Pacific Coast Highway: If a visit to Mendocino and Humboldt counties entails departing from the Bay Area, a healthy portion of the drive will run up Highway 1. The scenic pullouts are too numerous to count and sadly, if you stop to hike along every beach, you won’t get very far. In Fort Bragg, Glass Beach is a must and it’s not far from the brewery. Residents used to literally dump their trash over the low cliffs into the Pacific until it became illegal in 1967. What remains, other than the odd rusty car part, is a beach twinkling with smoothed sea glass. No matter how many kids and jewelry makers fill their pockets, Glass Beach offers a dazzling amount of color in addition to tide pools with starfish and sea urchins.
Avenue of the Giants: This 31-mile road that parallels Highway 101 just north of the town of Garberville curves through awe-inspiring groves of redwood trees that can grow taller than 300 feet and wider than 20 feet. Signs point you to the ones you can literally drive through. Don’t dare stay in the car; a great place for hiking around or lying down and appreciating their majesty is Rockefeller Grove.
Virginia Dare Trail: Covering the OBX’s peninsula, Highway 12 parallels 158, known locally as the byway. With the Atlantic on your left and the sound on your right, this pleasant drive glides along to the entrance of Jockey Ridge State Park. The dunes hold the ocean back from taking over the island so this is the perfect place to appreciate its delicate nature. Ride the wind, either hang gliding, kite surfing, or kite boarding along the beach. Speaking of which, the waters offer great fishing, snorkeling, scuba diving and, incredibly popular, exploring shipwrecks.
Ocean Highway: Offering a view of the rest of Eastern Carolina, the Ocean Highway predates Interstate 40, which culminates in Wilmington. To get there from the OBX, head south staying on Highway 12, which includes hopping on the free Cape Hatteras-Ocracoke Ferry followed by the longer and not-free Cedar Island-Ocracoke Ferry, which will carry you back to terra firma. Enjoy the scenic cruise that vacillates between bluffs and farmlands. By bypassing the inland interstates, the Ocean Highway rewards you not only with majestic vistas but, when you reach Wilmington, great Scottish ales at Front Street Brewing (9 North Front St.; frontstreetbrewery.com).
Brian Yaeger recently moved to Portland where he homebrews and is exploring the beers of the Pacific Northwest.