The 10 Most Beautiful Cities And Towns In Northern California

Kevin Whipple / © Culture Trip
Kevin Whipple / © Culture Trip
From 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 is a picturesque waterfront town with some of the best views looking back into the city. After developing rapidly during the Second World War, Sausalito became an artistic, affluent area, as well as a popular tourist destination, characterized by beautiful homes nestled in the hills lining the bay.

Sausalito, California © f11photo / Shutterstock

Bodega Bay

Drive 70 miles north of San Francisco, weaving 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, bird watching, and gray-whale watching from Bodega Head. Visitors also love the beaches, where people surf, kayak, or simply take in the view.

Cable car in San Francisco, California, USA © Ekaterina Pokrovsky / Shutterstock


Situated in Mendocino County, Gualala is three 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.

Redwood Tree lined highway in Mendocino County © Joe Becerra/Shutterstock


Roughly 100 miles 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.

Bixby Bridge (Rocky Creek Bridge) and Pacific Coast Highway at Sunset © Nick Fox / Shutterstock

Tahoe City

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 (496-square-kilometer) lake, there’s no shortage of breathtaking views all year round from nearly any viewpoint.

Lake Tahoe Snowy Pier © matt_train / Shutterstock


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.

Vineyard in Calistoga California © Wollertz/Shutterstock

Half Moon Bay

A mere 25 miles 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 enjoy fresh fish and views by the water, and also frequently hike forested hills right nearby. One of the most beautiful vistas can be seen at the Ritz Carlton at Half Moon Bay.

Halfmoon Bay California © Lynn Y/Shutterstock

Santa Cruz

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.

Amusement park in Santa Cruz, California © Maxence.Vincent/Shutterstock


Pacifica, a six-mile 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 and restaurants.

Northern California cliffs near Daly City in Northern California © Steve Holderfield/Shutterstock

Fort Bragg

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. Situated right on the coast, the town is small, stretching for just over four miles 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 is cozied up right along the coastline.

Fort Bragg, California Pudding Creek flowing into the Pacific Ocean © Gloria Ann Roberson/Shutterstock