Consisting of over 10,000 miles of coastline, the North of Ordinary region refers to four northern California counties, being Del Norte, Humboldt, Lake and Mendocino counties. Redwoods sprawl the inland forests; waves crash along the coastal cliffs; vast wine regions draw in those escaping the city; and abundant day and nighttime activities make for great multi-day itineraries for groups.
Del Norte County
Begin a journey through the region at the very top with Del Norte County. Crescent Trail Rides offers horseback riding tours through the old-growth Redwood forests. Beach rides along the coast are also offered.
“The beach ride takes [groups] through ancient tribal lands — including the historic Yontocket Indian Memorial Site — as well as the 4,000-acre Tolowa Dunes State Park,” said Lynnette Braillard, CEO and founder of LuLish — the destination marketing agency for Visit Del Norte County.
While on the coast, take advantage of Del Norte’s year-round whale watching with Stella’s Adventures, providing tours from the Crescent City Harbor. Indigenous owned, Klamath Jet Boat Tours operates tours to the mouth of the Klamath River on the Pacific, followed by an upriver adventure to see wildlife, historic cabins and more. Whitewater rafting and kayaking are available through Redwood Rides Adventure Outfitters.
Del Norte County is also teeming with nightlife and entertainment activities.
“With three casinos open 24 hours per day within Del Norte County, each offers much more than just Vegas-style gaming,” Braillard said.
Lucky 7 Casino & Hotel is perched on the Pacific Coast, boasting a geothermal pool and hot tub in addition to its spacious rooms and vast gaming options. Nestled in the state’s Redwood National & State Parks, The Redwood Hotel & Casino is also a top option for groups.
Coming spring 2022, the Elk Valley Casino will grace a new location along with new entertainment opportunities, in addition to its 300-plus slots and bingo.
Head down to Humboldt County — also home to Redwood National Park — and discover several outfitters offering thrilling tours like kayaking, hiking, whitewater rafting and much more.
Humboldt is brimming with history, too. Groups can see several products being made with 19th-century craft techniques at Blue Ox Historic Village. Large group guided tours are available, and offer an up-close look into woodworking, printing, pottery and more. The village features several structures like a blacksmith and millwork shop.
Fort Humboldt State Historic Park is always a great addition to an itinerary, sitting on a bluff overlooking Humboldt Bay and offering stunning views.
Able to encompass Washington, D.C., Rhode Island and Delaware, Mendocino County boasts over 110 wineries and 12 designated wine growing regions.
“The destination offers a wealth of adventures, depending on clientele,” said Koleen Hamblin, spokesperson for Visit Mendocino County. “Mendocino County has a designated beer trek, inland and sea kayaking, the legendary Skunk Train and rail bikes, Michelin dining and a dedicated wellness focus with forest bathing at the top of the list.”
Combine history and nature with a ride on the world-famous Skunk Train, trekking through the old-growth redwoods since 1885. A member of ABA, NTA and many others, Skunk Train offers packages for groups.
Mendocino County is well known for being a “green” county, being the first county to ban the production of GMOs and having the reputation as “America’s Greenest Wine Region.”
Get a taste — literally and figuratively — for Mendocino’s several local brands using sustainable practices, including Parducci Wine Cellars, Anderson Valley Brewing Company, Pennyroyal Farm and many others.
“Key points of interest include the region’s top lighthouses, offbeat adventures including B. Bryan Preserve, vintage inns with llamas, retro lodges, and world-class stays at Harbor House Inn or The Inn at Newport Ranch, which are ideal full buy-outs for small groups,” Hamblin said.
Find one-of-a-kind experiences at B. Bryan Preserve, home to several species of zebra, giraffe and antelope. On a guided tour, get up-close to the animals and learn about these endangered species.
Tucked on the west inland side on Mendocino County lies Lake County, the smallest of the four North of Ordinary counties but with a vast history; it is home to the oldest lake in North America, Clear Lake. A popular vacation destination, Lake County brought in several celebrities during the golden era of Hollywood, including Charlie Chaplin, Jimmy Durantie, Jackie Gleason and others.
Visit Clear Lake State Park for water recreation and hiking trails. The on-site Visitors Center features displays on the area’s natural and cultural history, as well as an aquarium exhibit.
On the south shore of the lake lies Mount Konocti, a dormant volcano with 1,500 acres of stunning views and several hiking trails.
With high elevation and rich volcanic soil, Lake County is a fast-growing wine region. Multiple Napa Valley wineries grow their grapes in Lake County — a testament to its ideal growing climate.
Book a tasting at Brassfield Estate Winery and enjoy award-wining wines along with charcuterie boards and other snacks. Groups larger than six are treated to the winery’s outdoor picnic area.