Here’s a drive more than worth a car rental from the city of San Francisco.

It was a rare, crystal-clear, northern California morning, and we were driving south along famous Highway One past Pacifica toward the small town of Pescadero. Climbing through Devil’s Slide, we could see the surf crashing on shore as calla lilies bloomed wildly beside the road’s edge. We were in no hurry, and stayed to the right to let cars pass so that we could savor the view, which seemed to change with every big bend in the road.

After about an hour, we turned left off the Coastal Highway and entered the tiny town of Pescadero, where a main drag with a few artisanal grocery stores, antique shops, and the historic Duarte’s Tavern about sums up the scene. We had extra time to kill before our lunch reservation and so we followed the road out of town to the east and just kept going to see what we could see, and soon enough were eucalyptus-lined fields studded with sheep, wildflower-blossoming hillsides, and herds of happy cows.

Back in town, we ate steamed artichokes at Duarte’s Tavern (they are famous for their artichoke soup), then hung a right out of town to visit the Harley Farms shop, where the cheese is so fresh you can see the goats it came from prancing around right outside. You can sample the different cheeses before you settle on which ones you want to buy (and trust me, only the most hardened vegan could resist making a purchase here), including beautiful cheeses wrapped in dill or treats like cranberries, apricots, or walnuts, and some adorned with gorgeous edible flower petals, almost too pretty to eat. (Almost.)

From there, we headed to Butano State Park, a gathering of redwoods rivaling the busier, more-visited stand of trees just across the Golden Gate in Muir Woods. Nature trails branched off around enormous trunks as sunlight filtered between the giant branches to the canopy below. Maybe because it was a week-day, but there was absolutely nobody there, which lent a lovely reverential quiet to the scenery that is so hard to find in California’s other more popular parks.

After that, we drove eastward again along Pescadero Creek Road through redwood-lined canyons on a spectacular stretch of winding road until it fed back into the road that would take us back to the coast, where we turned right to head north for a return back to city life, refreshed by a small-town break.

Photos courtesy of Linda Berg.

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