Central California has the country's prettiest beaches, hands down, bar none. They're rugged and foggy, secluded, and utterly breathtaking. They're not lined by boardwalks and souvenir shops like beaches on the East Coast or along the Gulf of Mexico. If you're not convinced, take Point Reyes National Seashore as proof, and in particular the scenic driving masterpiece that is the famous Cypress tree tunnel...
The tunnel is made up of Monterey cypress trees, located on the Point Reyes Peninsula. and it's a very popular scenic driving location, especially for photographers. The drive leads to a building that actually houses the Point Reyes National Seashore North District Operations Center.
Point Reyes is almost entirely separated from the mainland via a sunken rift in the San Andreas fault, and it's famed for its rugged coastal scenery, misty and hidden beaches, trails past untamed fields of wildflowers, and rare and endangered wildlife. Sounds pretty good, right?
88 Bear Valley Rd, Point Reyes Station, CA, US
The Point Reyes Lighthouse is one of the popular destinations on the shore, and with good reason: it's got an amazing view. The light was originally lit in 1870, and it's distinctive for being incredibly short (for a lighthouse, at least). It's only 37 feet tall, and built a little below the cliff (visitors must walk down 308 stairs to reach it) because it was built to guide ships through the fog, rather than around rocks, like most lighthouses. Point Reyes is known for weeks-long episodes of fog and frequent windstorms-- highlighting the coast's wild beauty. It's also the best place to watch for grey whales!
Point Reyes National Seashore, CA, US
Other attractions to keep an eye out for include the shipwreck in Inverness (it's just a little fishing boat, but it makes for a cool photo op), Chimney Rock Trail which will take you past beaches and into the ocean, and the rare tule elk which love to hang out on the grassy fields above the cliffs. And one of the coolest features of Point Reyes is the rare "tidefall", Alamere Falls. A tidefall is a waterfall that empties right into the ocean.
There's only one other famous one on the California coast: the stunning McWay Falls. There was once a path that took hikers to the falls along the Coast Trail, but ever since storm damaged closed the trail, the best way to reach this secluded gem is to head to Wildcat Campground and hike a mile south along the beach. Sure, it's a bit of a trek... but it's so worth it.