Even during this time of social distancing there are great places to visit along the California Coast, and there’s lots to see. I’ve gathered up some of my favorite recent finds to stop at along the California Coast area.
Check out my travel archives for more fun things to do!
Some tips for staying in hotels right now.
I brought along one of those jars of sanitizing wipes and wiped everything down as soon as we got in the hotel. Wipe everything down. Then you know that it’s clean.
You can do a similar thing with a sanitizing spray can. Spray everything down when you get there. I’d leave the room and come back later allowing the spray to settle down while you are out.
You can bring your own sheets as well. Lay the sheets out to sleep on, and over the pillows. That way you know that you are sleeping on your own bedding.
Make yourself comfortable in these unusual times.
The Mystery Spot, Santa Cruz
I’ll start off with the fact that The Mystery Spot is hard to describe, and really, you should go experience it for yourself. I do think it was that cool, if not a little nausea inducing.
It’s a tourist attraction of a gravitational anomaly near Santa Cruz, California, opened in 1939 by George Prather where visitors experience demonstrations that appear to defy gravity.
The guided tour lasts about 45 minutes, where they take you up a steep uphill walk that brings you inside a wooden building, and then back outside for a few more demonstrations.
What’s it all about?
I won’t go into too much detail, as that would ruin the fun for you. Your tour guide will tell you all you need to know about the history of the location, as well as demonstrate the effects of gravity on the site.
I get motion sick pretty easily, and the tour did make me a little dizzy. I had to step outside. But, my husband played around inside the cabin for a while. It’s really cool to see and experience for yourself. And, even with the queasiness, I had a great time there, and am glad we went. It’s totally worth the $8 cost to enter. It is a little corny, so if that’s your thing, you’re going to love it!
It’s a great place to spend some time with the family, a nice place to get out, stretch your legs, have a bite to eat on their picnic tables in a nicely landscaped area, and they have a hiking trail available for use.
You can buy tickets online or in the store when you get there, though they do sometimes sell out. They charge for parking; parking is $5 per vehicle payable upon arrival by cash or check only. If you choose to buy tickets and pay for parking at the door they only accept cash or check. Otherwise debit cards are accepted for a $2 service fee. Credit cards are not accepted for these purchases at the door.
Social distancing note:
While we were there the staff came through several times to sanitize surfaces. In some places, it is very difficult to keep 6 feet apart from the other people on the tour. Currently they are requiring masks. Most of the tour is outside, but some of it is inside. Decide if you are comfortable with those precautions.
And, you get a bumper sticker at the end of the tour!
Within the Mystery Spot you will be stunned as your perceptions of the laws of physics and gravity are questioned. Or, is it all a good story with visual illusions? Fact or fiction? Good story or reality? That’s all a mystery; it is, after all, called the mystery spot, not the solved spot.
Getting to The Mystery Spot
The spot is located in the redwood forests just outside of Santa Cruz, California. Arrive 30 minutes prior to your tour. Take the Ocean Street exit from Hwy 1 or Hwy 17. At the third stoplight, turn left onto Water St . At the first stoplight, turn left onto Market St. and go for 2.9 miles and the Mystery Spot will be on your left.
Chandelier Tree in Drive-Thru Tree Park
I’m sure you’ve heard about the drive thru tree. I know I went once as a kid, but I really don’t remember it much except that I have a souvenir from the event.
Well, now’s a perfect time to go again. It’s social distancing at its finest too. I mean, you stay in your car to drive through the tree, and there’s lots of open space to hang out and take a break.
The Chandelier Drive-Thru Tree in Leggett is 2400 years old! And, for more than 80 years people have been driving through the tree (that tunnel was carved in 1937).
The opening is officially 6 feet wide and 7 feet tall. But, I would guess that several people have helped scrape out the inside a bit, because our vehicle is actually 6 feet 2 inches wide! And we fit through!
There are 3 drive through trees in Northern California. This one, the Shrine Drive-Thru Tree 45 miles north of Leggett in the Avenue of the Giants, and the Klamath Tour-Thru Tree about 150 more miles north.
The park in Leggett has picnic tables overlooking the duck pond, rest rooms, trails into the park, and a gift shop, so it’s a nice place to stretch your legs and slow down after some of the windy roads in the area.
Getting to the tree
This tree is about 3 hours, or 180 miles, north of San Francisco. Take Hwy 101 to the South Leggett exit (Exit 614). Continue on Drive Thru Tree Road (CA-271N) for about 2 miles. The entrance to Drive Thru Tree Park is on the left after you have passed the fire station. Pay the $10 entrance fee, and drive on in. As you drive in, be sure to look for the bears carved in the tree stumps.
Fern Canyon, Fort Bragg
Fern Canyon will remind you of being in Jurassic Park. And well, that’s because it was a location for Jurassic Park 2: The Lost World. It’s a beautiful lush green canyon that’s covered from top to bottom with ferns.
Bring your mask, as there may be other hikers nearby. And, I found it to be busier the later in the day you go. So we had some good social distancing early in the day.
Fern Canyon is located in Prairie Creek Redwoods. After about a 6-mile drive through the forest and towards the ocean, you come out at a vacant stretch of the North Coast of California. Make your way to the Fern Canyon Day Use Parking Area north of Gold Bluffs Beach Campground, and proceed north on foot to the California Coastal Trail, and make a right to Fern Canyon.
You might get a little wet
The Fern Canyon trail crisscrosses a little creek, and although there are several wooden footbridges, you’ll probably get a little wet as you cross some of them. It’s this Home Creek that keeps everything so lush and green.
The hike can be done as a 1.1-mile loop with 150 feet of elevation gain, but we did it as a one mile out and back hike, just seeing the main event of the canyon.
The walls of the canyon have eight different kinds of ferns and other moisture-loving plants and mosses. Depending on the time of year, there is a constant drip-drip of water trickling down the canyon walls with some small waterfalls along the sides. And, at the narrowest point, the canyon is less than 30 feet wide.
Fern Canyon may disappoint winter visitors as the ferns turn brown and the creek expands, and after it rains, hikes into the canyon can be limited. Call 707-488-2039 for detailed park info.
Getting to Fern Canyon
To get to the canyon take Hwy 101, approx. 2 mile north of Orick to Davison Road and turn left. Follow through Elk Meadow and onto dirt road (motor homes and trailers are not allowed on this road). Follow this scenic drive through the forest for 6 miles until you reach the Gold Bluffs Beach kiosk. Pay the $8.00 day use fee (cash or check only). California State Park and National Park Service passes are accepted. Follow the road along the beach for another 3 miles (fording through several small streams — do-able by car) until the day use parking lot at the end. Fern Canyon is about ¼ mile from the parking lot. Don’t forget to stop by Elk Meadow either before or after hiking at Fern Canyon to possibly see some elk.
While you’re driving along Hwy 1 or Hwy 101 don’t forget to stop and pull out on some of the scenic vistas.
They are there because it’s so beautiful, and a great way to see the sights. Don’t get so caught up in having to get to your destination that you don’t stop along the way to enjoy yourself.