Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Best Northern California Getaways // Part 1

There are so many great things about living in San Francisco- it truly is one of the best places on earth. However, at the end of the day- it's still a bustling city. That means street noise [car alarms], tons of other humans [really long brunch lines], and the occasional desire to get away. I had never really spent any time in the state of California before I moved- so over the past year, Tim and I have really enjoyed taking long weekends and seeing what this region has to offer. I wanted to share my favorites for my fellow Bay Area bloggers, but also for anyone who is looking to make a trip this way. Since I could write a REALLY long post for EACH place on the list, I tried to keep my thoughts super condensed. I'm also breaking the list into two separate posts so as not to bore everyone on the East Coast. Here goes:


I feel almost guilty sharing my number one choice here, since Sea Ranch feels like a very private escape for Tim and I. His family friend has a home there and generously lets us use it when we need to get away. Sea Ranch is located on the Sonoma Coast about 100 miles north of SF, and is a planned unincorporated community. It's famous for its unique and distinctive architecture. Known as the "Sea Ranch style," you'll see modern structures with wooden siding and huge windows. The homes blend seamlessly with nature, adding to the overall zen factor of the area. 

When we visit Sea Ranch, we treat it as a chance to completely disconnect from "real life." There isn't cell phone service which makes this super easy! Our favorite activities include hiking the area [either towards the coastline or up through the redwoods], laying out on the sun deck for some Vitamin D, and of course- late night movie marathons. 

For dining, we really like Upper Crust Pizza- located in Gualala a few miles north. We'll also stock up on groceries at the Surf Market- a cute grocery store full of healthy, whole foods and a killer wine selection. For rental information, I suggest this agency. True story- if I could go to Sea Ranch every single weekend, I would. 


We've only been to Carmel once for a quick getaway, but Tim went quite a bit when he was a boy. Located about 120 miles south of the city, it's a fun and luxurious destination. It is FULL of amazing food and tons of shopping. Carmel is ideal if you want to be out of the city and away from your regular routine, but don't want to fully unplug. We stayed at the Carmel Fireplace Inn, which has an ideal location but is also very cozy. I suggest strolling through downtown and checking out the art galleries, then grabbing a glass of wine and pizza at Little Napoli. End the evening with a walk to the beach. The surrounding lights on the water is nothing short of magical.


Saratoga is a MAJOR favorite of mine, and a lot of people don't know about it [yet]. It's basically next door to San Jose and is a total hidden gem. Saratoga is an ideal destination for a day-trip, but has some cute hotels if you want to stay a night or two [I recommend the Saratoga Oaks Lodge]. Saratoga houses a lot of top notch wineries- I love the history at Cooper Garrod, and the view at Mountain Winery is irreplaceable. [NOTE: They have a wonderful limo company that can drive you to the tastings.] For dining, I really love Casa de Cobre. The margaritas are amazing and I dream about the queso on a regular basis. Lastly, Preston Wynne is a really beautiful spa right in the heart of downtown. I haven't had any skin treatments, but their pedicures are heaven. Did I mention I love Saratoga??? 


Santa Cruz is another great spot for a day trip. It's about 72 miles south of SF and is famous for its beach boardwalk. It is SO MUCH FUN to walk along the beach, get snacks from the food vendors, and ride on the Giant Dipper. It's a historic roller coaster and I'm obsessed with it. When you're feeling on the brink of sensory overload, you can take a moment to relax on the famous Sky Glider. Also, the boardwalk has Dippin' Dots... which you can't find very many places anymore, am I right? We usually just get "fair food" like corn dogs or pretzels, but I've heard there are actually a lot of great dining spots if you want something more substantial. While many think of this as a quick Saturday excursion, I'm itching to spend a weekend at this hotel- which would fulfill my childhood dreams of a true California vacation.

Next week, I'll be sharing the rest of my Nor-Cal list + telling you where I'm off to next!! 


  1. This post will come in handy if we may ever plan a road trip through California! Thank you for sharing your favorite spots with us ^^ Now here's to hoping I can see them all for myself one day!

    1. I have been pleasantly surprised at all that California has to offer. A roadtrip is a must!!

  2. This is making me even more excited for my move!!! Thanks for sharing. :)

  3. Girl. You can't bore the East coast. You just make them jealous.

  4. This is a great list, I'd love to get to some of these places! My husband and spent a weekend in Carmel last summer and it was amazing--northern California is such a gorgeous part of the country! Also, if you have not been to Lake Tahoe yet, you NEED to make the trip ASAP! It's only about 3.5 hours from SF! xoxo

    1. Tahoe is one of my all time favs. Such a gem!!

  5. Have you ever tried the Friday/Saturday night pizza at Two Fish bakery in Sea Ranch? It's closer than Gualala and they have delicious homemade baked desserts (like everything there). That's my favorite indulgence there, and it's a break from more driving on that windy road!

    My family has always had homes up there and it's been a special retreat for me since I was very little. The one and only downside is that last twenty or thirty miles. I swear, I get carsick every time! But it's worth it. Such a nice place to get away from everything (and so close)!

    1. THANK YOU for this tip!! We'll definitely have to check it out during our next visit. Also, I SO feel ya on that last stretch of road. I always get carsick!!


Thank you for reading! xoKelli