With an inland perch a short drive north of Napa Valley and the Bay, Lake County serves up 1,327 square miles of scenic beauty and natural wonders. Centered around Clear Lake, the largest natural lake in California, Lake County offers an outdoor paradise, with views and action to load a week or a weekend ... whatever you're after.
You could take a Greyhound, if that's how you roll or if you just want to take your time for the adventure. But at less than 150 miles, a run to Lake County is a modest road trip distance that allows you to pack your getaway with time on the water or trail, where you mean to be.
The most direct route is to cross the Golden Gate Bridge and run Highway 101 north until you need the turn east on Highway 175 at Hopland. That carries you most of the way there.
If you want to cross the Bay to Oakland and drive Interstate 80 to Interstate 505 and take the more inland route, it will only cost you a few more minutes.
Maybe consider making a loop and try both routes for scenic variety.
A third option, if a little slower and with tolls, takes you off I-80 at Vallejo for a turn north through Napa. Stop for a wine tasting and lunch or just see what all the noise about Napa is, if it's new to you.
The Clear Lake Cottages & Marina is centrally located in the town and Lake County, on the east side of Clear Lake. As the name implies, the calm environment and beautiful view of the lake is right out your door. There is a seasonal outdoor swimming pool and a private beach. The cottages have the amenities you'd expect -- air conditioning, cable TV, etc. -- and a concierge service can set you up with the details of surrounding opportunities, like golfing and outdoor life on the water.
The Thorn Hill Vineyards Villa Suites near Clear Lake Riviera on the west side of Clear Lake are every bit as special as the name implies. Rent a villa at this boutique vineyard located tucked into the countryside only minutes from Clear Lake. Meet the winemakers, become par of the story of Thorn Hill and, of course, taste, taste, taste.
Tallman Hotel in Upper Lake (at the north end) vies for highest rated hotel in the area. It includes a bar and restaurant with live entertainment, and serves a continental breakfast with organic coffee and homemade granola. Sample local wines, micro-brews and cocktails at the adjacent Blue Wing Saloon. If tasting from this part of wine country is your goal, Lake County Wine Studio is across the street and Ceago Vinegarden Winery is less than 10 minutes away.
Blue Wing Saloon in Upper Lake offers a shady outdoor spot for a relaxing lunch or dinner. Its bison burgers, calamari and crab cakes are among the reasons visitors passing through consider the Blue Wing a "must-stop" spot to sit back and fill up. Micro-brews and local wines also are ready to be poured when your mood strikes for a sip.
Park Place has been in Lakeport for decades gets high marks for its mix of American and Mediterranean fare. There's outdoor seating and a lake view. The gorgonzola bread has been described as "heaven," while the lemon cheesecake, pesto pasta and shrimp and salads also get raves. But we don't want to sell the menu short. It's deep and worthy. Go exploring.
Main Street Bar & Grill in Clear Lake gets the nod for American bar and grill setting. Get a simple breakfast, lunch or dinner that keeps things easy but filling. The plates are full and the prices modest. Service gets high ratings for its friendly and accommodating staff.
Clear Lake is the largest natural lake in California, and its the hub life of Lake County revolves around. There's hiking, fishing, boating, wine tasting, bicycling and other outdoor activities for relaxing or revving up the adventure.
There are a host of wineries in the large loop around Clear Lake. Try Brassfield Estate Winery and Cache Creek Vineyards in Clear Lake Oaks, on the east side of the lake. Ceago Estate Wines in Nice get great reviews for the friendly folks and beautiful scenery at the north end of the lake. Steele Winery and Laujor Estate Winery are in Kelseyville on the west side of the lake.
Pick up some "Old West" history and dust at the Ely Stage Stop & Country Museum in Kelseyville. It's home to the Lake County Historical Society. But plan your schedule for the 11 a.m. - 3 p.m. weekend windows its open, so not to be disappointed.
Running Creek Casino in Upper Lake can be your respite from the outdoors, especially if you want a place to duck in from the heat of summer and try your hand at blackjack or the slots. Make it a lunch or dinner spot for good eats at moderate prices, and keep the good times rolling at the dice tables.