The Best Places to Stay Along the Northern California Coast
Those scenes from Big Little Lies are no joke—the rugged NorCal coast really is that beautiful. From the hippie town of Mendocino to the posh retreats of Big Sur, there’s no shortage of great places to stay. So the next time the urge for a road trip strikes, pack your weekend duffel and head to one of these seven coastal getaways. We promise they’re all well worth the windy drive.
THE INN AT NEWPORT RANCH, FORT BRAGG (3 HOURS, 40 MINUTES)
As soon as you walk through the door of this remote coastal lodge, your hosts will probably offer you a glass of wine. And once you’re settled in, there’s no reason to step foot off the 2,000-acre property the entire weekend. Hiking trails, a full-service spa, chef-made food, acommunal hot tub and fireplace reading nooks offer plenty of options for whiling away the afternoon. Do not miss the two-hour ATV tour of the property, which brings you from the cliff’s edge, deep into the redwood forest and high onto the ridge. Bring binoculars and you might even spot migrating whales.
31502 N. Highway 1, For Bragg; 707-962-4818 or theinnatnewportranch.com
TIMBER COVE, JENNER (2 HOURS, 15 MINUTES)
Inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright’s design style, this contemporary-chic lodge pays homage to the natural forms of its 1960s A-frame architecture. Play a game of pool or Ping-Pong in the outdoor Great Room and take advantage of two miles of hiking trails right on the property. Pro tip: The Sonoma Coast setting was a favorite of photographer Ansel Adams, so be sure to snap at least a few dramatic black-and-white shots while you’re there.
21780 Highway 1, Jenner; 707-847-3231 or timbercoveresort.com
STEEP RAVINE CABINS, MILL VALLEY (50 MINUTES)
You’ll have to rough it for the weekend—these rustic, unfurnished cabins with no electricity or running water date back to the 1940s—but trust us, the payoff is well worth it. You’ll have your own secluded retreat perched on a cliff above the Pacific, plus a wood-burning stove and outdoor barbecue. Pack your softest, fluffiest bedding (heck, even throw in an air mattress) to cozy up the stiff wooden sleeping platforms and bring some vintage lanterns for light and decor. Because these cabins are so insanely popular, you’ll have to make your reservation about six months out. But again, it’s worth it for the privacy and expansive ocean views.
801 Panoramic Hwy., Mill Valley; 415-388-2070 or hipcamp.com
THE RITZ-CARLTON, HALF MOON BAY (45 MINUTES)
This iconic property sits high above the water on its own private bluff with verdant green lawns (and two championship golf courses) as far as the eye can see. Take in the stunning views with a morning jog along the property’s winding oceanfront path, and curl up by an outdoor fire pit with a glass of wine at dusk. If a swank Ritz-Carlton stay isn’t in the cards, try the equally beautiful but more budget-friendly option nearby: eco-adventure resort Costanoa in Pescadero.
1 Miramontes Point Rd., Half Moon Bay; 650-712-7000 or ritzcarlton.com
DREAM INN, SANTA CRUZ (1 HOUR, 45 MINUTES)
This historic property inspired by surf legend Jack O’Neill—as in custom surfboards hanging in the lobby—has its own private beach. And while it’s only about a mile from the touristy Santa Cruz boardwalk, you’ll feel miles away from the crowds. Take a stroll along the bluff for an unforgettable sunset and then take a dip in the heated pool and hot tub. Request an oceanfront room with a balcony so you can crack the patio door and let the sound of ocean waves lull you to sleep at night.
175 W. Cliff Dr., Santa Cruz; 831-200-4466 or dreaminnsantacruz.com
MONTEREY TIDES HOTEL, MONTEREY (2 HOURS)
With Monterey Bay right in its backyard, this oceanfront hotel is the perfect jumping-off point for kayaking alongside playful seals, otters and sea lions. Expect golden sand beaches and sweeping bay views, plus beach bonfires with s’mores and a heated pool for warming up after a chilly day on the water.
2600 Sand Dunes Dr., Monterey; 831-394-3321 or jdvhotels.com
POST RANCH INN, BIG SUR (2 HOURS, 25 MINUTES)
A trip down the coast wouldn’t be complete without a stay in Big Sur. And while this winter’s weather has made the seaside town difficult to reach, Post Ranch Inn is open and offering a once-in-a-lifetime experience: Escape Through the Skies. From Monterey, you’ll take off on a 20-minute private helicopter ride to the secluded estate and have Big Sur practically to yourself for the weekend. If an airlift isn’t in your budget, try glamping at Treebones Resort instead—it’s open and accessible via Nacimiento-Fergusson Road. (The swanky cocoon-like Autonomous Tent gets our vote.) Ventana Inn is currently closed but accepting reservations for stays starting October 1.
47900 Highway 1, Big Sur; 831-667-2200 or postranchinn.com