This fall, I’ll be packing up and leaving California to move to New York. I had a great few years here filled with many fun weekend trips. If you love nature, California really is all that it’s cracked up to be.
When I think back on some of the great places, I can remember several that not many people I know had visited. So, here’s my parting gift to all you California weekend explorers.
Paso Robles (Central Coast)
Beautiful, laid-back wine country. Much more down-to-earth and affordable than Napa. Often, you can even meet and chat with the winemakers themselves.
Paso Robles is starting to become well-known in the wine world for their high-quality reds (not many whites are made there) but the area hasn’t become saturated with tourists like Napa and Sonoma.
Make sure you check out one of my favorite restaurants: the taco stand outside La Reyna Mexican Market
Channel Islands (Near Santa Barbara)
“What are those islands off the coast?” - Melody while looking at a map of California
Turns out, they’re a National Park with an interesting history. Isolated from the mainland for thousands of years, the Channel Islands are often referred to as “Galapagos Islands of North America.” There are a couple of animals here that aren’t found anywhere else in the world such as the Island Fox. In case you weren’t aware, foxes are super cute.
Don’t miss the cave kayaking.
One of the best parts about visiting the Channel Islands is the ferry ride out and back. You’ll likely see Sea Lions and, if you get as lucky as we did, a Humpback Whale!
If you’re into roughing it a bit, opt to camp overnight instead of taking the afternoon ferry back. Though the island we visited (Santa Cruz Island) is supposedly the most touristy of the Channel Islands, few seem to camp and so we were left with our own, semi-private island.
Murphys and Sonora (near Yosemite)
Just a great area to escape and relax for a weekend. Great food, wine and some gold rush history including the historic route 49 and the world’s largest gold nugget. Also stop by Calaveras Big Trees State Park to, well, see some big trees.
Panther Beach (Near Santa Cruz)
About 10 miles north of Santa Cruz lies the stunning Panther Beach. Though not exactly “secret” most haven’t heard of it and knowledge of it is generally passed on by a friend who knows about it taking you there.
If you have the time, take the Highway 1 down from San Francisco or Half Moon Bay and stop at some of the farm stands/shops for some fresh food. Also, check and see if these folks are having a harvest party. Some dude selling dates at the Menlo Park Farmer’s Market told us about it and we went on a whim. Ended up being an awesome time.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are tons of cool places I never made it to and probably even more I didn’t know existed. If you’re lucky enough to live in California, make sure you spend some time exploring. You definitely won’t regret it.