Everyone loves dinner with a view—and when it comes to views, there’s none better than the rugged shores of Northern California.
While breathtaking scenery can make a meal feel extra-special, locals know that restaurants with the most impressive views can also be tourist traps—i.e. overly expensive and underwhelming. ($30 soggy fish and chips, anyone?)
We love a spot that nails it all: food, service and the view. From Michelin-starred restaurants to casual seafood joints, we’ve rounded up the places that let you watch the waves crash ashore without disappointing you when your food arrives.
Restaurant at Harbor House Inn, Elk
The dining rom at the two Michelin-starred Harbor House Inn
Photo credit: Harbor House Inn
Situated directly on the moody Mendocino County coastline, dining at the intimate 18-seat restaurant within the historic Habor House Inn is an experience like none other along the coast. Awarded two Michelin stars since 2021 (as well as a Green Star for commitment to sustainability), Chef Matthew Kammerer’s always-changing menu is hyper-hyper local. Seafood is fetched from the waters below, and ingredients like seaweed, mushrooms and herbs are foraged from the surrounding land. On-site, the kitchen sources eggs from the chicken coup and produce from the gardens. Go for a special occasion sunset dinner, priced at $285 per person with an optional $250 wine pairing. If you're looking for something less harsh on the wallet, lunch is a great deal (for a Michelin experience): enjoy a five-course meal for $125. // 5600 CA-1, Elk, theharborhouseinn.com
Coast Kitchen at Timber Cove Resort, Jenner
If midcentury vibes, good food and wine, and ocean views are your things—head to Timber Cove Resort, which dates back to 1963 and sits on one of the most beautiful coves along the Sonoma Coast. The property was completely refreshed in 2016, including its waterfront restaurant, Coast Kitchen, which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. The dining room’s sophisticated yet relaxed design makes you feel welcome to settle in for awhile: sleek wooden chairs are outfitted with blue plaid cushions, a fireplace roars in the corner and the friendly servers will chat you up. Take a seat inside, where there’s no bad view in the house, or dine outside more casually on the patio. The menu is on the pricier side, but dishes are crafted with high-quality local ingredients, so it’s worth it. Heartier options include dishes like the Blakeman Farm lamb shank and seaweed-crusted halibut in mushroom broth, but there are plenty of smaller bites if you aren’t as hungry such as cheese and charcuterie boards, or Point Reyes oysters. Pro tip: post-dinner, grab a cocktail and head out to the oceanside fire pit. // 21780 CA-1, Jenner, coastkitchensonoma.com
Restaurant at Nick’s Cove, Marshall
Nick’s Cove is full of history. Founded 90 years ago, the hotel offers 12 cozy, historic cottages (five of which are directly on pilings over the water.) The waterfront restaurant has always been part of the property, offering a refuge for those working the waters or traveling along West County’s coastline. The restaurant is casual (no reservations) and feels like a step back in time in many ways. Although it received a refresh in 2022, it still very much maintains its original charm and the historic photos remind you of its past. The menu also received an update by celebrity chef Chris Cosentino. Expect classics like clam chowder, cioppino, fish and chips and a Dungeness crab roll, all executed as they should be—flavor-packed, fresh and using local ingredients. Sit in the dining room, at the bar or on the deck shores—whatever you choose, you can take in views of Tomales Bay. Unfortunately, the famous Boat Shack (a small room with a piano and fireplace open to the public and used for small events) at the end of the pier was recently destroyed in a fire, but the hotel plans to rebuild. // 23240 CA-1, Marshall, CA, nickscove.com/restaurant
Spud Point Crab Co. in Bodega Bay
Fresh crab arrives daily during crab season at Spud Point Crab Co.
Photo credit:Spud Point Crab Co.
Diners have been showing up for the clam chowder and crab rolls at Spud Point Crab Co. along Bodega Bay for the past twenty years. The lines have been long ever since Tony and Carol Anello set up shop on a mission to create an atmosphere similar to Fisherman’s Wharf back when they were kids (and where Tony worked as a commercial fisherman since 1970.) Family-run to this day, the crab is fresh off the boat run by Tony and his son Mark and crew. Grab a table outside to enjoy your hot clam chowder (don’t skimp on the bread to dip) and, during crab season, rolls filled with a bounty of fresh crab meat. // 1910 Westshore Rd, Bodega Bay, spudpointcrabco.com
Ledford House Restaurant, Albion
Ledford House in Albion
Photo credit: Ledford House
Perched on a bluff overlooking the ocean, the Ledford House has been a true Mendocino gem since the 1980’s when couple Tony and Lisa Geer opened up shop. To this day, Lisa is in the back cooking up dishes with care, while you can always count on Tony to stationed front-of-house, welcoming people with a smile. The interior of the dining room is lovely in an unfussy way—this isn't a modern San Francisco restaurant, this is elegant in a bit of an old school, charming way that immediately disarms you. Expansive windows let you take in breathtaking sunsets as you enjoy a menu featuring provincial-style dishes that would be priced at least two times higher in the city. And while the food is excellent here, the service is unmatched. // 3000 CA-1, Albion, CA, ledfordhouse.com
Nepenthe, Big Sur
The deck at Nepenthe
Photo credit: See Monterey
Located along Highway 1 in Big Sur, Nepenthe is likely the most famous coastal restaurant in Northern California. First opened in 1949, the restaurant was designed by Rowan Maiden, a student of Frank Lloyd Wright, and its opening was an architectural feat. The property has a storied history with Hollywood—before it became a restaurant, it was a log cabin once owned by Orson Welles and his wife Rita Hayworth. Once the kitchen opened, it became a social hub for artists, poets and actors such as Ernest Hemingway and Clint Eastwood. As such a cultural landmark, wait times can be long and prices are pretty high here, but this is one case where we find both worth it on occasion. Happily, the food hasn't fallen by the wayside and is still reliably delicious—just go in expecting elevated cafe fare over Michelin dining. // 48510 CA-1, Big Sur, nepenthe.com
Sierra Mar at Post Ranch Inn, Big Sur
Not a bad seat in the house.
Photo credit: Sierra Mar at the Post Ranch Inn
If you want to feel like you're on the edge of the world, head to Sierra Mar, the restaurant within the historic Post Ranch Inn. You are, quite literally, on the edge of the continent after all. Located on a rocky bluff, floor-to-ceiling windows within the dining room offer sweeping views. After a pandemic hiatus and refresh, Sierra Mar is fully back open with a new culinary director (Reylon Agustin); he and acclaimed executive chef II Hoon Kang have made changes to the menu, including rolling out a new $75 prix fixe lunch—a wonderful way to experience Sierra Mar at a lower price point. Dinner delights as well, with a set $145 seasonal shared menu inspired by the on-site Chefs Garden (think dishes like handmade cavatelli with broccolini and chili oil or Monterey black cod in miso beurre blanc) // 47900 CA-1, Big Sur, postranchinn.com/dining