Things to do north of SF?
May 15, 2015 12:52 AM   Subscribe

I'll be driving north of San Francisco up the coast. I'll stay in Mendocino and Crescent City, and will stay in Redding on the way down. What should I do? Whales would be cool. I love oysters and seafood. I plan on seeing the redwoods, but haven't decided where. I'll also check out Lassen. But beyond that, I'd love suggestions!
posted by persona au gratin to Travel & Transportation (27 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
China Camp, a Chinese fishing village (or what's left of it)
posted by kschang at 2:21 AM on May 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

Dunsmuir I really cool for its train museum, excellent Italian food and its Tesoro (sic?) gas station serves the best sandwiches in the state. Tell from John from Berkeley from England says hello, they might give you a discount.
posted by parmanparman at 2:51 AM on May 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

On the day you head north from Mendocino, stop and grab a snack at the Westport Community Store and enjoy it on a nearby beach. It's been 15 years since I was there, but the Google images of it still look just as I remember -- a small, quiet town on the ocean, friendly to tourists without being painfully touristy.
posted by jon1270 at 5:24 AM on May 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

If you plan on driving from Arcata across to Redding and Lassen, definitely stop at the Joss House Chinese temple in Weaverville and take the guided tour.
posted by drlith at 5:26 AM on May 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

Also, since you mentioned staying in Mendocino and Crescent city, I am wondering whether you'll be staying anywhere in-between on the way up. The coast highway is a twisty, convoluted road. Don't plan on putting miles behind you quickly unless you're willing to get away from the coast and take 101.
posted by jon1270 at 5:40 AM on May 15, 2015 [2 favorites]

Navarro Vineyards has nice grape juice.

Glass Beach in Fort Bragg
posted by Seboshin at 7:01 AM on May 15, 2015 [3 favorites]

Don't plan on putting miles behind you quickly unless you're willing to get away from the coast and take 101

I thought the 101 was the coast, no?
posted by Cosine at 7:34 AM on May 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

Not sure how far north of Crescent City you are going but Tony's Crab Shack in Bandon, Oregon is pretty wonderful (about 2 hours north).
posted by Cosine at 7:36 AM on May 15, 2015 [2 favorites]

I thought the 101 was the coast, no?

In places it is, but it runs inland for long stretches. In most places Route 1 is the road that rides right along the coast.
posted by jon1270 at 7:47 AM on May 15, 2015 [2 favorites]

I asked a similar question a few years ago and got some great answers. Here is the thread.

Northern California is a beautiful part of the world. Have fun!
posted by breakin' the law at 8:14 AM on May 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

If you're in Crescent City, make sure to go looking for some agates.
posted by mudpuppie at 8:55 AM on May 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

The Mendocino Botanical Gardens are gorgeous--you can walk all the way down to the cliffs overlooking the ocean. And Point Cabrillo has a lighthouse that's small but beautiful--it still has its huge glass lens, and it's operational.
posted by wintersweet at 9:35 AM on May 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

in Redding: go to Whiskeytown Lake if you can. its really beautiful and a very nice place for a swim on a hot day.
have dinner at the French Gulch Saloon, they have great burgers. on friday nights they have an open mic thing. its pretty much all bluegrass but its really fun.
posted by supermedusa at 9:43 AM on May 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

Point Arena Lighthouse!

Or Point Cabrillo Lighthouse, where there's a B&B in the old keeper's quarters.
posted by suelac at 10:12 AM on May 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

Take a few days and ride a bicycle along the coast.

I can point you to the resources you need if you decide to go for a scenic bike ride.
posted by aniola at 10:25 AM on May 15, 2015 [2 favorites]

I really like Hwy 128, which runs between 101 and 1. This may not be convenient if you want to see the coast between Marin and Mendocino, but 128 goes through some great tiny towns and excellent vineyards. Navarro, Boonville (has Anderson Valley Brewing Co, and Boonville has it's own historical local 'language'), Philo, etc. It's also kind of neat because the temperature changes by like 30 degrees as you travel along it.

Anyway, one option is to take 101 from the Bay Area north through Sonoma Valley, then take 128 across to 1 and continue up. You do miss Point Reyes Seashore if you do that, which is unfortunate, so you might want to check the weather. If it's foggy and shitty on the Coast (which is often is in summer), you might like to be inland for a bit before cutting out to the Coast.

In Little River, there's a fantastic newish restaurant Wild Fish. It's not cheap but the fish is really spectacular. Lunch might feel less hard on the wallet.
posted by vunder at 11:11 AM on May 15, 2015 [4 favorites]

john1270: Google Maps tells me it's 4 hours and 17 minutes up to Crescent City. Does that sound plausible?
posted by persona au gratin at 12:57 PM on May 15, 2015

If you take 101 on the way back down, stop in Orick and visit The Palms for lunch and pie. Or just pie. Or pie for lunch, with a slice of pie.
posted by kristi at 7:20 PM on May 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

john1270: Google Maps tells me it's 4 hours and 17 minutes up to Crescent City. Does that sound plausible?

When I was there I never made it to Crescent City, but it looks like that route will take you well away from the coast for maybe half of the trip. However that section of the coast looks to be particularly hard to get to, and staying right on it would more than double your travel time. The default Google Maps route probably makes more sense. You'll start out along the coast, dive inland through Humbolt (redwoods everywhere!) and then emerge back onto the coast at the end of the day.

You might regret not leaving more time to linger in the woods.
posted by jon1270 at 4:41 AM on May 16, 2015

First off, once you are in Humboldt county proper, going north on 101, start looking for signs that say Avenue of the Giants. The absolute best way to drive through the redwoods. There you will find all sorts of wonderful things, including small roadside attractions, out of the way parks, local flavor cafes, the skeletal remains of Hobbiton (the notorious Hobbit themed "amusement park" made out of paper machie and chicken wire), and oh so much more. Once you've seen more giant monster trees than you'd ever normally care for, hop back on 101 and get ready for the unique experience of Eureka! In Eureka! you'll find places to eat, things to drink, people to avoid, and the most expensive gas on the west coast (no lie). Just keep driving. Don't forget, just before getting to Cresent City, to check out the Giant Paul Bunyun over at the Trees of Mystery. You can't miss it, seriously. The attraction itself is kinda meh, but the museum/gift shop should really be experienced at least once. Try the fudge, it's pretty not bad!

Personally, on the way south, I have a suggestion that will both make your drive longer and more interesting. Head back down to Eureka! then swing a left at 299 towards Redding. It's a pretty straight shot through the mountains and gosh darn it, its a pretty breath taking drive. As a bonus you can stop at Willow Creek and go to the Bigfoot museum there or even get a Bigfoot burger at the Bigfoot cafe, or just eat at Subway because you've just given up on trying anything new.
posted by gideonswann at 5:34 PM on May 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

If you take vunder's excellent suggestion of Rt. 128 across, you can see old growth redwoods at Hendy Woods State Park.

I'm a little confused by your route -- 101 is the fastest way to Crescent City, but it's only on the coast for a very small portion of your route, and doesn't go through Mendocino at all. If you're thinking of driving up 1, that will take you a much longer time.
posted by gingerbeer at 5:26 PM on May 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Added confusion -- google maps tells me 6 hours from SF to Crescent City, in good traffic (and you will hit traffic around Santa Rosa/Petaluma.) What route are you using that it gives you a 4 hour drive time?
posted by gingerbeer at 5:33 PM on May 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

I see that you favorited my comment, so here's some more information.

These California Coast cycling maps are free. You don't really need them for the coast, just follow the coast, but if you're new to biking you might want a map anyway. Adventure Cycling charges for their maps, but they're pretty sweet maps and if you're into paying for maps, theirs are well worth it.

Here's a blog of a twelve-day ride via random internet search.

You can rent a bike in most major cities if you need to. The rental place I worked at in Portland rented bikes at $100-$150/week if I recollect correctly. They included basic tool kits, lights, and so forth if you asked. And they always included a lock and helmet. Bike bags costed extra. You'll probably want those. You can also make bike buckets for less than $10 and those work great and then you can keep them forever. It just depends on your budget. For all I know, you're bringing a bike and don't even need to rent one!

Stay at state park hike-and-bike sites. It's like $5 a night and in my experience there's always room. Try to be at your campsite before nightfall.

The nice thing about going for a bike ride along the coast is that the scenery is beautiful. And that's the whole point! So enjoy the ride and have a great time. Let me know if you have any specific questions.
posted by aniola at 9:14 PM on May 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Y'all are wonderful. Thanks! Route: Santa Cruz to Mendocino. Then Mendocino to Crescent City via 1 to 101.
posted by persona au gratin at 10:31 PM on May 17, 2015

And Santa Cruz to Mendocino along the coast once I'm north of SF.
posted by persona au gratin at 10:44 PM on May 17, 2015

So Ave. of the Giants has been great. Wild Fish was amazing. Jedidiah Smith SP is nearly empty and stunning. Tomorrow to Redding via Trees of Mystery gift shop.

When I was at Wild Fish I had a touch of food poisoning from eating a ton of oysters in Marin County. But it was still great.

Some of the suggestions I didn't have time to do due to long distance wrangling over car troubles.

Santa Cruz to Mendocno took a long time as the road is really windy along the coast. But it was so gorgeous.
posted by persona au gratin at 5:53 PM on May 21, 2015 [3 favorites]

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