Known for its rugged coastline, redwood trees, vast vineyards, and some of the most scenic landscapes in the world, Northern California is a multi-faceted gem. It’s also a hot spot for snapping Insta-worthy pics.
Here are six must-see destinations to stay and play that’ll make your gram glow... and your heart overflow.
Enjoy home-like accommodations; multi-level condos with many rooms, full kitchens, washer/dryers, balconies, and unobstructed ocean views. The nautical villas are situated overlooking the ocean, and a simple drive to the heart of Santa Cruz (bring the kiddos to the Boardwalk).
Seascape offers a complimentary golf cart service that brings you to-and-from the beach where the concierge can arrange bonfires and s’mores. Plan to witness the most swoon-worthy golden hour on the sand worthy of a dedicated Instagram post captioned: The sun may set but the memories will last forever. There are also three pools, a fitness center, walking paths, farm-to-table restaurant, and a golf course fit for all ages.
Located three hours north of San Francisco, Mendocino flaunts cliffs overlooking the sea. Magical and mesmerizing, stay at Little River Inn, perched on the Pacific. Adorable and family-owned, it’s one of the oldest lodgings on the dramatic stretch in the area.
Cruise the tranquil Big River Estuary on a Lynx courtesy of Catch a Canoe; you’re sure to spot an array of wildlife. Then, head to Fort Bragg for one of the coolest California excursions: rail-biking through the redwoods via the world-famous Skunk Train. Since 1885, the historic Skunk has traveled through old-growth redwood groves. Electric-powered and virtually silent, the custom-built two-person railbikes are a total thrill and beautifully freeing.
For a family-friendly vineyard visit, head to Pennyroyal Farm. There, tour the creamery and vineyard (kids will love meeting the goats and learning about the cheese-making process). The tour concludes with a cheese and wine tasting (topped with grape juice for children).
Renowned for amazing wines, legendary vineyards, and a gorgeous backdrop is Sonoma, the crown jewel of California’s wine country. Secure a sweet suite at the iconic Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa. The stunning property sits atop an ancient thermal mineral spring making it a unique wellness facility with healing thermal mineral pools and Roman-style bathhouse. Dine at the resort’s esteemed eatery, Santé; order the banana bread bourbon and wagyu chateaubriand. Property grounds are dressed in ivy, flowers and packed with yard games, sitting space and live music.
The best way to learn about wine is by drinking it. Book a designated driver service from Simply Driven Napa & Sonoma, a simple and safe way to winery hop. Kick things off at Repris, one of the only Moon Mountain Valley wineries that offers an indoor cave tour and ATV ride around the vineyards. By appointment only, this exclusive, intimate, dreamy, and delectable experience introduces you to the winery’s rich history and its assortment of reds and whites.
Then, head to Viansa winery, a slice of Italy in the heart of Sonoma. The private tasting spots are picturesque, overlooking the vineyards and marsh. Sip on savory vino and snack on delicious charcuterie.
Half Moon Bay
Holding court on a bluff overlooking the ocean is The Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay, a retreat about 30 minutes from San Francisco. You’ll feel alone and un-rushed. Secluded and serene. The fog is majestic and embraced. And you won’t want to leave the Ritz’s oversized guest house cottages, sized for families with outdoor fire pits.
Do breakfast at the resort’s Conservatory restaurant offering sweeping views. The property also has an indoor pool, renowned golf course, and path to the beach.
Most notable, and most IG-worthy, is their staple nightly bagpiper. An hour before sundown, a bagpiper strolls the property and serenades guests for a proper sunset salute. The wailing sounds of the instrument are carried down the coast making you feel you’re on a Scottish bluff... and on the edge of the world.
Dubbed the “lost coast” sits Arcata, a laid-back bayside town in the heart of Humboldt County. Yes, it’s way up in Northern California, but the cute community will win your heart.
Stay at the Humboldt Bay Social Club in the neighboring area of Samoa. Secluded and peaceful, the mini houses are available for weeklong rentals nestled amidst towering eucalyptus. The property offers BBQ-yourself oysters making for a fab fireside dining experience.
Add attending a Humboldt Crabs game to your bucket list. The Crabs are the oldest baseball team on the west coast; they’re also the most successful team in the history of baseball (even among MLB teams). The summer collegiate games are incredibly homey and entertaining. There’s a live local band, playful hecklers, dollar hot dogs and beer gardens.
Head to Arcata’s Septentrio Winery, the town’s cutest kid-friendly hangout offering savory bubbly. About 45 minutes south of Arcata is the Avenue of the Giants, a scenic driving route through towering redwoods. And opt for sandy feet at Moonstone Beach, a picturesque spot in Trinidad.
Nestled along the San Francisco Bay is Tiburon, a cozy community with a serene sailing vibe located in Marin County. Channel your inner flower child at the “Hippie Swing,” one of Tiburon’s well-known secrets. The swing dangles from an enchanting eucalyptus, offering breathtaking panoramic views of the city and Golden Gate. After swinging free, head to Muir Woods, known for its towering old-growth redwood trees. Trails wind among the trees giving kids a playground of exploration.
Stay at the Lodge at Tiburon, an adorable property in the heart of town. Stroll the lovely bayside path where you’ll savor picturesque, pink-skied sunsets.