California North Coast Road Trip

For the second half of the trip (2 days/2 nights), we headed out to the North Coast via the Russian River Valley. We wanted a little nature to go with our wine, so I planned the trip as a split between Sonoma County and the North Coast, centered on Point Arena.

I hope you make it out!

But first we drink! We started the day at one last winery. We went to Williams Selym, one of the OG Pinot Noir makes in Sonoma. At least this is what two of my friends say and I am too lazy to fact check this. We had a really nice tasting, but it felt a little Ex Machina with Alicia Vanderker. As in, there was a distinct possibility there were malevolent robots who were waiting to do us harm behind the sleek gleaming interior decor.

Getaway cars at Williams Selym

Fortunately, we made it out and even left with wine, which should increase our quality of life. Phew. We drove along the 101 to the 128, stopping for lunch at Disco Ranch in Boonville. It was a super cool wine and snack-y/tapas cafe. Between the food we bought off-the-shelves and a few tapas made in-house, we had an awesome picnic. We ate on their little patio. It was really a neat place and if you wanted to have the perfect Spanish or Italian snacks to go along with your wine, this is the place to shop!

We went for a short-ish hike through the redwoods at Hendy Woods State Park, where we were able to charge our car for a little bit. Then we headed to the coast. Our hotel was in Point Arena. The Wildflower Boutique hotel is a renovated inn that is absolutely delightful. I highly recommend it. The rooms were stylish, affordable, and clean. Each morning, there was a delivered breakfast from four options that we would choose from the night before. The people who worked there were really nice. Overall, it was a really positive experience.

That evening, we went to The Bird Cafe. It is a cash-only restaurant that at the time, was only open Friday-Saturday. Now, it’s closed while they think about future projects but I highly recommend checking it out on a visit. The food was delicious. The walls are covered in bird art (swoon) by Nicole Ponsler. They serve Pelican Bread, which is made locally by a baker who is very into the process (grinds his own grains). The wines were from Penny Royal Farms Winery. Apparently, it’s hard to get suppliers to deliver out to Point Arena so they’re pretty happy to have their arrangement with a winery they think is delicious. We ended up eating pretty much everything on the menu- to be fair, there’s two choices for apps, entrees, and desserts. I really liked it and would love to go back some day!

The next day, it was up to coast to Mendocino and Ft. Bragg. First, we went to the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens. It was beautiful! There were gorgeous well-maintained gardens along the entrance lawn/meadow that transitioned to longer trails along the bluffs. I loved it! The dahlias were particularly gorgeous at the time we went.

For lunch, we went to the Lost Coast Brewing Company, which had good food and beer. Then we were off on the Skunk Train for a ride through the redwoods. It is an old logging railroad that is now perfect for tourists who want to see redwoods without hiking! After the train ride, we headed back to Pt Arena. We had dinner reservations for about halfway down the ride, but when we passed the restaurant it was still too early for dinner. Plus, we were all tired from the driving and thought it would be a lot less fun to drive on the foggy, winding roads through the dark. So, we bought picnic provisions from the little store in Pt Arena and at at the large table in the lobby of the hotel. It worked out perfectly.

But yes, one thought for a North Coast trip. The driving distance is a little deceptive relative to how long it will take due to the single lane, many curves, and slightly decreased visibility depending on the fog. While it’s nice to stay in a hotel for multiple nights to avoid packing/repacking, another option would be to drive up the coast and hotel hop more frequently in order to prevent backtracking along the driving routes. Anyway, things to consider in case anyone is reading this blog for travel tips!

Street band in Pt Reyes Station

The next day, we headed back to Menlo Park. Our first stop was an early lunch at Spud Point Crab Co in Bodega Bay. It had been recommended by Mom’s cousin and it was incredible! We ate clam chowder and crab sandwiches, which were epic. Although I had planned for a picnic in Pt Reyes Station, we had spoiled our appetites but we still went for a walk around town.

We drove to Menlo Park and had dinner at The Little Store in Atherton. SMS and I had an awesome lunch there a few weeks prior and we had high hopes for dinner. But it was kind of a bizarre experience. The owner was pretty weird with strange suggestions and strong wine upsell attempts. Fortunately, we all thought it was kind of funny rather than too off-putting, but I’m not as eager to go back as I once was. The food was still excellent and if I’m in the area and have a craving for French Onion Soup, that’s where I’m going!

Mom, Dad, and I left from SFO the next day. We grabbed breakfast in the Centurian Lounge (yay!) before heading off to our respective destinations. It was an awesome trip! Next up, trip recap with SMS’ parents!

Mini Road Trip: Bodega Bay, Stinson Beach and Mt. Tam

Breakfast in bed!

On the third day of our mini-NorCal road trip, SMS and I awoke a little on the early side and packed up.  Our delicious Boon breakfast came at 8:30.  We had biscuits with honey butter, yogurt with berries and granola and French press coffee.  It was really nice and we got to have breakfast in bed!

The three main towns on the Bohemian Highway

We took off down the 116 and then made a left onto the Bohemian Highway.  It’s about 10 miles long and goes through three main towns: Monte Rio, Occidental and Freestone.  The road mostly cuts through the forest but by Freestone, there is lovely rolling hills and pasture land.  Occidental seemed like a nice place to stay and I’d love to stop in Freestone to go to the bakery and creamery in the future but since it was early and New Year’s Eve, everything was closed.

Bodega Bay on the left and Jenner by the Sea on the right
We made our way to Bodega Bay and walked on the beach for a little while.  The surf was pretty intense and there were a lot of surfers out there.  Salmon Creek meets the Pacific at that area and I wanted to see the entrance of the Russian River to the Pacific so we drove up to Jenner by the Sea.  The view was beautiful and I read that depending on the tides and time of year, the meeting of the two can be very impressive.  While it was very pretty, there was no great clash between the bodies of water and the river gently dwindled in size and entered into a little cove.  We saw two seals swimming in there.  The spot is probably great for whale watching so maybe later in the Spring, we’ll check it out again.
Old friends and new!

We drove through Petaluma and stopped at Lagunitas brewery for lunch.  It was awesome!  Super laid-back vibe and lots of heat lamps and sun.  We sat outside and shared nachos and cream of mushroom soup.  Not a soup I’d normally order but I was told it was delicious and that was a fact!  We had a sampler there and I really wanted some more of the sour wheat with mango and passionfruit (citrus-y without sweetness like a Sour Patch kid), but they didn’t put any of the limited releases in growlers so I will just have the little sampler memory!  At Lagunitas, we also saw the saddest looking dog we’ve ever seen under the keyboard.  I wanted to adopt him, but I think he’s probably the brewery’s mascot.

Amazing View!

After lunch, we drove to the East Peak of Mt. Tam.  We drove to the end of the road and parked near the lookout tower.  The walk is very short to the top and the views are completely stunning.  The area is an incredible contrast of preserved park land and high-density development.  We took in the views for a while before heading down to Stinson beach for a longer hike.

Another view with SMS in the foreground; L: a relief map of the area, we were on the top-right peak

Golden hour hiking

The hike started through the forest and went up into the hills overlooking the town of Stinson Beach.  It was absolutely gorgeous and I really wanted to do a complete loop hike but unfortunately, we had started too late so we turned back.  I was disappointed but we had seen so many other awesome things that day, I had to get over my pout-fest/temper tantrum that I couldn’t control nature or the sun.  (“Sun!  Stop setting!”)

The sun set.

We drove home and I made a pretty good NYE’s dinner of rack of lamb and roasted cauliflower mash accompanied by champagne!  The lamb was cooked in two stages since after the first time period was up, it was still really rare.  It was still really tender and delicious though.  Then, we watched Ex Machina, which I had heard about in the pre-Oscar nomination buzz and it was pretty good.  Although our NYE wasn’t party-heavy, it was exactly what I wanted since we were able to explore so much of the region in the last few days and to me, that’s what this “year” (July 15- July 16) is about- taking advantage of this pretty cool opportunity to live in such a vibrant, cutting-edge area.