With summer in full swing and temperatures rising, people are packing up the cars and flocking to the beach. Although Southern California beaches offer sun, surf, and excellent people-watching, Northern California beaches are the hidden gems of the Golden State. These four destinations include plenty of sun, quiet beaches, picturesque beach towns, and relaxation to spare.
Photo: Juan Moreno
Mendocino, the filming location for the long-running classic “Murder She Wrote,” is an idyllic town full of historic buildings, art galleries, and shops featuring local talent. Perched atop expansive bluffs just minutes from the beach, you might just catch a glimpse of a whale or two during sunset. This family-friendly bed & breakfast promises a cozy stay in one of their cottages, nestled in beautiful gardens. Van Damme State Park and Mendocino Headlands are just a quick drive out of town and deliver challenging hikes and stunning panoramic views of the Pacific.
This 4-star resort is located right on the water, but it also has a pool and spa for those inclined to stay on the premises. Worth the venture out however is the town of Bodega, just miles north, where one might recognize the schoolhouse from Alfred Hitchcock’s classic “The Birds.” Also up Highway One is Salmon Creek Beach, a must visit for a relaxing afternoon. Grab a piece of salt water taffy and a kite from one of the many little roadside shops and head for the sand!
Looking for a NorCal beach that has more of a SoCal vibe? Carmel-by-the-Sea is the perfect choice. The expansive, white sand beaches and crystal clear waters are the ultimate reward after a hike up Mission Trail Park, a 33-acre spread of pine and redwood. Make sure to catch a round of golf or go for a tasting at the nearby Chateau Julien Winery. During the day, take a tour of the historic Mission Carmel, or drive up to the nearby Monterey Bay Aquarium. At night, grab a cocktail at one of the local hangs or at the resort bar and lounge by the pool. The options for luxury are endless!
Many flock to San Francisco for its historic landmarks, delicious sourdough bread, and champion sports teams, but just south of the city are incredible beaches and quaint towns that are definitely worth a visit. The distinguished Oceano Hotel and Spa puts you minutes from the JV Fitzgerald Marine Reserve and the gorgeous Miramar Beach. Be sure to get a massage from their full service spa to unwind, or spend a day driving along the coast, exploring all of the sights the Northern coast has to offer.
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Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph.