Many people believe that California ends at San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge, but I am here to tell you that as beautiful as the state is to the south, you haven’t see anything until you drive north along the Pacific Coast to the Oregon border.
It’s a meandering 425-mile trek through the Napa and Anderson Valleys, where you’ll find literally dozens of vineyards and wineries, large and small.
You can either take Highway 1 just after you cross the Golden Gate to drive up the coast and enjoy some of the most breathtaking scenery you’ll find anywhere in the world. Or you can stay on Highway 101 all the way to Crescent City just off the Oregon border.
Another option is to drop off the 101 and take Highway 20 for a beautifully scenic drive through the Anderson Valley, where you will find some of the best vineyards in the state. Be sure and stop at the Scharffenberger Vinyard for some of the most delicious champagne anywhere.
After you have finished visiting wine country, Highway 20 will take you through the quaint and historic town of Mendocino, where there are numerous old oceanside mansions that have been converted to wonderful bed and breakfast hotels.
Be sure and visit downtown Mendocino if you’re looking for exquisite paintings, sculpture and various other types of art by local artists. And you will want to take a drive and park at the headlands for spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean and the waves crashing on the rocky shoreline.
Leaving Mendocino, take Highway 1 and continue on to Ft. Bragg where you can either travel Highway 128 for about 40 miles on a winding, twisting route through a Redwood forest and re-connect with Highway 101, and that will take you through the quaint, bustling town of Humboldt.
Or you may opt to stay on Highway 1 and continue your journey up the Pacific Coast Highway. You will re-connect with the 101 at Eureka and eventually find yourself in the town of Crescent City in California’s northernmost del Norte County.
Crescent City is an oceanfront community with a laid-back charm and beauty that’s hard to find. There are several oceanfront motels to choose from for lodging, and seafood restaurants abound.
One favorite is the Chart Room with its views of the harbor and ocean. You can dine on the seafood platter, the daily luncheon special, or the sumptuous fried oyster plate, which will have you coming back for more. The Chart Room is a favorite with local residents and it sits right alongside of the docks at the Crescent City Marina, so you can enjoy the sea lions lounging on the piers and the boats making their way to and from their moorings. Be sure and get a window seat.
Adjacent to Crescent City is the beautiful Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, where the trees are so big you can drive a car through them. Take the five-and-a-halfmile long Howland Hill Road drive through the park and be sure to park the car and hike the half-mile Stout Grove Trail that meanders through these colossal trees. It is truly spectacular.
Or take the one-and-half-mile Lady Bird Johnson Trail that winds through beautiful flowers and towering old-growth Redwoods, Douglas fir and tanoaks. The First Lady dedicated Redwood National Park in 1968. Other trails to consider are the Circle, Revelation and Yurok Loop, where you’ll find amazing views of False Klamath Cove and Lagoon Creek.
The Redwoods are simply a grand thing to see; many are hundreds of years old and they remain as one of the ancient wonders of the world that you don’t want to miss.