The 10 Most Beautiful Cities And Towns In Northern California

Kevin Whipple / © Culture Trip
Kevin Whipple / © Culture Trip
From the north of San Francisco down the coast of California, these 10 cities and towns in Northern California provide some of the most spectacular vistas over the ocean. Take a deep breath and enjoy.

Sausalito

Architectural Landmark
The San Francisco Bay and hill in Sausalito, California.
© Jon Bilous / Alamy Stock Photo
Sausalito is a picturesque waterfront town with some of the best views looking back into the city. After developing rapidly during World War II, Sausalito became an artistic, affluent area, as well as a popular tourist destination, characterized by beautiful homes nestled in the hills lining the bay. Why not fully embrace the ocean vibes of Sausalito by staying in this charming coastal cruiser? With four beds, a kitchen, a bathroom and an optional skipper, the San Francisco Bay is yours to explore. Camp up for the evening, anchored off-shore, or, for varying fees, head into the docks for easy access to the mainland.
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Gualala

Architectural Landmark

Situated in Mendocino County, Gualala lies 3 hours north of San Francisco. While many escape to this small town for the waterfront views and redwood trees, others opt to take in the impressive art and culture scene; Gualala Arts showcases local artists’ work and offers music, theater and photography classes for adults and children. Sunlight gets everywhere in this lovely six-bed oceanfront home. Whether it’s from the sunrooms, private balconies or a remarkable glass solarium fitted with an indoor hot tub, there are breathtaking views everywhere. There’s even a telescope in the house to get a closer look at the horizon – keep an eye out for whales and other wildlife over Bodega Bay.

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Bodega Bay

Natural Feature, Historical Landmark
California coast, Bodega Bay
© Andrew Zarivny / Alamy Stock Photo
Drive 70 miles (113 km) north of San Francisco through farmland, orchards and vineyards, and seek out Bodega Bay, a small town in Sonoma County with a perfect view of the Pacific Ocean. Bodega Bay is a popular area for hiking, birdwatching, and observing gray whales from Bodega Head. You will also love the beaches, where you can surf, kayak or simply take in the view. Large families or any group of up to nine should take note of this stunning open-plan seaside spa house. Its large windows bring in swathes of light and provide panoramic views of Bodega Bay, while the house is also kitted out with a hot tub, a spa and private beach access. For young children, there is also a folding mini crib, a high chair, a baby monitor and much more included with this impressive ocean getaway.
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Monterey

Natural Feature, Historical Landmark
Roughly 100 miles (161 km) south of San Francisco, Monterey is an easy getaway from the city, located right by the gorgeous Monterey Bay. Home to whales, seals and sea otters, the shore is lined with 36 breathtaking parks, perfect for hiking or a morning run along the ocean. Locals and visitors alike enjoy beaches along the coastline, with year-around moderate ocean temperatures and plenty of sunshine. You don’t need to venture too far inland in Monterey to hit the forest. If you’d prefer a slightly more private residence, then this huge nine-person house could be the one. With a large decking and lots of garden space, there’s plenty of ways to enjoy the peaceful surrounding woodland, while you’re still only 2 miles (3 km) from the beach.
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Tahoe City

Architectural Landmark
Unique boulders and colorful blue and turquoise water near Chimney Beach, Lake Tahoe, Carson City, Nevada
© focqus / Alamy Stock Photo

Tahoe is an outdoor-lover’s paradise all year round and one of the most beautiful areas in California. Situated right on the border of Nevada and California, Tahoe offers activities for just about anyone. Whether it is skiing in South Lake Tahoe during the winter, hiking Mount Tallac in the summer, or spending time on the sandy beaches around the 192-square-mile (496sqkm) lake, there’s no shortage of breathtaking views from nearly any viewpoint. Outdoorsy travelers will love this modern two-bed cabin. Its woodland location keeps it nice and private, while its proximity to the incredible Lake Tahoe means there are a tonne of hiking, cycling and fishing trails nearby.

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Calistoga

Architectural Landmark

Calistoga is less well known than the neighboring towns of Napa or Sonoma, but the drive north of San Francisco is well worth the trip. Calistoga has geothermal hot-spring pools, geysers, mud baths and picturesque vineyards with incredible wine. There are plenty of cute cottages and farmhouses around, but large groups have to seriously consider experiencing the Napa Valley in style by staying in this 14-person Calistoga mansion. Its outdoor swimming pool and hot tub, as well as a huge patio seating area, will make you feel like the kings of California.

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Santa Cruz

Natural Feature
View of the rides on the Santa Cruz Boardwalk and the beach from the Wharf, in Santa Cruz, California.
© Jon Bilous / Alamy Stock Photo

Home to the University of California Santa Cruz, this college town has just about everything: beautiful, busy beaches, a coastal redwood forest, trendy restaurants and a classic boardwalk with carnival games and rides. Natural Bridges State Beach is also not to be missed; it’s a marine-protected area conserving ocean wildlife and natural ecosystems. For a cool spot near downtown, this private room places you near all of Santa Cruz’s best bars, restaurants and theaters. Ideal for a traveling couple, the room is cozy and has access to a Jacuzzi, as well as a lovely outdoor terrace.

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Half Moon Bay

Natural Feature
A mere 25 miles (40km) south of San Francisco, Half Moon Bay makes for an excellent day trip down the coast of California. With beautiful Pillar Point Harbor right at the center of town, locals and visitors can enjoy fresh fish and views by the water and also hike forested hills right nearby. One of the most beautiful vistas can be seen at the Ritz Carlton at Half Moon Bay. This 1967 Airstream campervan has been cleverly homed in a fenced-off, beautifully designed private garden near the coast. While the two-bed interior is as stylish as any hotel, the peaceful outdoor space is this place’s real selling point. The fireplace, outdoor seating and fairy lights perfectly accompany the sound of waves crashing against the shore. True escapism.
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Fort Bragg

Architectural Landmark
Beautiful sea glass in a variety of colors with blue waves and sky in Fort Bragg, California
© Charles Wollertz / Alamy Stock Photo

This California Historical Landmark was founded before the Civil War as a military garrison. Today, it’s popular with tourists thanks to the breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean, rugged beaches, sand dunes and coves. The town is small, stretching for just over 4 miles (6km) along the coast, but well known for Glass Beach, appropriately named for its abundance of sea glass (natural frosted glass), and the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, which are cozied up right along the coastline.

Couples will struggle to find a more romantic spot in Fort Bragg than this room at the top of a four-story water tower with a rooftop viewing deck. When you’re not taking advantage of the Jacuzzi or the super comfy king size bed, enjoy 360-degree views of Fort Bragg from the tallest point in town.

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Pacifica

Architectural Landmark

Pacifica, a 6-mile (10km) stretch of a city, is located in San Mateo County, on the coast of California between San Francisco and Half Moon Bay. Highly regarded as a popular surfing destination, the city is made up of several small valleys and has the Pacific Ocean to the west. Most visitors and locals spend time at Rockaway Beach, known for its scenic overlook, shopping opportunities and restaurants. Enjoy total privacy and jaw-dropping views of the Pacific Ocean at this stylish six-person seaside home. The open-plan nature and glass walls of the house mean you can enjoy those views from pretty much anywhere inside, as well as from the big private decking.

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