Clear Lake, California
County of Lake

Clear Lake

Clear Lake
Explore a burgeoning wine scene and cool off with a summery splash in the lake

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 hours north of San Francisco. You’ll also find more than 150 kilometres of shoreline ringing this watersport 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 rental watercraft of every sort, including manpowered 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 starwatching, especially from campgrounds at Clear Lake State Park. The third Saturday of the month, get an even closer look, at Taylor Observatory, on the lake’s west side in Kelseyville.

The four campgrounds located in Clear Lake State Park offer wonderful views, swimming (Lower Bayview), and hike-and-bike sites (Cole Creek), but be aware none offer electrical or water hookups.

For a less rustic experience, consider the historic Tallman Hotel in downtown Upper Lake, 43 kilometres to the north. Established in the 19th century by settlers Rufus and Mary Tallman, the hotel served travellers along Clear Lake’s stagecoach lines for decades. In 2006, a meticulous period restoration was completed. Today the 17-room boutique hotel is well into its second life hosting travellers—but this time around, guests are able to indulge in geo-thermally heated soaking tubs and king-size beds with luxurious linens. Visit the next door Blue Wing Saloon for local wines and weekly concerts, and stop by The Upper Lake Mercantile, where local artists and craftspeople sell their wares.

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Tai Power Seeff

Northern California

Discover the North Coast

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13
July
Average (°C)
June - Aug
16°
High
10°
Low
Sept - Nov
17°
High
7°
Low
Dec - Feb
12°
High
5°
Low
Mar - May
14°
High
6°
Low

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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Vacationland

5 Amazing Things to do in Crescent City

This North Coast town is home to awe-inspiring forests, river rapids, and good beer

Head to the tippy top of California’s northern coastline to see this sea-faring city with two lighthouses, redwoods, and an ever-changing wildlife...

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Clint Farlinger/Alamy

Klamath

Redwoods, salmon, and California’s largest tribe all thrive in this small North Coast town

Klamath is so far north that many people assume this tiny town is in Oregon, not California. Set along its...

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Tour an inspiring compound dedicated to an almost-lost art

Eric Hollenbeck didn’t plan to be a time traveler, or a museum curator, or a model of how to take care of troubled youth or returning war vets....

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Clear Lake, the largest natural freshwater lake within California, is the oldest lake in North America and possibly the world.
SPECIAL FEATURE
From Gold Rush history to 8th wonders of the world, visit these favorites

If there was ever a box of chocolates—and all of them delicious—it’s the rich collection of natural treasures, fascinating...

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Amy Meredith/Flickr
Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike.
John Muir
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Kodiak Greenwood

Spotlight: Mendocino

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Discover a coastal paradise with ridiculously fresh seafood, amazing wine, and craft beer

With its dramatic ocean-bluff setting overlooking to a steel-blue sea, this coastal hamlet is an obvious magnet for artists, romantics, and lovers...

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Harriot Manley/Sunset Publishing

Trip 8-10 days 10 stops

Ultimate Northern California

Explore the best of Northern California's Great Outdoors
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It may measure less than 50 square miles/130 square kilometres, but San Francisco justly ranks as one of the greatest cities in the world. Famous for grand-dame Victorians, classic cable cars, dynamic diversity, a beautiful waterfront, and a soaring crimson bridge, the  “City by the Bay” is the...

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Tucked into an ocean-facing fold of Mount Tamalpais, the signature peak just north of the Golden Gate Bridge in Marin County, Muir Woods National Monument protects the last stand of uncut old-growth coast redwoods in the Bay Area, where loggers had all but denuded the region by the late 1800s....

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Harriot Manley/ Sunset Publishing

North Coast Wine Country

Slip away to some of the state’s most peaceful vineyards

From quiet vineyards surrounded by lush redwood forests along the Mendocino Coast, to the sun-drenched rolling hills of rugged Lake County,...

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Tai Power Seeff

Wine & Dine in the North Coast

Sample hyper-local foods from land and sea, plus amazing beers and wines

The North Coast might just be the perfect place to eat. Few other places in the world can offer such a harmonious blend of chefs, farmers,...

SPECIAL FEATURE
Get the inside scoop on California's most celebrated commodity

With more than 3,000 wineries statewide, California lets you sample award-winning wines almost anywhere you go. These classic and up-and-coming wine roads—some too packed with wineries to tackle...

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Temecula Valley by Kodiak Greenwood
SPECIAL FEATURE
Celebrate the seasonal bounty and quirky art-fueled character of the North Coast

You can learn a lot about a place at its local festivals. Consider the Kinetic Grand Championship, a cosmically silly three-day battle between human-powered works of art (imagine a speeding dragon...

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The Humboldt County Fair began in 1896 and is the oldest running county fair in California.
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Humboldt County CVB

Ferndale

Visit a Victorian village where time stands still

A fairytale come to life, this remote village features carefully preserved Victorian-era century homes, a visual and architectural feast. On a...

May

Contraptions, creations, and creativity—those are the mantras for this wacky three-day event on an out-there stretch of the North Coast. Contestants must maneuver their handmade, people-powered...

The Kinetic Grand Championship on California's North Coast
Kinetic Grand Championship by Erik Fitzpatrick/Flickr
California's North Coast
The Skunk Train on California's North Coast
Skunk Train

Skunk Train

Ride a historic train through soaring coast redwoods

Originally built to transport redwood logs from the rugged backcountry to the coast, this 1885 heritage railroad now ferries sightseers to and fro...

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Humboldt County CVB

Eureka

Nature and culture merge in an art-fueled Victorian seaport

This lively seaport town, the largest coastal city between San Francisco and Portland, Oregon, has split-personality charm: a sense of history in...

SPECIAL FEATURE
Sample ultra-fresh, hyper-local, and downright amazing

When you come to California, come hungry. This is a state that seriously knows how to cook. Amazing and innovative chefs sprinkled with Michelin stars work with local farms and artisanal food...

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George's at the Cove
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Lucas Himovitz

Fort Bragg

Rough-and-tumble lumber town morphs into a top coastal find

With its original roots as a military garrison and then a gritty lumber town, Fort Bragg skirted under the radar of most visitors. But now—perhaps...

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While now a beautiful coastal treasure, Glass Beach initially began in the late 1940s as a place where locals would toss their trash, including glass bottles.
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Trip 4 days 10 stops

Wild North Coast

Wine, Romance & Sunsets
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Start your trip to one of the world’s great cities. For a novel way to explore “the City by the Bay” park your car and explore by foot, bike, and unique public transportation. Pedal bikes across the Golden Gate Bridge and back, then explore the lush Presidio, a former military base that’s now a...

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The last stop on this spectacular road trip ends at the very last city in California. Only 20 miles south of Oregon, sea-faring Crescent City is home to the northernmost of California’s lighthouse stations. Overlooking the town’s harbour, the 1856 Battery Point Lighthouse, built with 22-inch/56-...