The coast all along this section is very steep and rocky - think Bodega Bay, only more so. Highway 1 (the coastal highway in the rest of Cali) merges with 101 (which runs several miles inland) at the south end of the Lost Coast, because the highway builders couldn't even pave a road along this stretch of desolate crags, which is why it's called 'lost.' I don't recommend swimming out here, but if you're an artist, it is one of the most inspiring places in the world.
Major cities are Crescent City, Arcata, Eureka, and Fort Bragg. If you feel like driving over a mountain or two on a winding, two-lane road to get down to the coast, Shelter Cove is a beautiful destination.