Best Winter Road Trip Destinations Near North Bay

December 4, 2012 12:16 PM

The North Bay spans a large region with several cities, the largest being San Rafael in Marin County. This county hub is a perfect starting point for family winter road trips going both north and south. Weekend or holiday getaways are ideal for enjoying family time without too much destination travel. Here are five winter road trips convenient from the central North Bay area and bound to please everyone.
inverness bay Best Winter Road Trip Destinations Near North Bay

(credit: Melanie Graysmith)

Point Reyes National Seashore
1 Bear Valley Road
Point Reyes Station, CA 94956
(415) 464-5100

Point Reyes National Seashore is a year-round destination with plenty to do in the winter. The Point Reyes peninsula is diverse with a full range of nature activities to explore at this national park of approximately 80 miles of shoreline and beaches. Winter here means whale watching, wildflowers, seal watching and hiking. Kayaking is popular, and Tomales Bay, a 15-mile tidal water body, is a well-liked Point Reyes kayaking spot. Adjacent communities of Point Reyes Station including Inverness, Tomales, Marshall and Dillion Beach are worth a visit as well. There are also three Visitor Centers for time indoors, although day temperatures rarely fall below the low 50s. Visitor Centers have informative exhibits about the culture and history of Point Reyes as well as information about museums and art galleries in the area.

 Best Winter Road Trip Destinations Near North Bay

(credit: Melanie Graysmith)

Half Moon Bay
Half Moon Bay Chamber of Commerce and Visitor’s Bureau
235 Main St.
Half Moon Bay, CA 94019
(650) 726-8380

Visitors to the San Mateo coast quickly sense the relaxed ambiance and slower pace of the region surrounded by mountains, ocean, open fields and small towns. Half Moon Bay is a charming community on the beautiful Pacific coast where temperatures are mild. The town is rich in bed and breakfasts, art galleries, restaurants and shops. The area is home to several wildlife communities and gray whales are often spotted offshore during the winter migration season. Pillar Point, servicing Half Moon Bay and El Granada nearby, gives access to whale watching and nature excursions. Beaches are plentiful in this region, although the water is a bit cold for swimming. However, picnicking, camping, surf fishing and nature walks are popular all year. Further south a bit are several tide pools, most notably in Moss Beach, with crabs, sea urchins and varied marine life. Visit the website for more information on this peaceful community, named one of the top 15 “Happiest Seaside Towns” by Coastal Living magazine.

Related: Getaway Guide: One Tank Trip To Mendocino

Monterey County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau
P.O Box 1770
Monterey, CA 93942

The Monterey coastline is a fine winter getaway spot with daytime temperatures in the sunny 50s. In winter it rains at times, but generally there is no fog. Monterey is the premier location along the California coast for whale watching. Every winter and spring, the entire gray whale population migrates past the Monterey coastline during the 12,000-mile migration from the Bering Sea. Catch a two- to three-hour boat trip led by marine biologists who narrate and answer questions on whales and dolphins. Winter trips from December to April are offered by several cruise companies. Something is fishy at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, a not-to-be-missed highlight in Monterey, with ongoing and seasonal exhibits. The Monterey Museum of Art features early California paintings and photography, including works by Ansel Adams and Edward Weston. This museum is family friendly with activities for the kids too. Check the website for additional information on these activities.

Pinnacles National Monument
Park Headquarters
5000 Highway 16
Paicines, CA 95043
(831) 389-4485

Pinnacles National Monument is a nature lover’s paradise offering an escape from the stresses of city life. Unlike many national parks, Pinnacles National Monument is ideal in the cooler months and fall and winter are excellent visiting times. The Pinnacles offer stunning beauty as you hike, observe and study wildlife. Pinnacles National Monument is mainly a hiking park with over 30 miles of trails, from easy to challenging, plus full-day hikes. Rock climbing is popular with hundreds of routes on both sides of the park and two talus caves. Be sure to check the status of cave openings before planning your trip. Camping is now offered within the park and reservations are needed. Check the Pinnacles National Monument website for park and contact information before you plan a trip. Bring plenty of water and food for the family, as little is available on site.

Fort Bragg
N. Main St.
Fort Bragg, CA 95437

Fort Bragg is a gem on the beautiful Mendocino Coast and a great getaway spot for holiday shopping. For a small-town feel, Fort Bragg has a lot going on this winter. A seasonal highlight is the Mendocino Botanical Gardens Festival of Lights featuring twinkling lit walkways, gardens and trees from November 30 to December 9. The Holiday Lights Parade and Celebration is on December 1 with a tree-lighting ceremony at 6 p.m. and Holiday Lights Parade through downtown at 7 p.m. The 24th Annual Candlelight Inn Tour on December 13 lets you visit lovely inns along the Mendocino Coast – including Fort Bragg. Enjoy holiday shopping amidst a festive month-long celebration on Fort Bragg’s main shopping streets.

Related: Best Spots For A Picnic In North Bay

best of san francisco screen shot4 Best Winter Road Trip Destinations Near North BayHead to CBS San Francisco’s Best Of page for more local tips on family fun, shopping, nightlife, food, culture and more!

Melanie Graysmith is a freelance writer and artist based in San Francisco. She writes on adult education, art and lifestyle topics, and enjoys writing short stories and poetry. Melanie is a member of an independent filmmaking group and aims to spin her stories into film. Her work can be found at

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