Weekend Getaway: North Coast

Where to eat and drink on your next road trip

The gorgeous Northern California coast, just a short drive away from the city, is ripe with places to eat, drink and explore. Sometimes known as the Lost Coast, the wild, rocky shoreline is a stunningly beautiful place for cliff-side walks, mushroom foraging and even abalone diving (the season's just around the corner!). And there's delicious food and drink aplenty along Highway 1 to fuel your adventure. Here's how to do it right:

Friday

Skip out of work early if you can. Drive north from San Francisco via 101, crossing through Petaluma toward Bodega Bay. Stop for a road-trip dinner at Rocker Oysterfeller's, a California-style soul-food joint hidden away in the farmland of Valley Ford. Fill up on Tomales Bay oysters ($2.50 to $2.75) and comfort-food mains like fried chicken ($20) and creamy Estero Gold grits with mushroom ragout ($24).

Head north along hairpin turns on Highway 1 until you reach Sea Ranch (about three hours from San Francisco). Check in for the night at the Sea Ranch Lodge, which emulates the tiny town's distinct architecture, complete with ocean views.

Saturday

Get an early start and head north for about 30 minutes to Point Arena to grab pastries from Franny's Cup & Saucer, a mother-daughter bakery with a Chez Panisse alum at the helm. Snag fresh croissants, scones and muffins ($2.50 to $3.50)—and absolutely stock up on sweets for later. Take your treats with you to explore the Point Arena Lighthouse. You must climb to the top—it's the tallest lighthouse on the Pacific Coast, and you'll want to work up an appetite.

Continue up the coast to the tiny town of Elk, where you'll want to stop for a lunch (or second breakfast, or brunch) at Queenie's Roadhouse Cafe, a down-home destination for hearty servings of brunch classics. We love the buttermilk hotcakes ($7.20 to $12) and the huevos rancheros ($13.95), but everything goes well with a cup of coffee.

Cross into Mendocino, and park long enough to stroll through the charming seaside town. But save your walking strength for the Russian Gulch State Park. You'll discover stunning headland walks, hikes through heavily wooded Redwood forests and an ocean-formed "blow hole" that rises dramatically at high tide.

Head to Fort Bragg and reward your efforts with a one-two punch of delicious local beer and ice cream. Start with the sweet stuff at Cowlick's Hand Made Ice Cream, a wonderful local creamery with rotating seasonal flavors. Cross your fingers that they have candy cap mushroom ice cream on hand; the fall-only flavor is made with locally foraged 'shrooms and tastes like rich, earthy maple syrup. Move on to North Coast Brewing to taste some of the best California beers around, including Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout and the dangerously strong Brother Thelonious Belgian Style Abbey Ale.

Head back toward Sea Ranch, but first pop in for dinner at the Anchor Bay Thai Kitchen, a surprising find offering local fish, fragrant curries and a nice selection of local beer and wine. Absolutely order dessert: The restaurant serves gelato made fresh by Pazzo Marco Creamery, a super-local operation that happens to make the best gelato ever. (P.S. You can buy half pints of Pazzo Marco gelato and its fresh-made Greek yogurt at the Surf Supermarket in Gualala.)

Sunday

Sleep in (you've earned it). Then head to Twofish Baking Company before beginning the drive home. In addition to legendary sticky buns ($4.50), Twofish is known for its fresh-baked breads—Sunday is sourdough day, so try not to sleep too late as it's been known to sell out. As you make your way south, go ahead and stop at The Tides in Bodega Bay. Not only was it featured in the Alfred Hitchcock classic, The Birds, but they sell clam chowder to go ($10.50 to $16). Perfect for a Sunday night dinner once you're back in SF.