Redwood Tree California on a scenic drive

A Scenic Drive Through The Northern California Coast

This post was most recently updated on November 15th, 2019

Day One

The northern California coast is absolutely stunning. And the best way to see and do everything is to rent a car. We started out on a Saturday morning by picking up our rental car in San Francisco. Then headed north over the golden gate bridge.

Golden Gate Bridge

Luckily we missed any of the early morning traffic. Once over this very recognizable burnt red/orange bridge, you’re on highway 101. After about 30 minutes of driving you’ll see a sign to turn left onto Highway 1.

It’s a beautiful and slow going drive along Highway 1. The roads twist and turn up and down the mountains. Around every corner is the next perfect photo opportunity.  There are plenty of beaches and hiking areas to stop at along the way.

Mendocino County

Muir Woods

The first place you’re going to want to stop at is Muir woods. The entrance fee is $15 for adults and free for 15 and under. This is an extremely popular park and beach which can become almost impossible to park at. You can call ahead to book the Muir Woods shuttle to make the trip a lot easier. 1-800-410-2419.

If you only have time for one day trip from San Francisco, I’d recommend a Muir Woods tour.

The Muir Woods National Monument has a total of 17 hiking trails. Deciding on which of the Muir Woods Trails to take will depend on how difficult of a climb you want. On your Muir Woods hike you’ll see some of the largest redwood trees in the world. The park is also known for it’s frequent fog which gives it a creepy, horror film like atmosphere.

Map of California Coast

The weekend seemed to be the time for locals to take out their sports cars for a drive along Highway 1. The day we were there the Porsche club was out doing a tour.

Leggett California

Some of these redwood trees are over 600 years old. In parts of Muir Woods you can see all the way to the Pacific Ocean.

Mendocino County California

Never a boring drive with views like this!

Mendocino County

The California coast is known to be extremely windy. So windy I had a hard time getting the car door open. The waves in the ocean were crashing against the shore, so we didn’t see anyone out on the water.

Mendocino County

Bodega Bay California Restaurants

After 3 hours of driving and stopping, we made it as far as Bodega Bay. A great place to go for lunch is the Fishetarian. The owner is an avid fisherman who sells the freshest seafood around.

Fishetarian Bodega Bay

There are so many great items on the menu, it’s hard to decide. They even have vegetarian options. And the sweet potato fries are the best!

Another highly rated restaurant is the Spud Point Crab Co. Specializing in crab, shrimp, and their world famous clam chowder. With the freshest ingredients right out of the ocean. The menu prices are very reasonable too.  I only wish we had time to try them all.

Mendocino County

Things To Do In Mendocino

Our next stop was the town of Mendocino. Even though the population is less than 1000, it was a booming little place. This is the perfect town to go shopping for all your unique finds. With cute shops lining the streets, and the best location right on the coast.

They have everything from jewellery, a toy store, a book store, clothing and numerous boutique shops to visit. You could check out the Mendocino art centre, go to one of the many spa’s, grab an ice cream cone, or try some treats at one of the bakeries.

Mendocino California

The television show Murder She Wrote was filmed here. You might recognize some of the houses in the background if you’ve seen the show.

Another option if you have time, is to go for a hike at the Russian Gulch State Park located 3 kilometres north of the town.  Or spend the day at one of the two beaches. Mendocino Headlands State Park surrounds this tiny town, so it’s no wonder the views are amazing.

Mendocino Campgrounds

There are so many choices for Mendocino camping. A lot of them tend to book up fast. So calling ahead is recommended.

For a luxury camping kind of experience there is the Mendocino Grove campground. These glamping tents you rent come complete with a heated bed and leather chairs to sit out on the front deck. There is a 24 hour tea bar and a luxury bathhouse to shower. They even have a special dog wash shower for your pooch.

The Casper Beach RV Park is located 5 kilometres north of the town of Mendocino. They have facilities for either tenting or bringing your RV. There is a beach right at the campground where you can kayak, fish, surf, or go snorkeling.

Mendocino Bed And Breakfast

Not exactly a bed and breakfast, but a very unique Airbnb property to stay at is the Hobbit Cabin. Located just 3 kilometres away from Mendocino on 20 acres of private property, you’ll find this 1500 square foot cozy cottage.

Right in Mendocino is the Seagull Inn Bed And Breakfast. The Inn has a total of 9 rooms. They offer an organic breakfast each morning either in your room or out in the gardens.

Things To Do In Fort Bragg

Hippie Van Mendocino County

Once you get this far north, you’re sure to see some awesome vehicles like this one. Mendocino area has been a popular hangout for hippies for years.

By dinner time, we made it to our final stop for the night in Fort Bragg. Because of the slow going curvy roads and so many things to see along the way, the drive will take you a lot longer than you think.

Glass Beach Fort Bragg

Glass Beach Fort Bragg

One of the point of interest in Fort Bragg is Glass Beach. Residents years ago used to throw their trash over the cliff as a dumping spot. But nature has beautified this problem. With the crashing waves on the shore over the years, it as smoothed and broken down the glass into tiny attractive pieces.

Skunk Train

One of the most popular attractions in Fort Bragg is to take a ride on the Skunk Train through the Redwoods. The train has been going since 1885 giving people rides through Northern California. The one hour round trip on the train cost $41.95 for adults during the summer.

Fort Bragg Lodging

Fort Bragg

Our AirBnB for the night was a loft complete with a fridge, microwave and fireplace. It’s situated about 10 minutes north of Fort Bragg. But it was perfect for us since we were still heading that way. Click here to receive up to $129 off your first Airbnb booking.

Another beautiful spot to stay is the Beachcomber Motel and Spa. This pet friendly hotel is located right on the beach, just a quick walk to the glass beach.

Day 2

We woke up early on our second day intending to drive through the Humboldt Redwoods State Park. It was a 289 kilometres drive north on Highway 1. Once you get to Leggett you take the U.S 101 north .

Humboldt State Park

But upon arrival, we noticed most of the park was closed off due to a marathon taking place. So we turned around and ended back south. We made a stop in Leggett to see the Chandelier drive through tree.

It is a 276 foot tall and 16 foot diameter tree that has been cut out so cars can drive through. There is a small gift shop and picnic tables to have lunch at.

We decided to take Highway 101 back south since we were short on time, and it’s a much faster way back to San Francisco.

Fallen Redwoods Tree

Driving on Highway 101 you’ll see winery after winery. The director Francis Ford Coppola owns one along this route. But since we had a plane to catch, we had to leave the winery tours for another time. Can’t wait to get back here some day!

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