Northern California’s Coast Is Having a Moment—And Here’s Why

While Southern California may be known as the Golden State’s it-girl, Northern California is recognized as its humble, understated counterpart—attracting those who crave a more down-to-earth aura. This subdued, laid-back attitude is especially evident in its coastal hamlets, where small-town charm meets jaw-dropping beauty. Read on for a curated guide to these seaside gems in NorCal, and their captivating boutique hotels, which offer a glimpse into what makes this region truly special.

Point Reyes

Point Reyes is an adorable small-town stop on your Northern California road trip along the PCH. Indulge in a cheese tasting at the praised local dairy ranch, Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company, then drive through the winding, cow-fringed hills to Heidrun Meadery for a mead tasting. (For those unfamiliar, mead is an alcoholic beverage made by fermenting honey and water—it’s delicious.) Located in the town’s main drag, stop by Station House for a refined dining experience in a modern setting, and browse Point Reyes Books for an engaging beach read.

Credit: Molly DeCoudreaux

Where to Stay: Olema House, a 24-room inn with rustic, coastal-inspired motifs and a welcoming, home-away-from-home vibe, is perched above Point Reyes’ rugged shoreline. While visiting, dine at Due West, a convivial modern kitchen serving fresh produce from Bolinas farms and Tomales Bay oysters.

Sea Ranch

Credit: Alice Gao

A raw and secluded 10-mile stretch on California’s Highway 1, Sea Ranch is the kind of place you dream of escaping to one day to reinvent yourself. Explore architectural marvels, such as the Sea Ranch Chapel, or take a refreshing walk through the cypress-tree-lined path at Stengel Beach. 

Where to Stay: Set on 53 acres of Sonoma County coastline, The Sea Ranch Lodge is a reimagined minimalist retreat offering 17 high-design chambers that embody barefoot luxury.

Big Sur

Big Sur is undoubtedly one of the most sought-after destinations within the Golden State. Some of California’s most iconic and photographed coastal landmarks include the stunning Hurricane Point View, the overlook of McWay Falls at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, and the frequently captured Bixby Bridge.

Where to Stay: Snug along a rigid slip of California cliff, Post Ranch Inn is a luxury nature-inspired stay featuring Frank Lloyd Wright-fashioned guest houses that merge the sea and redwood forest.

Tomales Bay

Credit: Frankie Frankeny

San Francisco residents often retreat to Tomales Bay, a slender but abundant inlet along the Pacific Coast, for serene weekend getaways. Take in the area’s renowned natural beauty at Tomales Bay State Park by hiking its picturesque trails, such as Abbotts Lagoon and Tomales Point. For excellent seafood, stop in Marshall to enjoy some of the world’s freshest bivalves at top eateries like Tony’s Seafood, The Marshall Store, and the renowned Hog Island Oyster Co.

Where to stay: The Lodge at Marconi is a stylish, nature-focused boutique hotel nestled within 62 acres of historic Tomales Bay parkland. Nick’s Cove offers charming, historic bay-facing cottages for a waterfront stay.


Situated on California’s Monterey Peninsula, Carmel-by-the-Sea embodies the picturesque scenery of the Big Little Lies TV saga—emphasizing the captivating nature scenes over the murder mystery aspect here. Turn towards its Ocean Avenue thoroughfare for trendy shops and cafés, like Girl Boy Girl and Rise + Roam Bakery, then stroll to its Cypress Grove Trail for sunset.

Where to Stay:  Le Petit Pali’s two locations on 8th Ave and Ocean Ave flaunt cottage-core interiors, true to the design-savvy aesthetic of its boutique brand Palisociety. 

Bodega Bay

Bodega Bay, a scenic fishing village jutting out on the Pacific Coast, is an idyllic destination for experiencing Northern California’s untamed nature. Start your mornings by hiking the Bodega Head Trail to the Bodega Head bluffs for breathtaking views. Then, grab a wood-fired, Neapolitan-style pizza from the local favorite, Huria’s, and enjoy it at a seaside picnic in Doran Regional Park—a recipe for a lovely day outdoors, if you ask us.

Where to Stay: The Lodge at Bodega Bay offers 83 stylish guestrooms as an elevated respite just a stone’s throw from serene beaches, towering redwoods, and the artisanal shops of Sonoma.

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