California is an incredible state, with a vast number of popular destinations you could probably reel off in your sleep. Los Angeles, Hollywood and San Francisco are usually the first places that spring to mind.
However, there is a lot more to the Golden State than you might think. And if you really want to see the wonders of California in all their glory, you will need to dig a little deeper than the average tourist. Let’s take a look at the hidden secrets of California – read on to find out more.
The Arcata Redwoods
California may be famous for its beaches, but it has some impressive woodland and forest areas, too. Head to Humboldt County, and you will find Arcata, which is a former logging town and a place of genuine charm and breathtaking beauty. The big attraction of Arcata is that one side of the town faces the Pacific Ocean, while the other looks over to the Redwoods National Forest. Here, you will find fantastic redwood trees, with plenty of winding trails for hiking or biking. Check it out if you like your days out to include a healthy dose of nature.
Agua Hedionda Lagoon
As pointed out over at the Visit Carlsbad website, the Californian town is incredibly famous as it is close to so many fantastic activities. It’s also home to several lagoons, including the Agua Hedionda Lagoon. The Agua Hedionda is probably the most popular lagoon amongst the local population, which is a good sign. It’s a beautiful place with so much to do – you can head out on the water on a SUP, kayak, wakeboard or waterskis. Given the weather is pretty high at most times of the year, it’s an almost a guaranteed perfect day out.
Fort Bragg is located about three hours to the north of San Francisco. It’s worth the drive, too. Fort Bragg is a former army garrison dating back to the Civil War, and you can find it right on the incredible Mendocino Coast. It’s a great place for fans of culture and history, of course, but it’s also close to Glass Beach, which has to be seen be believed. The beach used to be a former glass dumping site, but over the years the sea water has worked its magic, and the beach sparkles under the sun.
On the subject of beaches, California has plenty of hugely popular options, which attract millions of tourists all year around. However, if you want to go somewhere a little off the beaten track, whether for privacy or to experience something new, Pismo Beach is the place to go. It’s surrounded by cliffs and is a place of stunning natural beauty. Look out to the ocean on a good day, and you might catch a glimpse of sea otters digging for clams.
El Dorado County
The California Gold Rush kicked off in 1848, and the site where it all started was El Dorado County – also known as the Gold Country of the Sierra Nevada. It’s still an incredibly intriguing place, and not just for the historical context, either – the county is littered with fantastic scenery, vast expanses of natural resources and exciting wildlife. It’s also the home of Lake Tahoe, which is a popular tourist destination, especially during the winter months. But there’s even more – the El Dorado National Forest is a perfect place for getting out your hiking boots. And you can also head to the Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park where you can try panning for gold yourself!
If you head to Marin County, there is a stunning cape located off the Pacific coat called Point Reyes. It’s a long, winding stretch of coastline and beaches, and it’s a fantastic place for hiking, activities and relaxing. Sea kayaking is popular here, too, so head to Tomales Bay if you like that kind of thing. And make sure you bring our binoculars – the views from the Point Reyes Lighthouse are a birdwatcher’s paradise.
Mammoth Lake Hot Springs
Thousands of years ago, a volcano erupted in an area close to the town Benton that is now called Mammoth Lakes. If you have never been there before, it’s an incredible place. The volcano left an indelible mark on the land, and there are now nine different hot springs to take in, dive into, and enjoy to your heart’s content. Benton itself is something of a ghost town, which adds to the ethereal mystery and beauty of the place. It might be a little off-track for some, but there is so much natural beauty and so many opportunities to take it easy and relax, it’s highly recommended.
Bodie Ghost Town
While we’re on the subject of ghost towns, if they pique your interests then a visit to Bodie is an absolute must. You can find it located within the Bodie Hills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, now called the Bodie Historic District and National Landmark. It’s a gold rush town that was at its busiest in 1878, but by the 1940s was left pretty much deserted. Today, it serves as a Wild West ghost town, and you can walk through it – including the bank, jail and saloons – to enjoy a small glimpse into what life was like back in the day. Everything is preserved as it was left, including storefronts, interiors and goods.
Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Preserve
Right in the middle of the Californian Coast is Piedras Blancas, which is a place any lover of sea mammals will enjoy. Almost 30 years ago, elephant seals started coming to the cove nearby, and have returned every year since – in increased numbers. The best times to go and see the elephant seals of Piedras Blancas is in late January, late April, or late October. It’s almost a given you will see them, as local wildlife experts believe up to 15,000 now come to the beach to rest and relax. It’s an impressive sight – don’t miss it.
*This is a collaborative post