California is the beating heart of the United States. It’s the place where dreams can come true, with Hollywood and a vast number of A-listers to prove it. And from the state capital of Sacramento to cultural San Francisco, from the rolling hills of San Jose to larger-than-life Los Angeles, and then down to tropical San Diego, you are simply spoilt for choice.
But that’s not all. Head off the beaten track and you’ll find that California has abundant treasures, tucked away from the main tourist haunts. We’re sure you’ll agree there is so much more to California than what you see on the silver screen and its wine (although we do love the wine). Here are five of our favourites from its hidden gems:
College Cove, Trinidad State Beach
You’ll find this secluded enclave in northern California, located near Eureka in the town of Trinidad. About half a mile from the main Trinidad State Beach you will find College Cove and, after the little hike down, you’ll be greeted by possibly one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. You can stroll along the beach and gaze in awe at little waterfalls as they cascade into rolling surf. There’s an almost Hawaiian feel to it, and it’s the perfect place to sit in the shade or bask in the warmth of the California sun. Sunrises don’t get much better here either.
Badwater Basin, Death Valley National Park
This white landscape gets its name from the spring-fed pool in the salts of the basin: the water is undrinkable, or “Badwater”. A honeycomb patterns that stretch across the land are an example of nature at work and, although largely uninhabited, there are still a few animals and plants here, take the Badwater snail for example. The photo opportunities here are endless so don’t forget your camera and it gets very warm in the afternoon so a morning walk is the best way to appreciate the salt flats in all their glory. Whatever the time of day, be sure to wear a hat and carry water.
Glass Beach, Fort Bragg
The weathered glass pebbles at Glass Beach aren’t natural phenomenon, but they do show nature at work. They show how our incredible planet has dealt with old bottles, window panes, even cars that were dumped in the ocean. Nature has slowly crushed and worn them down, leaving California with a rainbow glass beach that shimmers in the sunlight. It has transformed decades of rubbish into something beautiful.
It might not be great for sunbathing but it is certainly a unique photo opportunity. If you’re lucky you might even see a seal or two. The beach is free to visit; all the locals ask is that you don’t take the glass home, no matter how small. Instead, leave it there for others to see and to experience the might of the ocean.
Calling all history buffs! Stepping into the city of Placerville in El Dorado County is like stepping back in time. The charming community was forged during the gold rush era, named after the placer gold deposits found in its riverbeds, and you can still see the influence of this precious metal everywhere.
Not only is it a gold rush town but it is also sometimes known as ‘Hangtown’ – after gold was first discovered here in 1848, thousands of men came to work the land in search of their own piece of gold. Murders and robberies become frequent and of course the punishments were swift. You can still see the large wooden platform which was used for the public hangings.
The Sunken City, San Pedro
With its post-apocalyptic Mad Max feel, the Sunken City was once a beautiful, exclusive estate built in the 1920s to offer its residents incredible views of the Pacific Ocean. But after a series of landslides, the homes began to slump slowly towards the ocean. It was abandoned in 1929 as the ocean continued to sweep away the land at a staggering rate of around a foot a day. All but two of the exclusive bungalows were removed, leaving six acres of roads and sidewalks lined with disused palm trees. What’s left now is the ruins of the homes and an assortment of unique graffiti designs. Artists have been visiting this place for many years so nearly every inch is covered in drawings.
The Sunken City attracts plenty of visitors, despite the no trespassing signs, and there is a project in the pipeline to open it up to the public.