Beauty on the far side of the Gate

Travel spe­cial­ist Jane Walsh writes about the un­tamed land­scapes of north­ern Cal­i­for­nia beyond San Francisco’s so­phis­ti­cated of­fer­ings

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - GLOBETROTTING -

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NTHE other side of San Francisco’s iconic Golden Gate Bridge there’s a world of un­tamed Pa­cific coast­line, quiet, iso­lated beaches, colour­ful small towns, wel­com­ing inns and gi­ant red­wood trees, all with a laid-back Cal­i­for­nian vibe.

Once you cross the bridge, take a big breath of Pa­cific air and look back across San Francisco Bay. The choppy wa­ters are alive with sail boats, cruis­ers and wind­surfers catch­ing the wind and rid­ing the crests.

Then head north to Sausal­ito, which is nes­tled in the Marin County foothills, where you will find a Mediter­ranean feel to the water­front bars, cafés, restau­rants and shops.

When San Francisco shiv­ers in the Pa­cific fog, Sausal­ito is pro­tected and shel­tered by the steep head­lands.

As it is quite iso­lated, there was an in­flux of rum run­ners dur­ing the pro­hi­bi­tion era of the 1930s, who landed here to en­joy a colour­ful and lively nightlife. Now, the steep hill­sides are home to mil­lion-dol­lar red­wood man­sions that bal­ance pre­car­i­ously, look­ing down on sev­eral house­boat com­mu­ni­ties.

Stay­ing in the heart of buzzing, down­town Sausal­ito you will be right next to the pier that launches one of the world’s great ferry rides. In 30 min­utes you will be across the bay with beau­ti­ful views of the Golden Gate Bridge, An­gel Is­land and the for­mer prison is­land of Al­ca­traz.

This re­ally is the per­fect base to ex­plore the de­lights of ru­ral and coastal north­ern Cal­i­for­nia.

If you head a few miles fur­ther north, this is the best van­tage point to view and pho­to­graph the bridge with the San Francisco sky­line in the back­ground.

It is par­tic­u­larly pho­to­genic in the early morn­ing, with the fog rolling in, or dur­ing the late af­ter­noon.

Head­ing fur­ther north again, to­wards Sonoma county, the scenery and beaches be­come wilder and more un­tamed, with spec­tac­u­lar views of the ocean crash­ing on th­ese rugged and of­ten de­serted beaches.

You will then reach Bodega, the tiny town where Al­fred Hitch­cock filmed The Birds.

The school­house still looks the same and there is a fas­ci­nat­ing Hitch­cock mu­seum next to the county store.

A few miles on, you reach Bodega Bay, where it will seem ob­vi­ous why Hitch­cock chose this town as it still re­tains a cer­tain eerie at­mos­phere.

On another 20 miles to the quaint and charm­ing sea­side re­sort of Jen­ner. It is beau­ti­fully sit­u­ated where the Rus­sian river spills out into the Pa­cific ocean.

There is a fan­tas­tic restau­rant that is perched on a high promon­tory, which pro­vides the ideal lunch spot, serv­ing fine food and wine and over­look­ing the river and ocean.

If you like na­ture, ex­plore the Red­woods State Na­ture Re­serve and the Austin Creek State Recre­ational area or head to the wine-pro­duc­ing hub of Sonoma.

There are more than 400 award-win­ning winer­ies in Sonoma County, a va­ri­ety to suit ev­ery palate from small-fam­ily run winer­ies to in­ter­na­tional wine houses.

Here you can en­joy Cal­i­for­nian cui­sine all served al­fresco with a su­perb glass of rather fine, chilled Chardonnay.

If you’d like to know more, con­tact Jane Walsh on jane@freespirithol­i­day. co.uk or call 01895 833 268.

The ma­jes­tic Golden Gate Bridge rises out of the mist in the early morn­ing. Be­low, Sonoma vine­yards

Bodega Bay, made fa­mous by Al­fred Hitch­cock, who filmed his clas­sic hor­ror film The Birds in this area

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