Even as a native Californian, when I think of Northern California, I think of the Bay Area. The Golden Gate Bridge. Napa Valley wineries. Half Moon Bay. And did I mention the wineries? Sure, I had heard of places like Mendocino County, but I'd never successfully identify it on a map. So, when I was invited on a journey to California's "Lost Coast," my natural reaction was, "Huh?" Little did I know, I was about to explore one of my home state's most jaw-dropping, unexplored regions. Let me tell you, it's the travel destination your Instagram feed has been missing.
The region, which includes the counties of both Humboldt and Mendocino, is affectionately known as the "Lost Coast" due to a striking depopulation in the 1930s, after the Gold Rush, when the state refused to expand highways through the district; it was simply too difficult and expensive due to the coastline's rocky terrain. Even today, the area is largely quiet and untouched. One local mentioned his town's highway sign boasted a population of 299, when in reality it was closer to 50. If you're looking to get away — and actually, like, get away — this is the place for you.
Getting there is no small feat, however. With Oakland International being the closest major airport, the location is a whopping five-hour drive minimum. For those traveling on a tight turnaround (such as myself), a time-consuming road trip was not an option. Therefore, we only had one choice: taking a private jet.
Convenient? No. Kardashian AF? You bet.
We landed in the tiniest airport I've ever seen. In fact, I'd say that "airport" is a bit of an exaggeration; it was more like a one-room office next to an airstrip.
From the airport, it was a short, scenic drive (through the area where Murder She Wrote and The Karate Kid: Part III were reportedly filmed) to my hotel, The Inn at Newport Ranch. The 2,200 acre property, which was somehow both stunning and charming, boasts both coastline views and Redwood forests that have been virtually untouched for decades.
The remote nature of the region makes it an unforgettable location for animal lovers. Just a few steps outside my hotel room, I spotted whales, a family of roughly 60 sea lions, a resting elk, cows (OK, not so exotic), and a whole host of birds. According to the staff, that barely scratches the surface. Not gonna lie, at one point I was told I had just missed a family of otters and I'm still a little bitter. As a city girl, I found myself regularly scooping my jaw off the floor at the variety and accessibility I had to wildlife.
In my experience, travel has generally been centralized around sightseeing — rushing around to see landmarks, museums, and beyond — which is one reason this trip felt so refreshing. Instead of waking up early to hit up destination after destination, it was a much-needed relief to spend a couple days just clearing my mind with adventures and fresh air.
I went on epic hikes across the coastline. I rode an ATV over grassy fields. I canoed through the fog in the most pristine river I've ever seen. I even had my first experience seeing the massive California redwoods while off-roading in the new 2020 Subaru Outback. Yes, you read that right. I — a woman who is too scared to ride a Bird Scooter for fear of falling and cracking my spine (or dying) — actually managed to traverse through trees, creeks, and over mountains. It felt tremendously badass and exhilarating.
At night, my group bundled up in blankets and gathered around a bonfire at the inn to roast s'mores. Yes, while the weather might be sweltering around the rest of the country — particularly in my hometown of NYC — the "Lost Coast" weather was cool and foggy, allowing for the actual roasting of sweet treats... and I'm definitely not complaining about it. As someone who hates sweating, it was a welcomed relief to be able to throw on a sweater and leggings again.
Each night, the sunset rolled on and changed color for over an hour. I'm not sure how that is even possible — but, hey, science?
The best part of the excursion, however, was something I didn't see coming: For a majority of the trip, I didn't get a single bar of cell reception. And you know what? I didn't care.
I don't generally think of myself as smartphone obsessive. Sure, I like Instagram and I scroll through Twitter as much as the next gal, but I tend to think my boundaries are solid. This trip was eyeopening because, for the first time in a while, I wasn't focused on my FOMO. It felt great to disconnect, to not think about likes or #latergrams, to just be present with my surroundings and the people around me; to feel the fresh ocean air fill the expanse of my lungs — and think of that and that alone.
So, whether you're trying to impress your IG friends (no judgement), or looking to disconnect completely, California's "Lost Coast" has some special magic for everyone. And if you happen to see an otter, do me a favor and DM me a pic.