The amazing thing about the West Coast is that it is still mostly wild, open, and astoundingly beautiful country, where you can drive for miles and miles and have the scenery all to yourself.
Sonoma Coast State Park
South of Jenner and the Russian River, Hwy-1 hugs the coast along 10 miles of rocky coves and sandy beaches, collectively protected as Sonoma Coast State Park (707/875-3483). Starting with Goat Rock at the southern lip of the Russian River mouth, a bluff-top trail leads south past intriguingly named and usually unpopulated pocket strands like Blind Beach, Schoolhouse Beach, Shell Beach, Wright’s Beach (site of the park’s main beachfront campground), and Salmon Creek Beach.
At the southernmost end, Sonoma Coast State Park broadens to include the wildflower-covered granite promontory of Bodega Head, which juts into the Pacific and provides a great vantage point for watching the gray whale migrations in winter.