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Resting sea lion colonies are easy to spot at estuaries or on offshore rocks


 

Scenic Drives  · Pacific Coast Highway

Pacific Coast Highway - 101 - Bodega Bay - Jenner - Mendocino

Highway 1 is the Pacific Coast Highway, the curvy gateway to rocky shores, quiet fishing villages, redwood forests and scenery you’ll want to revisit on the way back. Our scenic drive on the Pacific Coast Highway maps the major sights along the way but the relaxed traveler will find many more. Although there are no cites – just villages and small towns – services are easy to find along this stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway.

Pacific Coast Highway Scenic Drives

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San Francisco Golden Gate National Recreation Area
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Hugging the edge of the coast, framed by the open sea, Highway 1 (Pacific Coast Highway) offers a unique touring experience for California visitors and residents alike. Any season will do but expect traffic on holiday weekends at the southern end near San Francisco.
 
Start at the turn-off from 101 to 1 in Marin County as you wind around Mt. Tamalpais, past redwoods (Muir Woods is a must stop for a close up encounter with these giants), and through the little communities along the way to Point Reyes National Seashore. This stretch of coastline is surrounded by old forests and pastureland with vast wetlands, tule elk herds and so many trails you will just have to choose. Or, drive to the lighthouse for the view and a chance to spot migrating whales. The charming little towns nearby have inns and guesthouses and diners for low-key relaxation.
 
Bodega Bay is a real fishing village made famous as the site for Hitchcock’s movie, The Birds. After some chowder continue up the coast to Jenner where sea lions litter the sandbars and nearby rocks. Fort Ross is the unlikely former-Russian outpost (hunting was the draw) with excellent tours and seasonal events. Don’t miss the little beaches along the way but you’ll probably not be tempted to swim (too cold).  
 
If it is May, follow the signs to the Rhododendron Reserve to see them in bloom. Otherwise, watch for the Sea Ranch area, a low profile community of homes (many for vacation rental) with trails along the bluffs that are available to all.
 
At Gualala, there are inns and restaurants and galleries – the most you’ll find along this stretch. Farther north, the lonely Pt. Arena lighthouse is worth a stop to take a picture.  
 
SIDETRIP: Picturesque Highway 128 joins the coast at Albion.  Explore it or use it as a quicker drive back to the Bay Area.  Boonville was once so isolated, residents developed their own dialect.  

Mendocino is a bit of New England with white picket fences and wooden water towers atop cottages. The town is perched high on a bluff with hypnotic views of crashing waves below – filled with bed and breakfast inns and resorts, shops and restaurants. The views are incredible and many a romance has bloomed here. Locals make artisan cheeses, breads, jams and the like, and now wineries are springing up offering visitors many temptations to consider.

Continue to Fort Bragg, the closest to a real city along the coast. If you wish to see more of the Pacific Coast, follow along on the scenic drive called "Redwood Highway" to explore California’s "Lost Coast."

   


 
Wernher Krutein/photovault.com
Point Reyes National Seashore has miles of remote beaches, wetlands, and forests amid working farms with open pastures to the sea

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