Take a deep breath the next time you’re in Northern California’s Lake County. That’s some of the cleanest air in the nation, according to the American Lung Association. And you’ll find it just a couple of hours north of San Francisco. You’ll also find more than 160 kilometres of shoreline ringing this watersports mecca—the largest natural freshwater lake wholly within California. This is the land of bass fishing, and it’s a great place to try your hand at nabbing one of the lake’s legendary big boys.
'This is the land of bass fishing and it’s a great place to try your hand at nabbing one of the lake’s legendary big boys.'
Boat marinas abound, many offering water craft hires of every sort, including man powered kayaks, as well as fishing gear. On land, explore a burgeoning wine region where Mediterranean microclimates and soil rich in volcanic ash produce impressive Cabernets and Sauvignon Blancs. Come nightfall, that clear air makes for some remarkable star watching, especially from campsites in Clear Lake State Park. On the third Saturday of the month, you can get an even closer look, at Taylor Observatory, on the lake’s western side in Kelseyville.
The four campsites located in Clear Lake State Park offer wonderful views, swimming (Lower Bayview), and walking and cycling (Cole Creek), but be aware that none offers electrical or water hook-ups.
For a less rustic experience, consider the historic Tallman Hotel in central Upper Lake, 43 kilometres to the north. Established in the 19th century by settlers Rufus and Mary Tallman, the hotel served travellers on Clear Lake’s stagecoach routes for decades. In 2006, a meticulous period restoration was completed. Today the 17-room boutique hotel is well into its second life as a host to travellers—but this time around, guests are able to indulge in geo-thermally heated bath-tubs and king-sized beds with luxurious linens. Visit the Blue Wing Saloon next door for local wines and weekly concerts, and call in at The Upper Lake Mercantile, where local artists and craftspeople sell their wares.
Romance finds a home in this idyllic coastal region, where ocean fog rolls in from the ocean to blanket hushed redwood forests, and whales spout offshore. Along the coast, artists set up their easels to paint scenes of crashing surf and whitewashed cottages wrapped in rose filled gardens.
Each year, December through May, look to the sea to witness roughly 15,000 gray whales swimming south for the summer.
It is also a place where a new generation of farmers and wine makers focus on preserving the land as well as producing amazing food and wine. Favourite escapes include the romantic hamlet of Mendocino, roughly a 3-hour drive up the coast from San Francisco, and Eureka, a former logging town 2 hours further north, and the gateway to breathtaking Redwoods National and State Parks.
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