3 Day Northern California Coast Road Trip Itinerary

Advisor - Michelle Oliveira
Curated By

Michelle Oliveira

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  • California

  • Active Travel

  • Couples Travel

  • Road Trip Travel

  • Beach

  • Sightseeing

  • Outdoors

Aerial view of a beach.
Curator’s statement

Knowing I would only be living in San Francisco for a few years, I was determined to see as much of Northern Cali as I could. Any free time my husband and I had was spent exploring the coast, the wine region and everything in between that Cali has to offer — which is a lot!

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Where to stay

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Mendocino Grove

The coolest platform tents in a pristine woodland setting, minutes from Mendocino and the ocean.

Heritage House Resort & Spa

Experience a tranquil oasis of relaxation and rejuvenation at Heritage House Resort and Spa, where breathtaking coastal views, luxurious amenities and holistic wellness offerings create the perfect escape on the picturesque Northern California coast.

Harbor House Inn

Escape to the coastal retreat of Harbor House Inn, where seaside serenity, charming accommodations and warm hospitality come together to create a peaceful haven on the scenic shores of California.

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Advisor - Michelle Oliveira

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Day 1: Pass through the Chandelier Tree

Pathway between trees

If you are leaving from the bay area, I suggest driving to the furthest point and head back down the coast from there. We left San Francisco early to beat the traffic and drove the fasted route to Arcata via the 101 aka the redwood highway. You will drive through beautiful scenery and through quaint farming towns such as Hopland and Ukiah. The coastal drive is extremely long and windy so we reserved that for the way down. When you get to Legget make a pit stop to drive through the chandelier tree. The entry is $15 per car and they do allow dogs! From there hop on the avenue of the giants and enjoy being dwarfed by the incredible redwoods. If you have the time pull off on one of the trail heads and go for a walk. We got to Arcata in time for dinner and ate at Mazzottis, Italian, in the plaza. They had live music, great ambience and the food and drinks were delicious! Hotel options in this area are pretty limited so we stayed at a nearby Hampton Inn.

Day 2: Mendocino

White camp with maroon camping chairs.

We were eager to get out and explore so we started the day early. Took the dog for a walk in the plaza and grabbed a coffee at Cafe Mokka, the cutest little coffee shop inside of a traditional Finnish sauna cabin. If you have the time I would definitely recommend booking one of the saunas or tubs!

Cypress Grove cheese manufacturer is located in Arcata right outside the main plaza, while they don't do tours you can drive by the facility and check out some of the property. From there we drove down to the Arcata marsh and took a stroll along one of the trails then we hopped back in the car and headed to Eureka to check out the main street and the famous grand victorian Carson mansion then back in the car for a 2.5 hour drive to pacific star winery in Fort Bragg. The views here are incredible! We even saw some whales breaching while we were sipping our wine! The tasting room is located on a rocky cliff, so dogs are not allowed in the back half of the property for their own safety however it was a beautiful day and since we weren't staying long we were able to leave her in the car while we tasted and checked out the view.

Then we continued down to the Noyo headlands for another scenic view followed by a back to back lunch at princess seafood and noyo fish. For those with more time to spare I would check out the skunk train and rail bikes. They even have dog friendly options and a sunset train ride to their own bar in the middle of the redwoods! After lunch we headed to our hotel, Mendocino grove and settled in for the night. Mendocino grove is glamping at its finest. It has everything, woods, ocean views, proximity to town and super comfy beds! For the pet owners, they even have a dog wash station for those pups who like to get dirty.

Day 3: Wine region

Roederer Estate Sign board

Woke up to gloomy morning, but didn't let that stop us. We headed to Russian Gulch state park and took in the moody views. Walked the trail head to the sinking whole which was definitely not for the faint of heart. There are no guard rails and it snakes along the edge of the cliff. Dogs are allowed, but please keep your furry friends on a leash! Headed into town and had breakfast at Goodlife Cafe and bakery then wandered into all the adorable shops. Will be back just to have dinner at Cafe Beaujolais! Then it was back onto the highway 1 headed to Anderson Valley, the lesser known wine region of Cali. Having been to Napa and Sonoma many times this region did not disappoint! We hit up Husch, Roederer and Pennyroyal Farm — all dog friendly! From there we checked in and to the Madrones a beautiful mediterranean compound with a tasting room and dispensary onsite. It cant get more cali than that! Fun fact! Mendocino County's original industry was cannabis. We enjoyed the property and our last night before heading back into SF.

Advisor - Michelle Oliveira

Travel Advisor

Michelle Oliveira

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For more travel tips, check out Fora Advisor Grace Hilty’s guide, 3 Days in Big Sur, California.

This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to California.