1We have traveled to many beautiful locations over the years, but one place we keep going back to is Mendocino, California. For years when we lived in the Bay Area, and my partner would mention how badly he wanted to see Northern California and the majestic redwoods up the coast. Years went by and we never prioritized the 4+ hour drive to get up to that part of the state, until last year. of
After one incredibly stressful week at work, I decided to book a spontaneous trip to a little town called Mendocino - which is fairly close to the Bay Area. This adorable little town is about 4 hours away from San Francisco. Attention any Bay Area readers: If you are looking for a weekend getaway to a cute, little village outlined by the stunning California coastline - this is one place to put on your bucket list!
We were completely smitten with the quaintness of the town, stunning views of the ocean, and the great outdoor activities. Having visited several times since our inaugural visit, I have compiled a list of our favorite activities in the area including our favorite hotel!
10. Mendocino Headlands State Park
Along with miles of stunning California coast line, there are many different state parks in this area that can be easily accessed when driving on California 1. Mendocino Headlands State Park offers visitors a variety of trails all along the coast and through the rugged cliffs. If historical houses are more your interest, don’t miss the Historic Ford House in downtown Mendocino. This historic American house built in 1890 by local California artisan Len Peterson also serves as the welcome center for Mendocino Headlands State Park. For more information on this state park, visit: https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=442
9. Pygmy Forest in the Van Damme State Park
Just a short distance from Mendocino in Little River, California is a short, wheelchair accessible, quarter mile hike through a forest of pygmy plants and trees. For those of you who are not familiar with pygmy forests, this unique ecological phenomenon is caused by high levels of exchangeable aluminum, which limits the trees and shrub’s ability to grow beyond a few feet - creating a natural bonsai effect. The forest gained this unique soil over hundreds of years from different levels of marine terraces that were created through changes in sea levels with each terrace older than the one below it. Don't miss this unique forest on your visit to Mendocino.
8. Point Cabrillo Lighthouse in Fort Bragg, CA
Along the pristine coast of northern California, there are several stunning light stations to check out. Point Cabrillo Light house is no exception. This beautifully maintained light station was first proposed to be built in 1873, but it did not begin serving the community until 1909. Along with a short hike, the stunning light house boasts beautiful views of the northern California coast and cute little houses (including the former Head Light Keepers House) your family can rent for a weekend getaway. https://pointcabrillo.org/
7. Drive Thru Tree
One of the fun attractions in Northern California is the Drive Thru Tree of Leggit, CA. California is known for the stunning coastal redwood trees, which are unique to the state. On your drive up up the coast, you can find a magnificent grove in Leggit, CA where one of the trees has a car shaped hole cut into it where visitors can drive through the tree. Surrounding this attraction is a grove of beautiful redwoods for all to admire. The property offers a gift shop and a pond for customers to enjoy a picnic, drink, or just take in the beauty of nature. http://www.drivethrutree.com/
6. Booneville Beer Stop
As you drive up to Mendocino from San Francisco, one route will take you through Anderson Valley and a town called Booneville. Booneville, California is the home of Anderson Brewing Company. This is one of the cutest little pit stops to enjoy great views of Anderson Valley all while enjoying a delicious refreshing local California beer. https://avbc.com/
5. Glass Beach
Just outside of Mendocino in a town called Fort Bragg, California, there is a beautiful patch of beach where you can find little pieces of sea glass that form a beautiful mosaic of colors along the shoreline. Glass beach is adjacent to MacKerricher State Park where you can find hiking trails and take in the calming sounds of waves crashing against the shore. If you make the trek out to Mendocino, do yourself a favor and check out the beauty of Glass Beach.
4. Mendocino Art Center
Artists exhibits, classrooms, and retreat in Mendocino is the perfect place to stop when you are in the village of Mendocino. The Mendocino Art Center has been around since 1959 with an incredible selection of rotating exhibits from all different types of artists - jewelers, painters, sculptors, etc. Visitors can walk around the beautiful grounds and admire the grounds or take classes at the art center. For more information, visit http://www.mendocinoartcenter.org/
3. Downtown Mendocino
If you have ever watched the show Gilmore Girls, Rory and Laurile live in a town by the name of Stars Hollow. Downtown Mendocino is like the west coast version of a small, quaint east coast village. The locals actually call Medicino a village. As you walk around you can see stunning views of the pristine coastline, cute art shops, and lots of lovely restaurants serving up delightful California cuisine.
2. Russian Gulch State Park
For the avid hikers, there is no better spot than Russian Gulch State Park. This park provides hikes that meander through stunning forest full of ferns and beautiful trees and lead you to stunning views of the California coast. If you are into camping, you can get economical camping passes and settle in for the night among some of California’s classic beauty. Don’t forget the beautiful hike to Devil’s punch bowl - this unique open cave is nestled along the fields of wild flora and fauna of the area. https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=432
1. Anderson Valley Wine Country
Lots of people are enamored with Napa and Sonoma, however a lesser known wine region of California known for their delicious Pinot Noirs is Anderson Valley. This beautiful fertile hill filled region produces some of the best Pinot Noirs in the world. Sprinkled along California 128, are dozens of vineyards to stop in and taste the delicious Pinots produced in this region. For suggestions on vineyards to stop at, check out our article of the Top 5 Vineyards of Anderson Valley.
Bonus: If you are like us and enjoy the quaintness of a historic house and fresh breakfast in the morning, look no further than Sweetwater Inn and Spa in Mendocino, California. The hotel is situated close to a few restaurants and just steps from the main street. Enjoy the quiet, calm surroundings and enjoy a delicious, fresh breakfast prepared daily and plenty of fresh coffee!