Despite many years living in California we’d never ventured far on Highway 1 North of San Francisco. There are rumors of redwood trees and gorgeous coastline. And lots of wine. Hmmm, wine.
Last weekend, I dragged Jack out of the bed against his protests, put him in the driver seat of a rental car, and told him to drive. “Where to?” he mumbled with a look of resignation.
“North. We’re going North.”
And off we go on one of my weekly exploration missions or as Jack likes to call it: a mission to spend countless hours in a car driving to some vague destination.
One of the most exciting things about heading towards Highway 1 north of San Francisco is crossing the Golden Gate bridge. Marin Headlands on the other side of the bridge provides some of the best viewpoints of the Golden Gate Bridge. A stop here is mandatory when you’re on a road trip north of San Francisco.
Tip: It’s better to visit Marin Headlands for the view in the afternoon because of the light.
Along the way we passed small beach towns that look like they haven’t changed much since 1960’s. We stopped by Stinson Beach and Dillon Beach. Both were packed with visitors and we didn’t stay long.
We passed Tomales Bay, famous for its oysters. Lines of cars outside every oyster bar are testaments to these oysters’ fame. If you find oysters delectable and not slimy molluscs that they are, Tomales Bay is where you need to go.
North of Point Reyes on Highway 1 is where the coastline gets crazy. It’s a rugged and desolate coastline broken by long, sweeping beaches. Jack grudgingly agreed that it was worth waking up early that Sunday.
I was aiming roughly for Mendocino a 4 hour drive away. I’ve heard someone likened it to a ‘New England fishing village’ which sounds idyllic enough to make me want to go there. At the rate we kept stopping to see the views, we’d never make it there in time. Not as a daytrip.
So we started to head inland passing tiny communities nestled among groves of redwood trees. We curved southward in Russian River Valley passing many vineyards. Unfortunately, many were already closed for the day.
Tip: if we’re doing this all over again, we’d do a counterclockwise loop: head north inland and south down the coast.
You’ll find wineries, redwood, and miles of wild coastline on Highway 1 north of San Francisco. So the rumor was true.
Many say that the coastal route of Highway 1 between LA and San Francisco to be one of America’s best road trips. I’d say that the stretch of Highway 1 north of San Francisco can safely compete.
As for Mendocino, I still want to go there. Next time we’ll do it as a 2 day road trip. One of these days, I’d definitely like to drive the whole length of Pacific Coast Highway although it’ll definitely be more than a weekend getaway trip.