12 Unique Places to Stay in Northern California

Posted by
Emily Pennington
February 24, 2023
Updated February 27, 2023

Photo: Airbnb

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Northern California is home to some of the most unforgettable mountains and forests on the planet, plus a ton of fun and funky lodging options to match.

Sharing a border with woodsy Oregon, travelers here can wind through stands of coastal redwoods, feel the spray of the mighty Pacific, go wine tasting in Napa, or summit a 14er in Shasta County, all within weekend driving distance of both San Francisco and Sacramento.

Whether you want to pop the question inside a forested fairy circle (look it up, it’s a thing), explore the national parks, or plan a whimsy-filled staycation in a San Francisco castle, we’ve got options for how to make your next Northern California vacation unforgettable. Read on for the most unique places to stay in the upper half of the Golden State.

1. San Francisco Proper Hotel

San Francisco Proper Hotel
Photo: San Francisco Proper Hotel
  • Location: San Francisco
  • Sleeps: 2+
  • Minimum stay: 1 night
  • Rates from: $271/night

The flagship location of a fantastically designed small chain of posh hotels by Kelly Wearstler, San Francisco’s Proper Hotel is a maximalist’s dream. Full of colorful vintage furniture, excellent artwork, brilliant pops of wallpaper, and just the right amount of whimsy, this Proper is one hotel you won’t soon forget. Plus, it’s conveniently pet-friendly and located in the central Mid-Market district.

One of the best parts of staying at the Proper Hotel is the food scene. Home to “the best rooftop bar in the city,” Charmaine’s, guests can marvel at the panoramic cityscape of historic Frisco before heading downstairs for a hip European-style dinner at La Bande. For brunch? Hit up the gorgeous, light-filled dining hall at the delightfully art deco Villon.

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Related read: The Ultimate Los Angeles to San Francisco Road Trip

2. A-Frame Cabin with a View

shasta cabin
Photo: Airbnb
  • Location: Shasta County
  • Sleeps: 4
  • Minimum stay: 1 night
  • Rates from: $208/night

This chic A-frame is the epitome of forest bathing with all the creature comforts of home. A two-bedroom, one-bath with sky-high windows, this hot little pad is brimming with tree-filled views, whether you’re grooving to the vintage Victrola, relaxing in the wood-paneled living room, or making a pancake brunch in the full kitchen.

Savor treehouse vibes (and views) from the massive wrap-around deck as you sip your morning cup of Joe, or simply lounge in plush bedding with a good book under the skylight.

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3. Immaculate Vintage Airstream

unique airstream northern california
Photo: Airbnb
  • Location: Mill Valley
  • Sleeps: 2
  • Minimum stay: 1 night
  • Rates from: $145/night

Tucked away just between Golden Gate National Recreation Area and Muir Beach, this adorable vintage Airstream trailer is a cozy stay for adventurous travelers looking to be near San Francisco, but out of the city’s hustle and bustle. Set in a tranquil backyard, the space is full of bright 1969-inspired décor.

Sleep on a luxe queen bed with 1,000 thread-count sheets, lather up with spa-inspired products in the travel-themed bathroom, fix up a feast in the cherry red full kitchen, and at night, drift off to the retro vibes of a lava lamp.

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Related read: 14 Unforgettable Hikes in Northern California

4. Architectural Coastal Home

Architectural Coastal Home
Photo: Airbnb
  • Location: Half Moon Bay
  • Sleeps: 8
  • Minimum stay: 2 nights
  • Rates from: $735/night

Epic architectural lines and clean neutrals are the name of the game at this two-bedroom, two-bathroom stunner in Northern California’s desirable Half Moon Bay area. Guests here will delight in seaside views, walk-in rain showers, and meditative, modern design.

Whether you’re staying up late to watch a movie on the large flat-screen TV (from a vintage egg chair or the immaculate sofa) or enjoying the birdsong and seals from the upstairs balcony, you’re sure to have a magical stay.

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5. Wilbur Hot Springs

Wilbur Hot Springs
Photo: Wilbur Hot Springs
  • Location: Williams
  • Sleeps: 2+
  • Minimum stay: 1 night
  • Rates from: $75 (camping), $196 (private room)

The quaint rooms at Wilbur Hot Springs are simple and sun-filled, perfect for mindful detox retreats when you’re looking to toss your phone into the bottom of your suitcase and soak up the solace of nature.

Featuring multiple hot pools, a cold plunge, a sauna, and dreamy yoga and massage spaces, you’re sure to find a wealth of relaxation on the property.

Guests at Wilbur can choose between cozy cabins with queen beds and half-baths, historic hotel rooms with communal baths, private rooms in the eco-fabulous Solar Lodge, and wooden platform tent camping sites. All lodging includes the use of the communal areas (think cozy lounges, a library, and a shared kitchen) of the main hotel.

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Related read: 11 Enchanted Glamping Retreats in Northern California

6. Fabulous Historic Ferryboat

Historic Ferryboat northern california
Photo: VRBO
  • Location: Marin County
  • Sleeps: 6
  • Minimum stay: 4 nights
  • Rates from: $800/night

This lovingly modernized, 2,500-square-foot lemon-tinted houseboat will have you singing “Yellow Submarine” non-stop on your next visit to the Bay Area. Filled with fun nautical touches (like a mirrored helm, kayak storage, and sea-blue cabinets), a fit-for-a-chef kitchen, and a sofa swing overlooking the San Francisco Bay, your family or friend group will find no shortage of things to make you smile once you step aboard.

Sleeping arrangements are straightforward in this floating house, with one king, one queen, and one double in each of the three bedrooms, respectively. Whether you’d prefer to curl up with your next great read while scanning the water for harbor seals or drive a short distance to San Fran’s lively nightlife, the yellow ferry is an epic place to unwind in style.

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7. Love Shack with Ocean Views

love shack airbnb
Photo: Airbnb
  • Location: Muir Beach
  • Sleeps: 2
  • Minimum stay: 2 nights
  • Rates from: $185/night

Sometimes, all you really need is “a little ‘ol place where we can get togetherrrrr,” and this self-appointed love shack overlooking the sparkling blue Pacific is a wonderful, stripped-down getaway.

Situated within walking distance to Muir Beach and a short drive from the ever-popular Muir Woods, this casita is an outdoor lover’s dream, just a quick trip north of San Francisco.

When you’re not hiking and biking in the Marin Headlands, you and your partner are sure to fall for the shingled exterior, queen memory foam mattress, surf-themed outdoor Palapa bathroom, and kitchenette that make this tiny house so comfortable.

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Related read: 16 Spectacular Northern California Camping Spots

8. Birds Nest

birds nest sonora california
Photo: Airbnb
  • Location: Sonora
  • Sleeps: 2
  • Minimum stay: 2 nights
  • Rates from: $160/night

A lot of tiny houses these days are so amenity-rich that you’d never know they boasted such a small square footage. At Birds Nest, set in the hill country east of Sacramento, guests will find a well-appointed stay in a petite package that’s part hobbit house, part earth home, and all woodsy goodness.

Indoor kids will fall for the mosaic bathroom, hand-hewn wood beams, reading nooks, and king-size bed, while outdoor enthusiasts might gravitate to the private fire pit, al fresco dining area, and tree-lined balcony. No matter how you slice it, there’s no wrong way to find joy in the artful craftsmanship of this one-of-a-kind cottage.

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9. Private Historic Castle

private unique castle
Photo: VRBO
  • Location: San Francisco
  • Sleeps: 6
  • Minimum stay: 30 days
  • Rates from: $285/night

Overflowing with expertly designed flourishes, rock tunnels, sky-high ceilings, and impressive dark wood accents, Albion Castle, in the up-and-coming Hunters Point area, will have you feeling as though you’ve wandered right into a fairytale.

This two-bedroom, two-bathroom estate is perfect for family gatherings, special events, or simply escaping to work remotely in a romantic wonderland for a month or two.

Jump into a classic novel under the chandelier while the fireplace warms your toes, or wander the impeccably manicured grounds. You’ll have the whole otherworldly place to yourself while remaining a stone’s throw away from the Bayview Opera House and the Mission District’s legendary nightlife.

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Related read: 7 Awesome Campervan Rental Companies in Northern California

10. Redwood Dome with Home Theater

Redwood Dome with Home Theater
Photo: Airbnb
  • Location: Cazadero
  • Sleeps: 4
  • Minimum stay: 2 nights
  • Rates from: $210/night

Who’s to say you have to head down to Joshua Tree to sleep in a chic dome surrounded by nature? This magical two-bedroom domed house in the redwoods offers tree-loving travelers an awesome location that’s 15 minutes from the Pacific Ocean, yet still close to the wineries and breweries surrounding Santa Rosa.

Want to lounge under the shade in a hot tub? They’ve got you covered. Prefer an indoor movie night on the couch? Yup. They’ve got that too. Add in the full kitchen, spacious dining area, and two colorful bedrooms, and you’ll see why we love this place so much.

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11. Treebones Resort

treebones resort california
Photo: Treebones Resort
  • Location: Big Sur
  • Sleeps: 2+
  • Minimum stay: 1 night
  • Rates from: $105 (camping), $360 (yurts)

Treebones Resort has become synonymous with Big Sur’s famously homegrown architecture. From its spectacular ocean-view campsites to its roomy yurts, to its ultra-luxe autonomous tent collection, every accommodation on the property boasts sweeping views and the good vibes that have made the area a bohemian mecca for decades.

The resort is also home to two of the coast’s most intimate and sought-after dining experiences. At The Lodge, guests can enjoy breakfast, lunch, and a special chef’s four-course dinner. Meanwhile, Wild Coast Sushi Bar serves up artful seafood, omakase-style, with two seatings each night (5 pm and 7 pm, reservations required).

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Related read: 10 Stunning Beachfront Airbnbs in California

12. Tahoe Stonehenge

Tahoe Stonehenge
Photo: Airbnb
  • Location: South Lake Tahoe
  • Sleeps: 12
  • Minimum stay: 3 nights
  • Rates from: $980/night

For the outdoor addict who’s so into mountains that they dream of having enormous boulders inside their living room, there’s Tahoe Stonehenge, a luxury five-bedroom retreat set on a bluff overlooking the snow-capped Sierra Nevada.

Guests here enter through a narrow, rock-lined passageway and are instantly transported to an upscale modern home, complete with fireplaces, a full kitchen, and loads of original artwork.

The four bathrooms at Tahoe Stonehenge are no less posh than the stately bedrooms, and huge soaking tubs, walk-in showers, and funky wooden accents compliment the home’s colorful style and large outdoor patio. After a day spent skiing or hiking, soak your tired bones in the bubbling jacuzzi, enjoying the serene view.

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