A baffling mix of multicultural cities, golden-hued vineyards, dreamy redwood forests, national parks, and a scenic coastline make Northern California one of the most romantic destinations in the United States.
Whether it’s just for a weekend or a fair amount of days, couples can indulge in a dazzling wealth of experiences while traveling to the region, which stretches from Oregon to San Luis Obispo county. Urban adventures will have a memorable time in first-rate cities like San Francisco, while thrill-seekers hit the trails at Yosemite National Park and get their hearts racing.
From wine tasting in Napa Valley to driving through the spectacular Bixby Bridge, on the Big Sur coastline, couples will stumble across a set of top-class travel experiences in Northern California.
Ready for some romance in The Golden State? Then check out the full post to discover what are the top 10 most romantic getaways in Northern California.
The Most Romantic Destinations In Northern California
Napa Valley is an earthly paradise built on indulgence. Located north of San Francisco, the region is set against the backdrop of sprawling vineyards — the best in the United States, by the way.
Aside from legendary wineries, couples will stumble across charming boutique hotels, award-winning restaurants, fabulous golf courses, and luxurious spas in California’s wine country.
For a one-of-a-kind romantic experience, be sure to go for an outdoor wine tasting at Trefethen Family Vineyard. This family-run winery is home to a leafy villa built in the early 1900s, where visitors can taste limited-production wines, including their award-winning Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon paired with cured meats and local artisan cheeses.
After going for a romantic hot air balloon ride over the sun-drenched vineyards of Napa Valley, head over to Spa Solage and pamper yourselves in healing geothermal pools, which are guaranteed to invigorate your mind, body, and soul.
Did the hunger strike? Great news: Napa Valley is home to a gleaming selection of lip-smacking restaurants that are just perfect for a romantic dinner. The triple Michelin-starred The Restaurant, at Meadowood, is the best bet for feasting on inventive dishes made with the finest seasonal ingredients, while Brasswood Bar + Kitchen is a prime pick for sampling on comforting dishes, from goat cheese and spinach ravioli to herb-crusted lamb.
South Lake Tahoe
Straddling the border of California and Nevada, Lake Tahoe is a superb romantic getaway for couples seeking some quality time around nature. Renowned for its scenic beauty, the area flaunts wooded trails, stunning lake views, granite cliffs, and even white sandy beaches, which are veritable playgrounds for outdoor lovers.
Bucket-list experiences abound in Lake Tahoe. If visiting during summer or spring, don’t miss the opportunity to spend a full day on the Emerald Bay State Park. In there, couples can go paddleboarding on the lake, hop on Ms. Dixie II, which has been voted as the “Best Boat Cruise in Tahoe” for 10 years in a row and hit the Rubicon Trail, which leads hikers to a vantage point that has the most stunning views of the park.
Visiting Lake Tahoe in the wintertime? No worries. During that time of year, the city turns into a snow-dusted wonderland where couples can enjoy a showcase of pulse-pounding sports, from skiing to snowboarding.
And there are gentler options, too. Couples can stay in and curl up on the fireplace while having a cup of hot chocolate, unwind by sampling craft beers in the local breweries, or head over to the Grover Hot Springs State Park for the ultimate relaxation time!
A land of sublime serenity, the Sonoma Valley captivates visitors with a delightful maze of romantic tours and experiences, which make this one of the most romantic places in Northern California.
Food and wine will prove a major attraction during your stay, as the region is home to more than 425 wineries and over 500 restaurants, including one-of-a-kind Michelin-starred eateries.
The Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery is a prime pick for an idyllic wine-tasting overlooking fairy-tale-like vineyards, gardens, and fountains, while the Rodney Strong Winery is perfect for sampling on Chardonnays, Sauvignon Blancs, Pinot Noirs, and other varieties paired with a lip-smacking cheese and charcuterie box.
Beyond the sun-kissed wineries, couples can explore the several state parks of Sonoma, which are perfect for hiking. For a scenic walk around nature, go to the Spring Lake Regional Park that is home to 10 miles of trails linking to Trione-Annadel State Park and Howarth Park.
Be sure to also cycle along the region’s lovely country roads, and explore the famous California Cheese Trail for feasting on some of the best hand-crafted cheeses in the Golden State.
San Francisco needs no introduction. Known around the world as a first-rate destination, the city has everything you could want from a bustling metropolis: top-notch museums, lush state parks, postcard-worthy landmarks, and, of course, lip-smacking restaurants.
For the ultimate romantic experience in the “City by the Bay”, couples can go for an idyllic picnic at Shakespeare Garden, relax at the Nob Hill Spa, watch a stunning sunset from the Bernal Heights Summit, and take a boat cruise around the San Francisco Bay. And don’t forget to add a visit to Baker Beach, from where you’ll be able to marvel at the one-and-only Golden Gate Bridge, to your bucket list.
With so many amazing experiences on offer, it’s not a surprise that San Francisco has something for every type of traveler. If staying outdoors is your idea of fun, don’t miss the chance of exploring the 55-acre San Francisco Botanical Garden, which is dotted with more than 8,000 plants from around the world, or hit the scenic Redwood Creek Trail.
Foodies can feast on jet-fresh oysters at Hog Island Oyster Co. or sample on Italian dishes with a twist at cozy and upscale Serafina.
Have some spare time? Then head north until you reach the Napa Valley region, where you’ll be spoilt for choice with luxury wineries and plush eateries.
Yosemite National Park
Few destinations are as blessed as the Yosemite National Park (one of the oldest national parks in the US) when it comes to natural beauty. Gloriously located on California’s Sierra Nevada mountains, this sprawling sanctuary offers visitors the opportunity to experience nature in a unique, primitive setting.
Within the park’s nearly 1,200 square miles, you’ll stumble across some of the most spectacular landscapes in the United States. There are deep forested valleys, giant sequoias, extensive meadows, sparkling waterfalls, just to name a few.
For a one-of-a-kind couples adventure, be sure to explore the park’s 750 miles of trails, which will take you to discover scenic natural features like the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias — the largest sequoia grove in Yosemite, home to more than 500 mature sequoias —, the Tuolumne Meadows, surrounded by snow-dusted peaks and domes, and the wildflower dotted Hetch Hetchy Valley.
Are you and your loved one feeling extra adventurous? Then make sure to go rafting along the Merced River, and stick around for the evening, as Yosemite has a very dark night sky, which makes it a great place for stargazing!
Redwood National Park
Adventure lies around every corner in the Redwood National Park. Located along the coast of northern California, the park encompasses a dreamy scenario filled with extensive prairies, oak woodlands, rivers, and 40 miles of rugged coastline. Not by chance, it’s a sought-after getaway for the ultimate romance in California.
There are several ways of uncovering the mother-nature-designed marvels of the Redwood National Park. The park is home to a bountiful of scenic drives, which leads visitors through ancient forests, upland prairies, and oak woodlands, and more than 200 miles of trails weaving through a variety of environments.
During your adventurous errands Redwood National Park, get ready to have close encounters with mountain beavers, chipmunk, raccoon, California brown pelicans, and other fascinating creatures!
Located on California’s Sierra Nevada mountains, Mammoth Lakes is an atmospheric town that boasts year-round activities for the adrenaline-seeker couples.
When visiting the city, you’ll quickly discover that one of the best ways to spend a weekend around is by staying outdoors. So grab a bottle of water, some comfy shoes, and a few snacks, because you’re about to get active!
The local trails are a must-see, as they lead you to amazing alpine lakes and majestic waterfalls that you wouldn’t see anywhere else in the world.
Another great way of catching a glimpse of Mammoth Lakes’ natural beauty is by boating on Mammoth Lakes Basin. From the water, you’ll be granted privileged views of the surrounding mountains and distinctive geological features.
For a life-changing vacation, take advantage of the stunning campsites that are located in Mammoth Lakes – several of which are located near alpine lakes and in forested streamside settings. There’s nothing more romantic than waking up to the sound of wild birds and the view of gorgeous mountains!
Often regarded as “San Francisco’s Brooklyn”, Oakland is a charm-filled destination that captivates urban explorers with a range of experiences so gloriously wide, that they can’t help but falling in love for the city.
Located just across San Francisco Bay, Oakland is the perfect fit for couples who want to indulge in a well-curated selection of cosmopolitan amenities. So, if your idea of romance involves trying out lip-smacking restaurants, snooping around quaint museums and relaxing in lush urban parks, this is the right place for you.
The city’s food scene spans from impeccable upscale eateries to multicultural streetfood stalls. For a more upscale dining experience, book a table at Commis. This two-starred Michelin restaurant is praised for its signature slow-poached egg yolk in a bed of onion- and malt-infused cream, and Carrot tartare with young coconut and mint.
Foodies seeking a more laidback experience can’t pass the opportunity to visit La Selva Taqueria for some delicious chicken tacos.
Between a meal and another, be sure to explore Oakland’s endless expanses of green. From the idyllic Morcom Rose Garden to Tilden Regional Park, the city is filled with enchanting places that are perfect for a day around nature!
Nestled on a headland surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, Mendocino is a small town with huge charm. Thanks to its rugged backdrop setting dotted with cliffside trails and beaches, this coastal destination has been captivating couples for years.
You’ll want to visit this atmospheric destination especially for its magical natural features that provides couples with a place of beauty and tranquility as an escape from the everyday pressures of life. Just two miles north of downtown Mendocino lies the Russian Gulch State Park, a dreamy nature sanctuary that encompasses pristine beaches, a 36-foot waterfall, coves, tide pools and 15 miles of trails.
The Mendocino Headlands State Park is another must-visit getaway in the city. Featuring scenic trails, secluded beaches, dramatic cliffs and hidden grottos, the park is perfect for those hailing from concrete jungles.
Cozy inns and B&Bs also make Mendocino one of the most amazing getaways in Northern California for couples. For a well-worth relaxing vacation, book a stay at the comfy Brewery Gulch Inn. All of the inn’s 10 rooms have fireplaces, fresh flowers and feather beds, which are the perfect ingredients for the ultimate romantic holiday!
Everything about Carmel-by-the-Sea screams romance. A crown jewel spiked in the Monterey Peninsula, this charming coastal town has some of the most scenic landscapes of California, comfy boutique hotels, gorgeous vistas, quaint art galleries, fairy-tale-like parks, and more.
A great way of taking in Carmel’s whimsical beauty is by driving along the 17-Mile Drive, a scenic road through Pebble Beach and Pacific Grove. During the ride, you and your loved one will be rewarded with amazing views of coastal cliffs, pristine beaches, and lush forests.
For a romantic day around nature, head over to the Point Lobos State Natural Reserve. Known as a fine spot for scuba diving, Point Lobos happens to be one of the most beautiful state parks in California, and it encompasses several miles of hiking trails, endangered archeological sites, unique geological formations, and bountiful wildlife.
For a more cosmopolitan outing, be sure to stroll around Ocean Avenue, which is lined with tempting boutiques, and visit the lovely Carmel Mission Basilica, a century-old restored Franciscan mission surrounded by verdant gardens.
A rugged stretch of California’s central coast, Big Sur is often referred to as one of the most scenic destinations in the Golden State. Located where the staggering Santa Lucia Mountains and the Pacific Ocean meet, this gorgeous region features a medley of natural features, from redwood forests to seaside cliffs.
Staying outdoors is one of the most delightful ways of enjoying a romantic trip to Big Sur. Couples can visit the well-known Pfeiffer Beach, home to the picture-perfect Keyhole Rock formation, and spend an entire day at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. Home to 300-foot ancient redwoods, this otherworldly park also gestures an 80-foot waterfall that drops from granite cliffs into the ocean waters.
Make sure to also drive along the famous Bixby Bridge, which rises 260 feet above the bottom of a steep canyon and offers the most scenic views of the majestic Big Sur with its endless miles of coastline.
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