Northern California is one of the most beautiful locations for an elopement. Whether you want to elope beneath a canopy of giant Redwoods or on the rocky coastal beaches with the most epic views, there are so many options. But when it comes to picking an elopement location, you always hear the same places, so I am here to tell you that there are so many more underrated Northern California elopement locations that are far less known about. And as a PNW elopement photographer, I have captured some of the most beautiful elopements at these locations. So in this blog, I take a deep dive into unique Northern California elopement locations that you probably don’t know about!
Northern California has so many iconic and beautiful locations for an elopement but those spots are growing a lot in popularity. So, I wanted to share some of my favorite Northern California elopement locations that are less popular but definitely just as amazing!
Gualala is a quiet coastal town about 90 minutes North of San Francisco. Known for its rugged beaches and serene coastal views, it’s an amazing place to say your vows with the person you love most. It has tons of options for different beaches and hikes to choose from and since they are all so close together, my recommendation would be to do 2 or 3 different locations.
Bowling Ball Beach is a super unique beach known for its bowling ball-shaped rocks that you can see during low tide. This is such a unique and cool spot for some elopement photos!
Gualala Regional Park is a beautiful beachside park where the river meets the sea. It offers tons of great camping, hiking, and beautiful views that would make for a great elopement location.
Cooks Beach is a beautiful flat, crescent beach with fine white sand. It is surrounded by a black rock-walled cove creating the most stunning serene and intimate spot to say your vows!
If you’re wanting a coastal location for your elopement that offers seclusion, expansive views of the ocean, and sea stacks, then Hearn Gulch is perfect for you.
Salt Point State Park offers picturesque views of the rocky coastlines and close to 20 miles of different hiking trails.
Jennifer Headlands Preserve is a beautiful area of grasslands and redwood trees that overlooks the ocean. This is the perfect area to set up a romantic picnic to celebrate your new marriage!
Bodega Bay is a super small coastal town about 90 minutes north of San Francisco. This area is super well known for having tons of outdoor activities including whale watching, horseback riding, surfing, kayaking/paddleboarding, and golfing. One of the most beautiful locations to have your ceremony here would be Bodega Head. It is a grassy area found on top of the cliffside that overlooks the beautiful coast.
Achor Bay is a super unique beach area in Northern California because the beach actually faces more South than West. So when you are there, you will notice that the sun doesn’t set over the ocean. Because of the direction it faces, this location is super protected from the winds that blow from the Northwest. The coastal shape of this bay combined with the direction it faces makes this place super unique as it doesn’t experience the brutal fog that often comes with Norcal beaches. And of course, its white sand beaches make it that much more beautiful of a place.
Sea Ranch is a sleepy town 10 minutes south of Gualala. This place is super unique because the residential community was designed and built to blend in with its natural environment as much as possible. With a small population, this is one of the best coastal cities in Norcal for an intimate and private elopement. The springtime here is absolutely stunning as the green meadows are bursting with liveliness and daisies. There are deer roaming around everywhere and down on the beach you will find sea lions basking in the sun. This is truly one of those places where nature is truly thriving and it makes me so happy to see it!
Point Reyes National Seashore is a stunning stretch of coastline in Northern California that offers several amazing locations for an elopement. This protected coastline has everything from rocky cliffsides along the beach to an epic waterfall that literally falls straight onto the beach. The best spots here for an elopement or pictures include:
Alamere Falls is such a cool location. After a long 6.5 miles hike (13 miles round-trip), you will reach the most beautiful location where this waterfall cascades over the cliff’s edge onto the beach flowing right into the ocean.
If there’s one place that I highly recommend you stop at to take some photos on your elopement day, it’s Cypress Tree Tunnel. This is a beautiful little road surrounded by a literal tunnel of trees that feels like it is straight out of a fairytale.
For mile-long views of the Point Reyes National Seashore, the best place is to head to the overlook that also has a trail to the lighthouse. Here you will have tons of grasslands, canopy trees, and perfect ocean views for an intimate place to say your vows and take some beautiful photos.
Black Sand Beach is by far one of the more unique places to elope in Northern California. The black sand is incredible to see in person and makes for such an unforgettable location for photos. The “black sand” provides a stunning contrast to the big blue ocean and the lush green cliffs.
Petroliai is a small town found in Humboldt County that is truly some of the only coastline in California that is untouched. It is the only coastal California area without any highways making it truly special. So ultimately, the best way to reach the beautiful beaches in this area is to hike. With no coastal highways in the area, there are very few people here making it one of the most private places to elope. The best hike for an elopement is Punta Gorda Lighthouse via Lost Coast Trail which is about a 7-mile round-trip hike. The other hikes in this area are more than 20 miles roundtrip.
Luckily, getting your California marriage license is one of the easier steps in the elopement planning process. In California, you will need to obtain your marriage license from ANY country clerk’s office but I definitely recommend going to one that is close to where you are eloping. You will be required to set an appointment to pick up your marriage license in person and it will be valid for 90 days before it expires.
Here is what you will need to to do obtain your California marriage license:
While you can definitely visit Northern California any time of the year for your elopement, there are times of the year that are much more ideal. I personally love the spring and fall months as there are far fewer crowds. In the springtime everything is super green from all the rain, the flowers are blooming, and the waterfalls are flowing. And in the fall, all of the leaves are changing colors which is absolutely stunning. Summer is also a beautiful time of year but it can be pretty foggy and there are a LOT more visitors.
Hi, I’m Devin – your Northern California Elopement Photographer! As a PNW native and lover of anything and everything that involves nature and adventure, I’m here to support you in planning your perfect elopement.
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