I've been fortunate to be able to visit  California several times.  I've been to many cities there, both large and small.  I enjoy many of the things that large cities have to offer.  However, I actually prefer to spend time in small towns and on highways that are not as busy as the Interstates.  This is particularly true in California, as it is a state of great natural beauty.  

Interstate highways are great if you are in a hurry and need to make good time.  I have found travelling the Interstates are very convenient, but to really appreciate the beauty of a state like California, you need to spend time on secondary roads.  One such highway is the 101.  This road will take you to some of the towns featured in this article.  

If you like to get off the beaten path once in a while and enjoy some wonderful panoramic views, you may enjoy spending some time in these areas.  Here are five towns in California that you should see.  

Crescent City

Just a few miles from the Oregon border is the town of Crescent City.  It is located on route 101 and is at the northern end of  Redwood National Park.  

Crescent City has a very moderate climate.  It seldom gets very hot in the summer, and winters are mild.  The town gets more rain than most places in California.  However, it's usually very dry in July and August.  Crescent CityCredit:

There are lovely sandy beaches here and a busy port.  Many fishing vessels can be seen, and if you have time you may enjoy shrimp, salmon, tuna or crab at one of the many restaurants in the area.   

Another point of interest in Crescent City is the Battery Point Lighthouse.  It is one of the first that was built on this state's coast.   There is a museum at the site that includes items from the 1850s. It is accessible by foot, but only at low tide.  Visitors should know the tide times and plan to return before it begins to change, as it will rise rapidly.  

Crescent City suffered severe damage and there was loss of life due to a tsunami in 1964.  However, the Lighthouse did not experience much damage and it remains in use today.  


I really fell in love with the charming town of Mendocino.  This is a small community with a population of about 1,000, yet it is a popular place for tourists due to its scenic location. MendocinoCredit: 

The rugged coastline here reminds me of my home town of Victoria, BC.  Mendocino has a lot of residents who are artists.   There are some nice shops and galleries in town and it's a great area for walking and exploring.

The climate in Mendocino is similar to Crescent City.  Fog is quite normal in the summer and the temperature remains moderate all year.

The area has been featured many times over the years in movies.  The 1970s movie Summer of 42 was filmed here, although the story is set in a resort in New England.  

A decade later, the popular TV series Murder, She Wrote was partially filmed  here.  Once again, Mendocino represented a place in New England.  The house where the character of Jessica lived is now a bed and breakfast inn. 

My only regret was that we did not have more time to spend here.  I would like to stay overnight next time to really soak up the atmosphere and explore the picturesque town at a leisurely pace. 


Sausalito is a great day place to some time if you are visiting San Francisco.  It is accessible from Fisherman's Wharf by ferry.  The ferry trip itself is so worthwhile as you get wonderful views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the city.  SausalitoCredit:

Sausalito is an affluent community.  There are hundreds of people who live year round in house boats.  It is also a popular place for artists just as Mendocino is.  

There is a wonderful harbor sidewalk, as well as many parks and a few public beaches.  The views of San Francisco are outstanding too.  

I enjoyed spending time visiting some of the boutiques and galleries in town.  There are many good restaurants and outdoor cafes here too.  It's certainly a pleasant way to spend a few hours or even longer if you have the time.  

A Short Video of Sausalito

Morro Bay

The community of Morro Bay is a short drive from San Luis Obispo. One of the main attractions is Morro Rock, which is pictured here.  It is against the law to climb the rock, as it is very dangerous.  Morro RockCredit:

Different varieties of birds can be seen at the rock, as well as otters and sea lions. 

There is an Embarcadero here that is a busy and popular place with tourists.  It's also a good destination if you enjoy seeing a variety of wildlife.  

Morro Bay's climate is dry all year.  The warmest months here are October and November, with plenty of sunshine all year.  

As with other places at the Pacific coast, the seafood is wonderful here.  It's also a good location for recreational activities including kayaking and fishing.  



Finally, my choice for fifth town in California that you should see is Solvang.  It is just a short drive from  Santa Barbara.  The city of Santa Barbara is lovely, and is a popular destination in Southern California. 


When you are in the town of Solvang you can almost forget you are in the United States.  The community was founded by Danish immigrants who wanted to live somewhere that was warm.  

Throughout the town you can see wind mills and many storefronts with Danish facades. There are products here from Denmark and you can also enjoy Danish food.  

It's a very relaxed and fun place to spend some time.  The weather here is ideal, as it is warm and sunny most of the time.  

There is so much to see and do in California.  I have enjoyed every holiday that I have had here, and have selected these places as my favorite in the state.