Let’s just cut to the chase: Highway 101 through California is magnificent! From the far northern region bordering Oregon, all the way south until it touches the Los Angeles area, this Golden State highway features jaw-dropping scenic beauty, a plethora of distinctive cities and towns, and oodles of historic sites and attractions. Buckle your seat belts as we traverse this well-known highway and stop at some fascinating destinations along the way.
The most northern city along Highway 101 through California is Crescent City.
Here you will find numerous entities that provide an up-close-and-personal experience with the Golden State’s amazing coastline. Perhaps the most recognizable is the Battery Point Lighthouse. Serving as a guiding beacon for watercraft since 1856, it is unique in that it lies on a strip of land surrounded by water until low tide when a two-hundred-foot-long road appears, making it accessible to the thousands of visitors who come here each year.
Make your way about 84 miles south and you’ll arrive at the city of Eureka. One of the most well-known attractions here is the Carson Mansion.
This spectacular home built between 1884-1885 is named after a well-to-do businessman by the name of William Carson. In addition to lumber, Carson made his fortune in several other business ventures, spending a great deal of his money on this four-story, 18-room residence. One of the most photographed sites in the state, the mansion features carved onyx fireplaces, colorful stained-glass panels, extensive redwood ornamentation, an elaborate central staircase, and a soaring tower – a lot of which were unusual features for California architecture back in the day.
From Eureka, it is only about a 3-1/2-hour drive to the Healdsburg Museum, located in the city of the same name.
Originally built in 1911, today’s Healdsburg Museum started out as a Carnegie Library site, functioning in that capacity until 1987. Built in the Neo-Classical Revival style, the museum—which opened here in 1990—encompasses an array of stunning architectural details, earning it a listing on the National Register of Historic Places. A combination of fantastic permanent and temporary exhibits here provides a window into the history of Healdsburg and the surrounding area.
Next, we’re making our way into the Bay Area, over the Golden Gate Bridge, and into downtown San Francisco to the Yerba Buena Gardens.
Located in the SOMA (South of Market) area of the city, the Yerba Buena Gardens is one of the city’s greatest attractions. A true cultural destination, the name is a bit deceiving, as it encompasses much more than "garden" beauty. The wealth of entities here include the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Children’s Creativity Museum, the Contemporary Jewish Museum, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, just to name a few.
Our next stretch is approximately 233 miles to the city of San Luis Obispo. It is here that you will find the storied Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa.
A major part of the history of The Golden State lies in its missions, many of which were founded by Father Junipero Serra, a Spanish Roman Catholic priest and missionary of the Franciscan Order. Named after Saint Louis, Bishop of Toulouse, France, this mission was founded in 1772 and today stands as one of the grandest missions in the state. Open 365 days a year and free of charge, Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa features amazing architectural details, a vast collection of artifacts and memorabilia spanning several centuries of history, and sprawling verdant gardens. Docent-led tours are available to gain a greater sense of the significance of the history here.
Last, but certainly not least, on this Highway 101 through California adventure is the city of Ventura.
Located only about two hours south of the San Francisco Bay Area, Ventura is widely known for its remarkable beaches. If you’re into sun and sand, this is the place for you! Ocean-bound recreational activities here include swimming, surfing, jet skiing, kayaking, paddle boarding, and more. But perhaps the best way to take in the area is to just sit and marvel at the natural beauty – particularly at sunrise and sunset.
The Golden State is so expansive that this amazing Highway 101 adventure spans a little over 700 miles! But what beauty and wonder there is to explore and experience in between.
Have you been to any of these destinations along Highway 101? If so, which were your favorites and why? Please share your photos and let us hear about your experiences along the way!
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Battery Point Light, Lighthouse Way, Crescent City, CA 95531, USA
Carson Mansion, 143 M St, Eureka, CA 95501, USA
Healdsburg Museum, 221 Matheson St, Healdsburg, CA 95448, USA
Yerba Buena Gardens, 750 Howard St, San Francisco, CA 94103, USA
Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa 1772, 751 Palm St, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401, USA