Stinson Beach is a wonderful place to experience northern California beach culture. The living is good in this tiny village, and Stinson Beach vacation rentals range from casual to luxurious. Crystal blue waters glisten just beyond the constantly rolling surf, and the sandy beach stretches for miles. Visitors come from San Francisco and surrounding areas to enjoy a day at the beach. Some sections of beach are sparsely populated, making it a serenely beautiful place to enjoy quiet contemplation. Discover more great places to stay during your visit to the northern California coast.

1. Stinson Beach, California

Source: Flickr / 305 Seahill

Stinson Beach is a popular vacation destination located a mere 35-minutes from bustling San Francisco. If you’re looking for a traditional sandy beach that has more sand than rocks, you’ve found it. The clean, soft sand feels good underneath bare feet, and rolling tides provide non-stop natural entertainment. Secure a luxury home near the sand and surf, and walk to the beach whenever the mood strikes. Shops and restaurants are also nearby. Stop by the local bookstore for intriguing beach reading the material. Or, enjoy a beach picnic or barbecue while gazing at a spectacular view of the distant horizon.

2. San Francisco, CA

Source: Flickr / Jeff Gunn

The magnificent Golden Gate Bridge towers over crashing waves below, providing a stunning entrance to San Francisco. This welcoming city by the bay is famous for its hilly neighborhoods and vintage street cars. You can find your dream luxury condo or home downtown, or in one of the city’s historic enclaves. Get ready for non-stop fun as you make your way to must see attractions such as Golden Gate Park, Pier 39, Chinatown, Lombard Street, and Alcatraz. Tour options include seeing the sites by foot, cable car, street car, hippy bus, and bicycle. Take your time and explore something new each day of your visit.

3. Oakland, California

Source: Flickr / Jack Snell

Oakland is the most populous city in Alameda County, and this port city shares coastal waters with sister city, San Francisco. The expansive Oakland Bay Bridge provides a scenic backdrop for the city’s skyline. Choose a luxury home in one of the city’s numerous neighborhood areas close to cultural attractions, shops, and restaurants. Being that it’s one of the most walkable cities in the U.S., snapping pics while strolling city streets is a nice alternative to driving. The Bay Bridge Trail is a natural walking stop for awesome views of the Golden Gate Bridge. Fun family attractions include the Oakland Zoo, the Oakland Museum of California, Children’s Fairyland, and Redwood Regional Park.

4. Daly City, California

Source: Flickr / Michael Fraley

Ready to take a break and do some first-rate shopping and site seeing? Head to Daly City. Located in San Mateo County, Daly City is a populous city ideal for those seeking a suburban living. Choose a luxury condo or home in a family-friendly neighborhood near shopping and restaurants. For shopping excursions, find unique items at the Serramonte Center, Westlake Shopping Center, or the St. Francis Shopping Center. When you want to kick back and relax, Thornton Beach State Park is a beautiful place for walking, lounging, and starting a sea shell collection. Want to see the ocean on horseback? Saddle-up at Mar Vista Stables.

5. San Rafael, California

Source: Flickr / Mike Fernwood

San Rafael got its start as a Spanish mission, and it occupies the North Bay coastal region. All it takes is one visit to fall in love with the area, and there are comfortable luxury homes near area attractions, restaurants, and shops. Check out the Marin County Civic Center, a structure designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Another beautiful building to snap photos of is the Mission San Rafael Arcangel. While romping at the beach, you can enjoy a family picnic at scenic China Camp State Park. Up for some wine tasting? Spend a few hours at the Mountain View Winery and Tasting Room.

6. Larkspur, California

Source: Flickr / Sharon Hahn Darlin

Larkspur may not be a famous destination as larger cities in the area, but if you’re looking for a small town to hide away in, consider vacationing here. The town served as a backdrop for a couple of films, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to take great photos. Select a cozy, centrally located home near scenic spots, restaurants, and shopping. Put on comfortable shoes and head for Walk Marin to enjoy gorgeous views of the bay, lush greenery, and mountains. Marin County Mart is a wonderful place to enjoy dining, live entertainment, and boutique shopping.

7. Novato, California

Source: Flickr / Roxanne Ready

Novato is a family-friendly North Bay city in Marin County. Find a cozy Bed and Breakfast, condo, or home centrally located near museums, parks, golfing, and restaurants. You can spend the afternoons learning new facts at the Marin Museum of the American Indian, the Marin Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Space Station Museum. Then, after the museums, you can indulge in wine tasting at the Trek Winery. If you enjoy cooking, you can find lots of fresh produce, meats, seafood, and bakery items at the Novato Farmers Market.

8. Tiburon, California

Source: Flickr / Scott Vachalek

Tiburon may be small, but it is certainly a lovely place to escape to when you’re ready for some quality rest and relaxation. Choose a cool bungalow or cozy home near specialty shops, restaurants, and scenic nature trails. You can let your free-spirited nature shine through as you make your way to the off-the-beaten-path hippie tree, the stunning view is worth the effort. Other uniquely-named nature spots to see include Old St. Hilary’s Open Space Preserve and Blackie’s Pasture. Notable parks with stunning views are Paradise Beach Park and Mt. Livermore.

9. Fremont, California

Source: Flickr / Charlie Day

Named after an explorer, this Alameda County city has a large population. Yet, the local vibe is casual and family-friendly. You can relax and enjoy life while living in a luxury home located in a well-maintained neighborhood. With over 55,000 trees located throughout the city, Fremont lives up to its Tree City USA nickname. View some of those trees in rustic areas such as Coyote Hills Regional Park, Central Park, and Mission Peak Regional Preserve. Quarry Lakes Regional Recreation Area is another scenic place to walk trails and snap memorable photos. Bring the kids to Aqua Adventure Waterpark for splashing good fun.

10. San Jose, California

Source: Flickr / VV Nincic

Historic San Jose is the cultural and political center of Silicon Valley, and you don’t need to be a techie to appreciate its charms. Thanks to the booming high-tech industry, San Jose has a large, energetic population. Find a chic luxury home near cultural attractions, restaurants, shops, and interesting museums. Take your kids to the Children’s Discovery Museum, where they can have a blast playing with interactive exhibits. The whole family can wear smiles at the Happy Hollow Park and Zoo. You can learn and admire the Egyptian artifacts at the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum. Into high-tech? Check out The Tech Museum of Innovation.

11. Stockton, California

Source: Flickr / Robert Cutts

Stockton is conveniently located between San Francisco and Sacramento, and cozy homes are available near activities, restaurants, and shopping. If you enjoy vintage architecture the Historic Bob Hope Theatre is worth seeing. Your little ones can learn new things and have fun at the Children’s Museum Stockton. Sports fans in the family will enjoy watching professional sports events at the Stockton Arena or Banner Island Ballpark. If you need fresh food, head to Stockton’s Certified Farmers Market for a fine selection of products and more.