Relax, refresh, rejuvenate, restore! A week on the North Coast of California is one of the best places to do all of these. Enjoy magnificent scenery and great wines, stay in historic hotels, dine on internationally renowned cuisine and fit in a spa treatment or two as you travel up and down the coast. Lose yourself in the serene quiet redwoods of Redwood National Park and the Avenue of the Giants. Watch the mesmerizing waves on the Pacific Ocean at the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens and in the quaint village of Mendocino itself. As you meander through wine country on scenic drives, savor the time to get away as well as the wines and watch the countryside flow by.
All through the trip, we’ve slowed the pace, and tailored the activities to promote real relaxation and maximum enjoyment. Return home having been totally soothed by your North Coast experience. And of course, tell your friends about your wonderful time! They will want to visit too.
As you begin your trip, San Francisco opens her Golden Gates beckoning you to “lose your heart.” Prepare to experience a wealth of vibrant sights and sounds found nowhere else. The city’s reputation as a fun-loving rollicking place is well deserved, dating back to the Gold Rush era when jumping saloons were filled with prospectors with stories to tell. The city has held out a welcoming hand to all and today magically blends a myriad of cultures, ethnic groups, and lifestyles. Mountains and coastlines add a beautiful natural backdrop to this very colorful place. To enjoy the natural beauty, plan to get out to experience San Francisco during free time; walk on the beach and ride a cable car to the top of Nob Hill where incredible views await.
Familiarize yourself with San Francisco on the Barbary Coast Trail, a 3.8 mile route following bronze medallions set in the sidewalks that connect 20 of the city’s most important locations. Marvel at a collection of historic ships, the first Asian temple in America, the birthplace of the Gold Rush and more. Follow that with a visit to Fisherman’s Wharf, where you can have incredible views of San Francisco Bay, the Golden Gate Bridge and the cityscape along with your seafood. Nearby Ghirardelli Square transformed a 19th century chocolate factory into a fabulous marketplace of restaurants featuring new one-of-a-kind shops and culinary experts from around the world. The tour will also take you past San Francisco’s famous “Painted Ladies;” blocks and blocks of Victorian homes that survived the earthquake and fire of 1906.
And of course, no visit to San Francisco is complete without a stop in Chinatown. Enjoy authentic Chinese food and revel in the excitement of this energizing, vibrant part of the city.
Majestic redwoods await. The Avenue of the Giants, a world famous scenic drive, is a 31 mile portion of old Highway 101, which parallels the old 101 freeway through Northern California. Spread over more than 50,000 acres, this is by far the most outstanding display of redwoods in the entire 500 mile redwood belt. Avenue of the Giants is surrounded by Humboldt Redwoods State Park, which has the largest remaining stand of virgin redwoods in the world. As you drive up the Avenue, be sure to take time to savor the hush of the ancient redwood forest.
Eureka will serve as your gateway to Redwood National Park. Given the opportunity, you’ll quickly understand that Eureka literally grew out of the forests; the wood was used for hundreds of intricately detailed high Victorian houses standing proudly over Humboldt Bay. The city was completely focused on the Bay until an overland route was completed between Eureka and San Francisco in 1914. Eureka has been declared one of “The 100 Best Small Art Towns in America” and Eureka’s Old Town was pronounced as one of the nation’s best preserved original Victorian historic districts, where ornate Colonial Revival, Eastlake, Greek Revival, Italianate, Queen Anne and stick-style painted ladies can be seen in every direction. Treat yourselves to a walking tour.
A drive by Carson Mansion, the ultimate Victorian, is a must do. A truly exuberant example of what can be done with imagination, time, wood carvers and lots of redwood! To add to the opulence, Mr. Carson imported 97,000 feet of white mahogany from Central America and onyx from the Philippines. Stained glass and plasterwork round out the palette.
Today there will be time to explore as far up into Redwood National Park as you choose. The National Park Service describes the trees of Redwood National Park as “immense, ancient, stately, mysterious, powerful.” We know you’ll add your own words when you stand below one of these timeless giants. Why they grow so tall is a mystery. Meander the coast and take the time to be totally awed by these incredible trees.
The Redwoods are rich in Visitors Centers, exhibits and scenic drives. Redwood Highway 101 traverses the heart of Del Norte State Park. Howland Hill Road, nestled deep in the forest, puts you in the heart of Jedidiah Smith Redwoods State Park. Enderts Beach Road offers elk-viewing, whale watching and stunning coastal views. Further south, Requa Road features breathtaking views from the Klamath River Overlook, towering 650 feet about the sea. The Coastal Drive Loop delivers stunning views of crashing waves and rugged coastline. Five Visitor Centers feature different aspects of the story and a variety of ranger-led programs are available to learn more.
Leaving Eureka today, you’ll have the option to drive as little or as much of the Pacific Coast Highway as you choose. If you want to take the slow — but incredibly scenic road, Ferndale is the gateway to the Lost Coast Loop, a drive that takes you through the longest stretch of wilderness beaches in the continental United States. From Ferndale, you’ll be traveling a route called Wildcat Ridge. Prepare for impressive vistas, deserted beaches, tide pools, and ultimately Humboldt Redwoods State Park as you travel back to Highway 101.
Just south of Fort Bragg, stop to enjoy the visual delights of the Mendocino Botanical Gardens, 47 acres of natural beauty sitting right on the California coast. The magnificent site includes canyons, wetlands, coastal bluffs and a closed-cone pine forest. The Gardens’ main trails take you right to the water. Also spend some time exploring the Village of Mendocino, so quaint it has earned a spot on the National Register of Historic Places. A huge collection of Victorians has been lovingly restored into charming inns, restaurants, unique shops and galleries. Perched proudly on a small, hilly peninsula, the town’s striking “front yard” is the Mendocino Headlands State Park coastal bluffs. Locals will encourage you to explore the scenic trails with unobstructed views of the sparkling Pacific Ocean.
Fans of “Murder She Wrote” will recognize this seaside village as “Cabot Cove.” The long running television show, featuring a writer from Maine, was filmed in town over several years. Enjoy a sumptuous dinner at one of the historic accommodations in Mendocino.
This morning after savoring breakfast in Mendocino, a short, yet beautiful drive takes you to California’s Wine Country where you can experience the Osmosis Day Sanctuary Spa in their Cedar Enzyme Bath, the only one of its type in North America. The one and one half hour treatment includes tea in the Japanese Garden, the bath and a metamusic blanket wrap. Practiced by the Japanese for centuries, the bath boosts your metabolism and circulation, casts your skin in a radiant glow and is profoundly relaxing. Follow the bath with a “seasonably sensible” lunch in the garden. Now that you’re completely unwound, explore historic Sonoma, established in 1823. The plaza, still the largest in California is surrounded by San Francisco de Solano mission and other historic buildings, once headquarters of the “Bear Flag Republic” during which California became an independent nation.
If more exploring is in order, travel north to Santa Rosa. Begin your visit at Railroad Square, an old Spanish settlement dating from the 1830s. The historic heart of Old Town is still replete with beautiful historic stone buildings constructed by Italian immigrants who favored Sonoma County for its resemblance to the “old country.” The Peanuts statue commemorates celebrated cartoonist Charles Schulz, also honored with a museum.
Further north, Healdsburg’s delightful 19th century qualities are surrounded by three lush valleys. Exhibits in the Healdsburg Museum illustrate the town’s heritage. When you’re ready for dinner back in Sonoma, the choices range from 5 star restaurants to casual cafes, including Italian, French, Mexican, Thai and Napalese. Local artisan cheeses, organic produce, fresh bread and the fine wines of the Sonoma Valley are always right at hand.
Having had such a memorable trip, we of course, would not want the last day to be any different. To deliver the best possible experience in California Wine Country, take a Beau Tours limousine for a 6 hour Private Sonoma Valley Wine Tour. After being picked up at your hotel, you’ll have your own personal chauffeur/guide for the day who will begin the trip pampering you with complimentary champagne. You’ll be visiting four to five premium wineries and taste several different wines in Sonoma Valley’s friendliest tasting rooms. You can also take informative tours of the vineyards if you choose. And, no winery tour would be complete without a gourmet picnic lunch at a scenic winery overlooking the vineyards. You’ll be delivered back to your accommodations around 4PM. What a wonderful way to complete your trip!
As you depart San Francisco, we are confident you have had an astounding time on California’s North Coast. We wish you a safe and pleasant journey home.