The third-largest state in the Union, California reaches 770 miles from the Mojave Desert in the south to the grand redwoods on the northern Pacific coast. We all know why you should visit Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego, but why should you pay attention to California’s North Coast? Here are three majorly good reasons the North Coast should be your new favorite destination.
Redwood National Park
Established in 1968, the Redwood National Park was dedicated in an effort to save the fabulously gargantuan trees that were badly threatened by loggers at the turn of the 20th century. The forests once covered nearly two million acres and now has been reduced to 131,983 acres saved within this gorgeously preserved national park and a handful of private forests. Efforts are constantly being enforced to erase signs of human tampering within the forest including removing hundreds of miles of roadways and planting seeds to replenish the decimated redwood population.
As it stands, Redwood National Park is as close you can get to traveling back in time to the era of the dinosaurs. The trees evoke a sense of primitive wonder, soaring as high as 379 feet, having survived hundreds of years of intrusive human civilizations. The redwoods of northern California remind us of how short our lives are in comparison, how magnificent the connection between living things, including trees, truly is, and how close we can be to greatness.
The best time to visit the national park is in the spring and fall when bird migrations fill out the empty spaces in the treetops with their colorful songs. In the fall, the deciduous trees change color and their burnt umber, sienna, and yellow leaves drift like snowflakes on the air, decorating the scene like a red carpet to the stars.
For your visit, Lady Bird Johnson Grove is an excellent start especially for those desiring an easy hike as the trail is short and level. The high altitude of the uplands attracts a blanket of fog that creates a mystical scene worthy of these prehistoric giants. Big Tree, a massive redwood with a circumference spanning 68 feet, is a must-see for groups that can only spend a single day in the park. If you can, spend some time on Enderts Beach where you can find easy hikes, wildflower-covered hillsides, and craggy cliffs descending to the pure surf under the Californian sun’s golden glory.
Once known as the capital of the Redwood Empire, Eureka is a quaint coastal town set firmly in the Victorian era. 19th-century mansions with gabled roofs, colorful facades, and elegant finishings set this small city apart. Located on Humboldt Bay, only five hours north of San Francisco, Eureka may be a small town but it is mighty.
Besides its fascinating historic district where you can find Victorian house museums and B&Bs within historic mansions, Eureka’s tourist destinations cover territory from natural wonders, wildlife preserves, modern art galleries, and history museums. Sequoia Park Zoo, one of the smallest accredited zoos in the nation, is home to a spry family of red pandas that live beneath the redwoods that surround the park. Other exhibits feature barnyard animals, flamingos, Chacoan peccaries, Patagonian cavies, and exotic birds in a free-flight aviary.
The Sequoia Park Garden is another top destination for visitors in Eureka. Equally small, the Sequoia Park Garden covers 67 acres directly next door to the zoo with everything you’d expect from a public garden including picnic benches, duck ponds, playgrounds, and of course a gorgeous collection of redwood trees surrounded by landscaped gardens. The area is supremely beautiful and a wonderful place to rest for lunch or pose for pictures.
The final destination along California’s North Coast must be the major tourist attraction of Mendocino. This is the closest you can get to New England in California. The area looks so like the northeast that films and television shows set in Maine have been filmed in Mendocino including Angela Lansbury’s Murder She Wrote, James Dean’s East of Eden, and Stephen King’s classic thriller Cujo.
Travel along the rocky cliffs and seaside villages to see redwoods by the sea and quaint cottages wrapped in ivy and climbing roses. Charter a boat to whale watch in Noyo Harbor or traipse on down to MacKerricher State Park where seals populate the beaches or peruse the unusual sands of Glass Beach. The Drive-Thru Tree is a highly visited attraction where you can take a picture of your car literally driving through a tunnel cut into a massive redwood. The Lost Coast, one of the best hiking areas in the nation, is located along the Mendocino coast and is home to some of the purest coastal country in the world.
For groups that enjoy learning new things and experiencing a medley of cultures, you may be pleased to learn that Mendocino is home to one of the first Chinese Zen Buddhist temples, the City of 10,000 Buddhas, and has one of the largest Buddhist communities in the Western hemisphere. The Kwan Tai Temple is a beautiful attraction and spiritual site dedicated to the Chinese god of war, preserving the history of the Chinese population of California that dates back to the 19th century.
With award-winning restaurants like The Ravens Restaurant and 955 Ukiah, relaxing spas, and some of the most beautiful wine country north of Naples, Mendocino is a veritable haven. This paradise is a home away from home with an added luxury of being pampered, surrounded by the refreshing fragrance of wildflowers and salty sea spray.
The diversity of northern California extends farther than the ecosystem into the unique bedrock of culture and history, mixing Victorian architecture and Buddhist spiritualism with the quintessential health-conscious Californian lifestyle. Explore the North Coast and question why you haven’t already moved to California.