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  • Tuolumne
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  • Humboldt County
  • Humboldt County

Northern California

Head north rather than south from San Francisco and you'll find yourself in a different world. Whereas the So-Cal lifestyle is all about sun, sand and surfing, the Golden State's northern reaches are less about bikinis and more about lumberjack shirts. Here towering redwood trees shade the roads; majestic peaks loom large on the horizon; giant waterfalls plummet deafeningly into plunge pools; and the coast is a wild landscape of craggy cliffs, sink holes and flying spray.

There's plenty to marvel at on Northern California holidays, whether you're driving on spectacularly scenic roads, hiking through Yosemite National Park, or fishing at Lake Tahoe. It's all about the Great Outdoors up here, and if you're on a beach, you're more likely to be watching waves crash into sinkholes, spotting whales offshore, or poking around in tide pools than sun bathing - although you can always find some sand to stretch out on if that's what you want.

Highlights are the amazing National and State Parks, awesome redwood forests, beautiful lakes and volcanic peaks. Just south of ‘Frisco in San Mateo County, you can walk along woodland, alpine and dramatic coastal cliff trails. At the Humboldt Redwoods Park you can wander amongst gargantuan ancient trees. Volcanic Lassen Peak has steaming mud pots and sulphur vents. And everywhere is the most amazing marine, bird and animal life, including wandering elk.

There are towns to discover too, most of them on the small and intimate side. At Bodega Bay and Eureka you can watch the fishing fleet bringing in the catch; Ferndale has lovely preserved Victorian homes and store fronts; tiny Trinidad perches charmingly on a peninsula; and everyone seems to love arty Mendocino. On California north coast holidays you're well and truly spoilt for choice.

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Choose a Northern California destination to explore

Lake Tahoe

With mesmerising azure blue waters that mirror the surrounding mountains, Lake Tahoe is a must-see. Here, you can try fishing, kayaking, canoeing and hiking in the surrounding countryside, or simply relax on sandy beaches and paddle in the tranquil waters. Come winter, and resorts like the aptly named Heavenly and Kirkwood offer world-class skiing.

McArthur-Burney Falls

A visit to this crashing waterfall, which plunges 40 metres down a tree-shrouded rock face in a series of beautiful cascades, is a must on Shasta Cascade holidays. There's also hiking, fishing, boating and horseback riding in the surrounding State Park.

Tuolomne, Madera and Yosemite National Park

Discover the untamed beauty of inland Northern California with visits to Tuolomne and Madera Counties, both gateways to the spectacular Yosemite National Park, with its towering granite outcrops, hidden canyons, plunging waterfalls and giant sequoia trees.

Avenue of the Giants

The giants in this case are redwood trees and the avenue in question runs for 33 miles along the Eel River from Philipsville, through the 51,000-acre Humboldt Redwoods State Park. Many of the trees are over 100 metres tall making for a jaw-dropping drive. You can even drive right through a living Redwood at the Shrine Drive-Thru Tree at Myers Flat, around half-way along the Avenue.

The City by the Bay

Famous for its cultural diversity, eclectic architecture and liberal community, there’s good reason why San Francisco is one of the world’s most visited cities. Shop till you drop at Pier 39 and then watch the seals at Fisherman’s Wharf, visit a treasure trove of museums and galleries or take in the best views of the bay from the water with a Hornblower Dinner cruise. Nearby Oakland is also well worth a visit.

Fly drive holiday: Yosemite and the Mountains

San Francisco – Lake Tahoe – Yosemite/Mariposa County – Monterey – Santa Cruz

Our suggested fly drive itinerary is perfect for those who love the great outdoors and want to savour some truly remarkable scenery. Start your holiday in San Francisco and see the many sights it has to offer before heading on to Lake Tahoe where you can partake in a variety of watersports or adopt a more sedate approach and simply enjoy the stunning surroundings. Journey onwards to captivating Yosemite, home to a sublime collection of cascading waterfalls and striking mountain scenery. Your fly drive discovery culminates along California’s coast in the beachside towns of Monterey and Santa Cruz, the ideal place to relax and unwind before heading back home.
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Fly drive holiday: San Francisco and the North Coast

San Francisco - Eureka

Our suggested fly drive itinerary is perfect for those who want to go beyond the tourist trail and really explore the hidden gems and natural beauty of California. Start in the City by the Bay, a vibrant city which opens her Golden Gates and beckons you to ‘lose your heart’. Then it’s time to hit the open road and discover the rugged coastline, quaint seaside villages and imposing redwood trees that make up the North Coast. Sample culinary delights and home-grown wineries, explore the wilderness of the Redwood National Parks and be mesmerised by the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean. This is just a suggested itinerary to whet your appetite. You can tailor-make any aspect of your trip to make your dream holiday a reality.
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Fly drive holiday: Sacramento and the Gold Country

Napa Valley – Sacramento – Yosemite/Mariposa County – San Francisco

Our suggested fly drive itinerary showcases the culture and history of California, combined with the wine country and unforgettable sights of Yosemite. Begin your adventure in Napa Valley, home to a charming collection of quaint wine producing towns that makes California wine so popular. Next up is Sacramento where you simply must visit the famous Capitol Building then head onwards to the Yosemite region, offering outdoor enthusiast great hiking trails and mountain views. Finish off your holiday in San Francisco, offering the perfect opportunity to pick up mementos to remember your trip, and be sure to explore the iconic sights and attractions.
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Hornblower Cruises  
Hornblower is the largest and most established dining cruise and charter yacht company on the West Coast. Take a brunch or dinner cruise around San Francisco Bay and enjoy fabulous food, great onboard entertainment and non-stop views of the Bay. Prices from £45 pp.
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Pier 39 Attraction Pass
Buy a 7 day Pier 39 Attraction Pass and you’ll have unlimitied access to San Francisco highlights including the Aquarium of the Bay and Magowan’s Infinite Mirror Maze. You’ll also get a booklet offering over a hundred coupons, discounts and special offers to Pier 39’s shops, restaurants and attractions. Prices from £50 pp.
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You can add tickets for activities to your booking later.



Time Difference:
GMT- 8hours

Closest Airport:
San Francisco International Airport (approx. 11 hours)

Getting around:
Hire a car and explore the stunning scenery of Northern California, from the rugged Pacific Coast to the towering redwoods lining the Avenue of the Giants and the hot springs at Lassen Volcanic National Park. Car hire starts at £19 a day.

Insider Tip:
Northern California is famous for its abundance of boutique craft breweries. Try the Lost Coast Brewery at Eureka or take one of the daily tours at Lagunitas, where you get to try the beer before being shown around the brewery!

You’re going to need an ESTA:
For anyone travelling to the USA, the US authorities have imposed a requirement for passengers travelling under the Visa Waiver Programme (VWP), to register for Electronic Travel Authority. Just fill in the online application form which you can find at You will need to apply for entry via ESTA at least a minimum of 72 hours prior to travel.

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Many of the flights and flight-inclusive holidays on this website are financially protected by the ATOL scheme. But ATOL protection does not apply to all holiday and travel services listed on this website. Please ask us to confirm what protection may apply to your booking. If you do not receive an ATOL Certificate then the booking will not be ATOL protected. If you do receive an ATOL Certificate but all the parts of your trip are not listed on it, those parts will not be ATOL protected. Please see our booking conditions for information, or for more information about financial protection and the ATOL Certificate go to:

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