Giant Redwood Trees All Along Northern California Coast to Napa
We left Yachats on the Oregon coast, aiming for our overnight stop on the northern California coast. Most queries about where to stop suggested that Eureka was the logical choice. It was the biggest town we hit on the coast, with options for shopping and dining. Since I knew we would be arriving late from the long drive down the coast, a Comfort Inn would be ok for this one quick stop. It was located on the far side of town, so was easy for a very early 7:30 departure to try to get to Napa early. That was the plan anyway!
The first planned detour was through the Avenue of the Giants to see yet more big redwood trees on the Northern California Coast to Napa. We rejected each opportunity to get back on Hwy 101 until the end, sure that around each bend we would see just a little bigger tree. Of course, after doing this long redwood detour (almost 90 minutes), we then drove through countless other redwood forests, although none with quite as big trees.
The Northern California Coast
Regaining Hwy 101 and making time once again, I made the mistake of letting David look at the map. He figured we were still early and wouldn’t it be nice to head over to Hwy 1 on the coast. Route 208 on the map looked quite short but we were sure with all the twisty turns that we traveled 3 to 4 times the “as the crow flies” distance. It was a wild roller coaster ride through forest and up and down mountains. The speed limit posted was 55 in most places, it was really “55 if you dare”. The switchbacks had slower speed postings but even those suggested speeds were too high. We figure we averaged 30 mph through this route. The same would prove true when we were on the coast and the roads were along the mountains. If you do the coast road or cross the mountains, plan for much more time!!
Emerging unscathed around Fort Bragg we travelled for a short while on the coast before it was time again to head inland for Napa. Hwy 128 seemed the logical route to get from the Northern California Coast to Napa, but the first part went through yet another redwood forest and mountains first. Our arms got a good workout. We only wished we had a small sports car to really enjoy the drive.
Heading Inland to Napa
When we got to the valley, it was clear that we had entered wine country. Terraced grape arbours lined the road and went up into the hills as far as you could see. When we stopped, we were hit by a wall of very hot air. What a difference being off the coast made! At Hwy 101, we joined Hwy 29 and drove through first the Sonoma valley and then into the Napa Valley, hitting first St Helena and then Napa. It was a great drive through the wine country we would have missed if we had taken a more direct route. Of course, it did mean that we did not hit the Napa Inn until dinner time again!
The suggestions we got from the host at the Napa Inn were good – both for dining options and her recommendation to use Platypus Tours for a smaller wine tour on our second day. With 4 wineries under our belt from the wine tour, we stopped in one final one (Artesia) on our way out of town. This one had been recommended by other Inn guests for the great views (since it was up on a hill, quite remote from town).
After our weekend in Napa, we set the GPS for San Francisco, corrected it to make sure we would cross the Golden Gate Bridge, and off we headed for our next stop. If I haven’t said it yet – get a good portable GPS (we use a Magellan one) to take with you when you travel. The one we bought has Canada and US maps but also major countries in Europe. Even if we are not driving, we use it to help us navigate when we are walking and don’t have cell service to use our phone map apps.
Hotels In Northern California
The Napa Inn host was great with good customer service skills and had some great suggestions for both places to eat and things to do. We had selected a bit larger room, so it had lots of space for us. The common area was also large and a good place to read or use iPads – especially if it was time for wine or cookies. The bed was very good but the pillows again were not – good thing we had brought out own pillows. Breakfast was good – with fruit to start before a hot entree. It was an easy walk into town and there were even places within stumbling distance after the wine tour.
Things To Do in Napa
Recommended by the Napa Inn, Platypus Tours was a great choice for a small group tour (12 people on our little bus). The hostess Greta was a great guide and took us to some of her favourite family owned wineries and even served lunch at one of the winery stops. The grape vines were all starting to bloom with little green grapes nestled under the leaves.
The first stop at Hopper Creek introduced us to Darren who provided us with a great wine tasting education and entertainment too. We all tried to apply his knowledge as we moved through the other wineries, but forgot too much as the wine flowed. Some pics did catch us trying out our new knowledge. The 4 wineries offered a wide variety of wine with generous pours and discounted tasting fees. We bought 4 bottles of wine – one very expensive one would travel with us to Las Vegas as a gift for my best friend.
The Artesia Winery winery was recommended to us by another guest at the Napa Inn for the views. Located outside of town, we followed the GPS to this not very well marked winery. We were surprised to see how many people had found it – but then there was a chocolate pairing that was to happen that morning. We didn’t try any wine (since we were driving) but we wandered around the site and took in the great views from all sides.
Places To Eat In Northern California
Norman Rose (Napa)We stumbled in after our wine tour, thinking we were both very hungry and needed to soak up the wine left in our system. We both ordered entrees but the burgers were so big we barely made it thru half before we slowed right down. Our thoughts of dessert disappeared.