What to Do in Northern California, According to Catherine Bailey of Heath Ceramics

The owner of the iconic ceramic brand shares her favorite places to eat, stay, and explore in Northern California.

The Influencer: Catherine Bailey, Creative Director

Catherine Bailey owns Heath Ceramics with her husband Robin Petravic.

When she’s not steering the ship at the Sausalito headquarters for tabletop company Heath Ceramics, or overseeing its sprawling, sun-bathed showroom in San Francisco, Catherine Bailey likes to disappear into the quietest crevices of California. Places like casino-free North Lake Tahoe, or the old railway town of Truckee. And don’t even get her started on the Amtrak route connecting San Francisco to Los Angeles. “The train takes 14 hours when you could drive the same distance in six, but it’s spectacular,” says Bailey. “Some of the track crosses over closed government land, where there are no roads. You wouldn’t see this amazing stuff any other way.” What follows are Bailey’s other picks for getting off the beaten path in the Golden State.

Tartine Manufactory in San Francisco

Tartine Manufactory in San Francisco

Jeffery Cross/AFAR Media

Where to Eat

“The Mission is our favorite neighborhood in San Francisco. We’re based in the northeast corner, which has a very different character—it’s a little quieter, the streets are narrower, and it’s got a nice mix of older factory buildings and local businesses like Tartine Manufactory and Flour + Water.

“Here’s a tip for Tartine: They’re open for three meals, so you don’t have to go when they’re super busy. And while their baked goods are obviously amazing, I always buy full cakes there; they’re perfect for birthdays. The passion fruit Bavarian cake is my favorite. Though their bread and butter is amazing, you can find better croissants at Arsicault Bakery [in San Francisco’s Inner Richmond neighborhood]. It’s a tiny hole-in-the-wall place that is only open in the morning. There’s usually a line but it moves fast.”

Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur

Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur

Lisa Corson/AFAR Media

Where to Stay

Manka’s Inverness Lodge [in Inverness] is incredibly small—there’s only, like, 10 rooms—but it has these meticulously designed cabins. They’re rustic but luxurious. Manka’s also owned a nearby restaurant called Sir and Star (now closed), that served seasonal dishes like field mushrooms with Point Reyes cheese from small, local farms. [AFAR Tip: head to nearby Saltwater Oyster Depot in Inverness for lunch or dinner instead.]

“Another great place to stay is Cavallo Point in Sausalito, under the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s an old military base turned beautiful hotel, with the same owners as Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur. Cavallo Point is a real gem. I usually eat at the bar, where they serve the hotel’s full restaurant menu, or sit on the deck and watch the bridge. It’s right there in front of you, which is super special.”

What to Do for Fun

“People think Sausalito is cheesy because it’s got this touristy reputation for houseboats and all that, but it’s actually an amazing place with its own undiscovered areas. Caledonia Street has got great stuff, including one of the best sushi restaurants in the Bay Area (Sushi Ran), a fantastic little grocery store (Driver’s Market), and a solid Italian restaurant (Osteria Divino). Yet very few tourists go there because it’s not right where you get off the ferry; it’s another 10-minute walk.

“Jackson Square [in San Francisco] is another cool place to explore. They have a lot of new and interesting retail, including brands like Shinola and Isabel Marant. Out near the ocean, in the Sunset District, there’s some interesting stuff as well. Look for a surf shop called Mollusk and a very good restaurant called Outerlands.”

How to Get Outdoors

Yosemite is too packed; we go to Lassen Volcanic National Park instead. It doesn’t have a dramatic valley or anything, but it’s still fantastic. And it’s not on people’s radar, so if you’re looking to really immerse yourself in nature, instead of share it with 50,000 other people, it’s perfect. You can also camp right in the park at Manzanita Lake.

Death Valley is another great place to go—but in the winter, not summer. I went there in February last year and it was in the upper 40s and 50s at night, and then 60s and beautiful in the daytime. The main campgrounds are filled in February, but if you head to the north side, you don’t need a reservation.”

Andrew Parks is a content strategist for Explore Minnesota and sometime writer for such publications and brands as Condé Nast Traveler, Food & Wine, New York Magazine, Bandcamp, Apple, Red Bull and Bon Appétit.
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