky-loos (not me, of course, I’m not a looky-loo). But no. California’s coast north of San Francisco is rugged and beautiful and accessible.

We drove our pickup truck and fifth-wheel camper northwest on Highway 128 from Napa, north on Highway 1 back to Leggett and then Highway 101 all the way to Crescent City (not all in one day). There were numerous warnings against rigs as long as ours, and I don’t recommend it, but we made it, and the route offered some of the most beautiful scenery I have ever driven.

Califoria coast 2

Highway 1, north of Fort Bragg

Second eye-opener: The water is so blue! I expected gray and dirty, like a lot of ocean front I’ve seen in more populated areas in southern California and parts of Florida and Texas. Northern California’s waters reminded me more of Croatia’s, at which I marveled on a summer vacation last year and believed them to be the bluest I’d ever seen.

Croatian coast 2

Croatian coast, June 2016

Wow No. 3: It wasn’t just the blue. It was the green. And the other colors of the rainbow. May’s flowers are in full bloom, even early in the month. A native Minnesota appreciates that.

Here’s another set of comparisons between California and Croatia.

California coast

California coast, May 2017

Croation coast

Croatian coast, June 2016

And my final surprising find on California’s northern coast: Rocks and trees. Huge rocks, and miles of trees. It’s a rocky shore, with pine trees growing right to the edge and most places. For a geologist, it’s where the continental plates meet, causing all kinds of chaos (and stunning sights). I wouldn’t want to be a sailor approaching the coast, as forbidding as it must look from that perspective.

If you’re a road trip lover, a drive north on Highway 1 from Los Angeles to Portland would be a breath-taking two or three weeks. There are plenty of cute and/or majestic inns and lodging along the route for travelers not so daring as to drag a camper along, and many vibrant main streets in small towns (another surprise). As one might expect in California, a number of organic delis dot the eatery landscape. And the wine scene doesn’t end at Napa and Sonoma; plenty of wineries can be found along the way in Northern California.

Come, expecting rugged beauty.

Or be pleasantly surprised.

One response to “Sightseeing along California’s northern coast

  1. We spent two nights in Fort Bragg, and I would definitely go back. I got some amazing pictures of the rhododendrons that I may have to share in a future post. I loved the downtown there, too. Glad you appreciated the post.

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