Seattle to San Diego Road Trip: California (part 3/4)

Redwoods coast better

(photo courtesy of Redwood National Park)

The sun came out the second we drove across the boarder from Oregon into California. No wonder they call it “sunny California!” Washington and Oregon are gloriously green because it rains a lot but, I have to admit, California’s sunshine was a relief.

Gold Beach, OR to Eureka, CA (136 miles)

Redwood National Park starts at the Oregon/California boarder and is 50 miles long. RNP looks exactly like the travel photos you have seen in magazines: picture perfect, awe-inspiring and peaceful.

Redwoods lake

RNP has it all: beach, mountains, woods & lakes. (photo courtesy of Redwoods National Park)

Drive the Avenue of the Giants in Humbolt Redwoods State Park, a 31-mile country road that parallels and intersects Highway 101 with 51,222 acres of mighty redwood groves!

Redwoods in fog and sun

Be sure to chat with your hiking partner as you walk these trails because bears like them, too, and they don’t like to be surprised! Needless to say, I chatted up a storm. (photo courtesy of Redwoods National Park)

Our first overnight stop in CA was in Eureka at the Carter House Inns. Eureka is a Greek word and a mining term meaning, “I found it!” (you needed to know that). The town is unattractive except for a few short blocks, where the Carter House Inns are located.

Eureka to Healdsburg (202 miles)

Departing Eureka, we continued our drive down the stunning California coast through Mendocino (Did you know that “Murder, She Wrote” was filmed here?). Mendocino is a beautiful, small (pop. 900) town, perched on a rocky cliff. Visit the Mendocino Headlands State Park and the lovely Point Cabrillo Light, built in 1909.

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(photo by Alison de Grassi, courtesy of Mendocino County Tourism Commission)

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(photo by Alison de Grassi, courtesy of Mendocino County Tourism Commission)

We tore ourselves away from beauty queen Mendocino to drive inland two hours to Healdsburg in Sonoma County. As we drove, the scenery changed rapidly from craggy beaches to rolling hill-after-hill of vineyards, similar to Burgundy, France.

Cast

near Healdsburg (photo courtesy of the Wine Road)

Three million TONS of wine grapes are grown in CA each year! Sonoma County is all vineyards and conveniently located just one hour north of San Francisco.

Stayed at the Hotel Healdsburg. It’s fun, nice and well-located.

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Hotel Healdsburg’s pool with main building in the background. Beam me up!

Ride bikes along the pretty, rolling hills of Dry Creek Valley near the hotel. Then, spend the day wandering around Healdsburg, tasting wines (including sparkling 🙂 and exploring the little boutiques. Healdsburg is the only town I have ever been to that has multiple blocks of small tasting room/stores, each representing a different vineyard.

Sunset Wine Road

near Healdsburg (photo courtesy of the Wine Road)

Drive the Wine Road, which includes six of Sonoma County’s 14 wine growing regions: Alexander Valley, Dry Creek Valley, Russian River Valley (very attractive, well-tended vineyards and wineries, with fancy signs and gardens at their entrances), Green Valley, Chalk Hill and Rockpile. Taste the wines, eat oysters and loose yourself in the views of the vineyard-covered countryside.

Healdsburg to Pt. Reyes (67 miles)

Next stop south along Highway 101 to Highway 1: Point Reyes National Seashore, 71,000 acres of nature reserve on a peninsula sticking out into the Pacific Ocean.

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Chimney Rock Trail at Pt. Reyes National Seashore Park (photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

Point Reyes is made up of low, sand-colored mountains surrounded by water. Soft, pretty light at dusk. Very undeveloped with enough small towns to give it interest. PR is only an hour by car from San Francisco. We spent a day driving around the peninsula, with big views of scrub-covered low mountains dotted with cows and occasional ranches. Had a fun lunch on Tomales Bay, sitting outside by the water while imbibing just-plucked-from-the-water oysters at Marshall Store Oyster Bar & Smokehouse.  Delish clam chowder and simple, wonderful ambience!

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Pt. Reyes (NPS photo/Dan Wells)

Tiny Pt. Reyes Station is a boho town near the park and a bit of a foodie destination. We had a sophisticated and mmm, mmm, good dinner at The Olema’s ground floor restaurant called Sir and Star. Located in tiny Olema, two miles from Pt. Reyes Station, The Olema is also an inn and has been so since 1876. Read this NYT article for more. We stayed at Manka’s Inverness Lodge whose rooms were each in converted campers. Stylish idea, charming furnishings but our camper/room was stub-your-toe crowded. Would not recommend it because of management’s “we can do no wrong” attitude. If I went back to Pt. Reyes Peninsula again, I would stay in Nick’s Cove and Cottages, whose rooms are converted fishermen’s shacks on the water. Kitsch appeal!

Next stop: Santa Cruz, three hours south down Highway 1.

Pt. Reyes to Santa Cruz (140 miles)

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(photo courtesy of the Dream Inn)

What a glorious drive! On our left, we passed siren-scented Eucalyptus trees, pumpkin patches and lush fields of crops; and on our right, the mighty Pacific Ocean. The farther south we drove, the higher the hills climbed. We drove through few towns and then, suddenly, Santa Cruz (pop. 65,000). Where’s Gidget, I wondered, because SC is a well-polished throw back to the 1960’s.

By now, you may be tired of nature shots so here’s a photo tour of the cheery, ’60’s-chic interiors of our hotel, the Dream Inn

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(photo courtesy of the Dream Inn)

From your balcony, you will see the long 1904-built pier to your left and Cliff Walk to your right. Have a cocktail or two at the old-timey bar on the municipal pier looking onto Monterey Bay, watching the surfers catch waves.

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Does this not take you back to 1962?! Get a room overlooking the pool on the top floor. Saunter along Cliff Walk (in the background of this photo) to see its pretty houses. (photo courtesy of Dream Inn)

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(photo courtesy of Dream Inn)

Surfing was introduced to the US in 1885 at Santa Cruz when three Hawaiian princes who were attending military school nearby commissioned a woodworker to make three planks (surfboards) out of local Redwood. They spent their school vacation in Santa Cruz surfing. And that was how the craze began!

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Hallway at the Dream Inn—love it!!! (photo courtesy of the Dream Inn)

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The Dream Inn’s hotel lobby: They are really working the surfing theme. Love it!

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Dream Inn’s fire pit overlooking the pier (left), beach, and cliff walk (right): Nightcap, anyone???

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Even the Dream Inn’s coffee shop is cute! It’s name is Verve, as in the record label

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Santa Cruz’s amusement park was built in the early 1900’s & is in mint condition. Really fun to explore! (photo courtesy of the Dream Inn)

Whew! California is a big state. We are going to have to finish up our CA coastal drive in the next post. Stay tuned!

2 thoughts on “Seattle to San Diego Road Trip: California (part 3/4)

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