A hour's drive from highway 4, across the Richmond Bridge and north on highway 1, lies a stretch of beach coveted by Californians and non-natives alike.
Leaving the cityscape in the rearview mirror, the road curves around rolling green hills before lifting its passengers for a glimpse of the ocean. Down below lies Stinson Beach, a sandy stretch of cozy coastline cradled by jutting rocks.
Here, surfers take to the waves while families picnic under umberellas. A few steps from the beach, a hamlet-sized town swells with visitors — some taking a break from the city to enjoy a seafood lunch at the Sand Dollar. Others buy trinkets at cubby-hole shops, discussing their admiration for California's scenery in languages such as German, Italian and French.
Northern California is teeming with places like Stinson; each one is unique and isolated in its own way, yet just a few miles down the road from San Francisco and the East Bay. It's one of the reasons the Bay Area is world renowned as a scenic, and ecclectic, destination. Highway 1 is famous for being one of the most beautiful roads in the United States, set alongside some of the most glorious beaches, while the mainland boasts stunning waterfront cities and is rippled with hidden retreats.
Where do you escape to in Northern California? Share your favorite weekend getaways and day trips in the comments below.