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Northern California Beach Escapes

Mendocino County beach

Mendocino County beach

When most people think of California beaches, they typically think Southern California beaches. This is for good reason when you consider the beauty and history of the beaches in and around San Diego, Orange County, and Los Angeles. While the conditions and weather of Northern California's beaches don't always call for bikini-clad vacationers, they are not to be overlooked. Here are a few to consider for your next escape from San Francisco.

1. Stinson Beach. It's the convenience of Stinson Beach that makes this such a worthy escape, as it's accessible from San Francisco via bus on the 70 or 4 from downtown with a transfer on the 61 just north of Marin City. There are a couple surf and kayak shops within a few blocks of the beach, or for those who want land recreation, there are nearby hiking trails that go up to Mount Tamalpais, which provides sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco in the far distance. There are a couple small hotels and inns nearby, with many people renting beach homes for overnight and weekend stays.

2. Bodega Bay. While Sonoma often brings to mind rolling hills and acres of vineyards, many people may not be aware that it's also home to miles of rugged coastline. Just miles from those rolling hills and vineyards of Sonoma is the coastal town of Bodega Bay. There are numerous beaches nearby, including Dillon Beach, where the true outdoor adventurist can even camp. Head to one of the local surf shops and you can rent a board or a kayak. 

3. Mendocino. Because Mendocino is a three-hour drive from San Francisco and has so much to offer, this is better for a weekend trip. Mendocino County is unique in that one moment you're sitting on a patio sipping wine at a local winery and the next you could be lying on a beach with no one in sight. The town of Mendocino is where you'll find the most accommodation options, with a plethora of bed and breakfasts within a few blocks of downtown and the beach. Just north of Mendocino is Fort Bragg, which is home to the famous Glass Beach.

4. Manchester State Beach. Located in Southern Mendocino County, Manchester State Beach is just north of Point Arena, which is noted for the Point Arena Light, a California lighthouse which is open to the public for tours. Unlike many California beaches, Manchester State Beach is several miles long, protected by cliffs, and not a place you'll find hoards of beachgoers. While many of the beach towns listed here offer a variety of accommodations, that's not the case near Manchester State Beach, making it better for a day trip.

Follow Spencer on Twitter at @spencerspellman.