Northern California is well known for locations such as San Francisco, Alcatraz, Yosemite and Lake Tahoe; but what would a local recommend to those looking for an insider tour of the area? I sought to find out.
1. Sardine Lake
Sardine Lake is a secluded slice of paradise in the Tahoe Forest. This unspoilt lake offers stunning views and beautiful walks in a largely uninhabited area – perfect for a peaceful escape. There is a campsite a few minutes walk away but there are no R.V. hookups (connection to water, sewage or electricity facilities) available.
2. Meeks Bay – Lake Tahoe
Lake Tahoe is a vast lake which offers a range of camp grounds and beaches for a spectrum of budgets. Without doubt Meeks Bay on the southwest side of the lake offers unbeatable value for money, with relatively inexpensive sites and a private sandy beach. You will need to book well in advance though as demand for this bay is high.
If you are after the true taste of America this idyllic seaside town is it. With a wooden clad high street front and water towers Mendocino is a must, especially if you can catch its 4th of July parade.
4. Sea Glass beach at Fort Bragg
This dramatic piece of coastline is strewn with beautiful sea glass in an array of colours. Not only are people drawn to this beach for the sea glass but the wildlife is spectacular with sea lions scattered across this rocky coastline.
5. Phil’s Fish Market and Eatery – Moss Landings
Hidden in an industrial dock area is Phil’s. Though from the building you wouldn’t be blamed for questioning the dining experience that awaits you, the packed car park outside is a tell tale for what waits within. Fresh fish caught in the bay is served simply; but is delicious. The place is packed full of locals at lunch and you can be hard pressed to find a table, but once you’ve tasted the food you will understand why.
6. Monterey Aquarium
Situated on the Bay, wildlife can be spotted both inside the Aquarium and outside from the viewing deck looking across the bay. With a large range of exhibits from great white sharks to jelly fish – Monterey Aquarium offers an alternative day out.
7. Berkeley Buffalo Exchange
Berkeley is infamous for its laid back hippie vibes and the Buffalo Exchange is no different. Whether you bring clothes to trade in for cash or scour its packed rails for vintage and second hand clothes, the Buffalo Exchange is one of the largest vintage outlets in Berkeley. Also, it’s a cavern full of bargains!
8. Bosco’s Bones & Brew Restaurant Saloon
If you are looking for an alternative from the classic American bar, this is certainly ‘alternative’! Bosco the dog and ex-mayor of Sunol (yes, Mayor), stand stuffed behind the bar. If that wasn’t enough, Bosco also serves as a beer tap…
To me this encompasses the true American experience and certainly makes for a memorable night out.
9. Basically Free Bikes: San Francisco to Sausalito
The ride across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco to Sausalito is a must, giving great views of the Bay area. Free Bikes give you this opportunity for ‘basically free’. After picking up the bike you are reimbursed your bike rental in vouchers for a nearby sports shop. Take up this offer! You can buy anything from GoPro accessories to Baseball sets to play on the beach with.
10. Viewing point at Marin Headlands
Finally, if you are lucky enough to have a clear day in San Francisco the viewing point at Marin Headlands offers a great view across the Golden Gate Bridge towards the city. Parking is heavily restricted in the area but it’s worth the wait.