Mendocino: A Hidden Gem on the Pacific Coast

August 04 2021

Mendocino Headlands State Park
Mendocino Headlands State Park

I spent 2020 mostly indoors because of the COVID-19 pandemic. By this spring, I was craving nature and time away from home. I kept thinking about the ocean and Mendocino, California, a lovely village on the Pacific coast I visited more than two decades ago. In early July, I got on a plane and headed across the country for a week in Northern California.

Mendocino’s history began in 1850 with a shipwreck of Frolic in a nearby cove at Point Cabrillo. This lead to the discovery of redwood trees in the area and the development of the timber industry. Mendocino was founded in 1852 as a logging community. The drive to the Mendocino Coast from San Francisco takes a little over 3 hours, with the last hour on a slower, twisty road.

There are several B&Bs in town and nearby to choose from. I stayed at the Sea Rock Bed and Breakfast Inn, in a picturesque location on the coast and just a few minutes away from the village. It had lovely cottages with stove fireplaces for chilly days, a pretty, well-maintained garden and nice, helpful staff.

Sea Rock B&B in Mendocino, CA
Views and flowers at the Sea Rock Inn

Coastal Scenery

My intention was to spend as much time walking around in nature (and taking photos!) as possible, and this is exactly what I did. The Pacific coast of Northern California is rugged and remote, and exceptionally beautiful. A stretch of Mendocino Headlands State Park is easy to walk, and the ocean views are changeable and stunning.

Mendocino Headlands State Park
Mendocino Headlands State Park

Another must-see site is Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens. Located just 10 minutes away in Fort Bragg, it’s one of the most delightful botanical gardens I’ve ever been to. A real feast for the eyes awaits visitors in the perennial, rose and dahlia gardens, but other paths through the gardens are equally attractive, varied and colorful.

Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens
Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens

If you go to Fort Bragg, especially with kids, it’s fun to ride through the redwoods on the historic Skunk Train. The shorter ride is about an hour, with a stop to explore a growth of redwoods on foot.

Historical Skunk Train in Fort Bragg, CA
Historical Skunk Train

A popular attraction in Fort Bragg is Glass Beach, located in the MacKerricher State Park. Between 1906 and 1967 residents dumped their waste into the Pacific. The tumbling force of the ocean broke apart the glass debris — producing a myriad of ‘sea glass’ pieces. The result is a sparkling beach, covered in tiny smooth glass pebbles.

Glass Beach in Fort Bragg, CA
Glass Beach

California Cuisine

There are several restaurants worth visiting in this part of California. I really enjoyed my dinner at Trillium Cafe; the food was fresh, tasty and nicely presented. Mendocino Cafe was a good choice for lunch; the downside was that it only accepted cash for payment. I had a lovely dinner at Cafe Beaujolais and a few interesting flavors of ice cream at Frankie’s. I also dined at Little River Inn (a bit more formal) in the nearby Little River and had great fish and chips at Silver’s at the Wharf (casual) in Fort Bragg.

Cafe Beaujolais and Little River Inn
Cafe Beaujolais and Little River Inn

The weather during my July trip was cool and pleasant. The mornings were foggy, but the fog quickly lifted to reveal gorgeous, sunny blue skies (beware of sunburn, especially near the ocean!) The evenings were quite chilly; I brought clothes I could wear in layers, and it worked out well.

On the way back I stopped for lunch in Healdsburg in Sonoma County. It had a nice town center and a good amount of parking. My grilled sausage burger from The Wurst was absolutely delicious, and small batch Raspberry Blood Orange ice cream from Noble Folk was refreshing on a hot summer day.

It wasn’t easy to go back to the hustle and bustle of daily life after a week of open spaces, gentle breeze and the sounds of the Pacific, constantly roaring at a distance. But I know it won’t be long before I travel again to other amazing places on Earth.

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are my own and do not advertise or endorse businesses mentioned in this article.

Photography ©2021 Irina Stepanova

Mendocino Coast Flowers


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