Road Trip to the Redwood Coast with kids

The North Coast of California, often called the Redwood Coast is a coastal region north of (roughly) San Francisco Bay Area all the way to Oregon. On the Pacific coastline, it offers a series of small towns with breathtaking coastal views. If you go a little bit inland, you see a rugged, hilly terrains with rivers flowing towards the ocean, as well as redwood (Sequoia) forests. We took a short road trip there last weekend (26-27 Sep) and boy did it show how beautiful California was.

The trip was only for a 2-day weekend from the Bay Area, so this blog post isn’t exactly the ultimate road trip guide, but hopefully this can give you some interesting ideas if you’re planning a similar trip.

Day 1

We started off in the morning from Sunnyvale in South Bay, through the Golden Gate Bridge (SF is not that crowded in Saturday morning) and made our first stop in Bodega Bay.

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In retrospect probably this isn’t the brightest idea, since area around SF bay is known for being very foggy in the morning, and the beach was foggy indeed. But the kids have fun in the beach anyway and it’s also nice to take a break after ~2 hours driving at this point.

Next we drove up Highway 1, a scenic route closely hugging the shoreline. Here are some of the spectacular views I was talking about. The road is a bit winding, and there is a faster way to go north using 101, but the views here are worth it. You can enjoy it from the car, but there also a lot of spots to pull up, feel free to stop and enjoy the views. A lot of them have cliffs though, so be careful with the kids

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Two stops that we particularly liked (pictured above) were this spot in Jenner with a good vantage point to see the hills and the ocean and this spot in Gualala where you can see the Gualala River flows into the Pacific. We ate our bagged lunch in the second spot and it was terrific.

Our next stop was the pygmy forest in Van Damme State Park. A pygmy forest is a forest that due to geology and soil only contain small trees. The one here has a short boardwalk that gives you a self-guided tour which highlights, the various trees that exist here. Pretty interesting, but not super impressive. But as usual the kids have fun running around and planking in the boardwalk.

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Next we drove further north and hit Caspar Beach. It’s your typical small town Northern California beach, I guess. It’s not too crowded, we could lie down and play with sand and the wave, the kids could get wet and dirty, what’s not to like? 🙂

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We stayed here for a while, then checked into our hotel, got cleaned up and stuff and then went to the Glass Beach in Fort Bragg to see the sunset. It’s only about 5 minutes from the hotel and actually we kind of decided to go there at the last minute.

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It’s as impressive as sunset can be, so we’re really glad we come here. One problem though, the area has a lot of cliff, and our son is on the “I-like-running-everywhere-with-little-regard-for-safety” side, so it was quite an exercise trying to contain him.

Day 2

We came to the Glass Beach again the following morning – this time to see the piece of coast that give the beach its name. IMG_4597

This part of the beach is covered with semi-transparent stones. According to the beach’s signs, the area used to be a dump site (before 1967). Over the years, the waves broke down and ground the glass and the pottery in the dump to make these beautiful looking (some say jewelry-quality) pieces.

The view around the beach is very beautiful – clean, super blue sea, big waves crashing into the cliffs, and surprisingly it wasn’t foggy in the morning! And needless to say the kids liked playing with the stones and the waves, and from this part there is no cliff 🙂

We checked out of the hotel and drove further north along Highway 1. The highway becomes narrower, more winding and uphill here, even scary at some points just inches from the cliffs. We went to the Drive-Thru Tree Park in Leggett, which is named after a tree so big that you can drive through it (someone carved a hole in its base apparently).

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There is a $5 entrance fee for this park. Initially I thought I was in for a gimmick, but this park was super awesome, especially for kids. The huge, 96-metre tree is just one thing, but there are also picnic tables where we had lunch, a large meadow, and a redwood forest. There are also mini attractions lying around that kids really like. Like a huge hollow tree where kids can get inside like a cave, a dead tree arranged in an incline so that the kids can slide, and so on. The kids have so much fun here, we decided to stay here longer and skip the next planned stop.

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If you enjoy redwood forest (like me), the park also has an easy trail where you can go inside and enjoy it.

Leggett is at the end of Highway 1, and from here we went home by 101. This is less winding and faster than Highway 1, which served us well because we’re too tired to take the winding road again and would prefer not to arrive home before too late. It was about 4.5 hours driving back to the Bay Area. We stopped for dinner in Fremont, coincidentally just in time for the lunar eclipse 🙂

Overall it’s such a fun trip, and I’m glad to see more of California’s natural beauty, and also learnt for the first time that a road trip like this (even a short one) is fun!

Map location of places mentioned here (sequential order):

Doran Beach, Bodega Bay ($7 entrance fee; in restrospect, should have probably looked for a free spot spmewhere nearby :))

A spot in Jenner along Hwy 1

A spot in Gualala along Hwy 1

Pygmy Forest in Van Damme State Park, Little River (note we went to the pygmy forest only, didn’t go through the main entrance of the park).

Caspar Beach, Caspar

Glass Beach, Fort Bragg

Drive-Thru Tree Park, Leggett ($5 entrance fee)

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Road Trip to the Redwood Coast with kids

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