Part four of our Seattle to San Diego journey follows California Highway 1 from the dramatic headlands of Mendocino to the renowned skyline of San Francisco. Along the way, you’ll discover a string of small, beautiful towns with superb restaurants, sophisticated bakeries, iconic inns, picturesque lighthouses, and one of the great national seashores.

By Tracey Minkin
Updated: May 23, 2017
Photo: David Fenton
Photo: David Fenton

See leg one, Seattle to Cannon Beach, here, and leg two, Cannon Beach to Gold Beach, Oregon, here. See leg three, Gold Beach, Oregon, to Mendocino, California, here.

Mile 35 | Point Arena: Small-Town Bliss

You may be shopping for real estate in this jewel of a town, especially after tucking in to pastries and coffee at Franny’s Cup & Saucer and doing dinner at Uneda Eat, a first-class restaurant with an utter lack of pretense. Seal the deal with an overnight at the Coast Guard House Historic Inn & Cottages.

Photo: Courtesy of Sea Ranch Lodge
Photo: Courtesy of Sea Ranch Lodge

Mile 58 | Sea Ranch Lodge: Iconic Stay

Part of the historic Sea Ranch development, the lodge is built with the rough-hewn planks of local redwood and cedar (weathered to a gorgeous gray), with interiors that are perfectly minimalist. Make time for late-afternoon strolling down the lodge’s trails out to a series of vertiginous headlands.

Photo: Angela de Cenzo/Food Styling: Amanda Anselmino
Photo: Angela de Cenzo/Food Styling: Amanda Anselmino

Mile 120 | Tomales Bay: Oysters & more

Tomales Bay has a real magic, and delicious oysters, to boot. Take a lazy lunch of fresh haul at Hog Island Oyster Co. in Marshall, have a farm-to-table revelation for dinner at Sir and Star at The Olema, and bed down in a waterfront cottage at Nick’s Cove.

Photo: SSiltane/Getty Images
Photo: SSiltane/Getty Images

Mile 140 | Point Reyes: Wild Beaches & Elk

Grab coffee in Point Reyes Station en route to the Point Reyes National Seashore, a beautiful and isolated stretch of untrammeled California coastline. Take an easy hike at Kehoe Beach; look for elk along the Tomales Point Trail through Tule Elk Reserve.

Photo: JTB Photo/Getty Images
Photo: JTB Photo/Getty Images

Mile 220 | San Francisco: Golden Gateway

Drop your bags in the colorful boutique rooms at The Marker hotel and launch out for a walk up and down those steep hills (or book a tour with Golden Gate Pedicab). Check out historic murals at Coit Tower and a tiki drink of choice at the Fairmont hotel’s delightfully kitschy Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar.


From Sea Ranch, head up winding roads through the coastal hills to Annapolis Winery, a sun-blessed and charmingly small family-owned winery. Taste and procure their small-batch Zinfandel, Cabernet, and rosé.


220 Miles driven

145 Steps to the top of Point Arena Lighthouse

3.5 million Bivalves harvested and sold by Hog Island

450 Elk living on Tomales Point

30 Minutes between tropical “thunderstorms” inside the Tonga Room

Photos: David Fenton; Courtesy of Sea Ranch Lodge; Angela de Cenzo/Food Styling by Amanda Anselmino; SSiltane/Getty Images; JTB Photos/Getty Images