Northern California Beaches Have Different Personalities

Northern California Coast

Northern California Beaches – Mendocino County, California

Northern California beaches are far from cookie-cutter versions of one another. You could never claim, “If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen ‘em all.” For one thing, coastal climates, geological features, and ecosystems change as you travel hundreds of miles north or south.

What can you expect from your California beaches vacation? We’ll start at the northernmost part of the state and work our way down.

 The Lost Coast

Overlooked by most tourists – probably because they’re so cool and wild — are the beaches of Mendocino and Humboldt counties north of San Francisco. In fact, this stretch of coastline is often referred to as the “Lost Coast” because it’s the most undeveloped portion of the California coast.

Here you’ll find rugged coastal bluffs, driftwood-strewn beaches, amazing old-growth redwoods, and abundant wildlife. Not the best place to work on your tan, perhaps, but perfect for camping, hiking, fishing, horseback riding, and exploring the tide pools. Add to that the charming seaside Victorian architecture found in towns like Eureka and Ferndale and a thriving arts and theater scene, and you’ll wonder why it took so long to find this place!

The Bay Area

Moving farther south, the beaches take on a different personality. In the San Francisco Bay Area, you’ll find pockets of soul-soothing wilderness

in Marin County and Point Reyes National Seashore – famous for its thunderous ocean breakers crashing against rocky headlands, expansive sandy beaches, and more than 1,000 species of plants and animals.

Half Moon Bay & Santa Cruz

The beaches undergo yet another transformation just south of the Bay Area, where the towns of Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz support a vibrant surfing community. Here you’ll find plenty of opportunities for whale- and Monarch butterfly-watching, as well as the best seaside amusement park in the world: the Santa Cruz Boardwalk.

Monterey & Carmel

Farther south, in the areas of Monterey and Carmel, the beaches offer some of the most spectacular scenery and swoon-inducing sunsets you’ll find anywhere. Art galleries, chichi boutiques, and a world-class aquarium are just icing on the cake!

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