Coastal Mendocino is a truly special place. One breath of the salty sea air, one afternoon spent among the charmingly offbeat locals, one glimpse of the rugged coastline with its crashing waves and graceful grey whales swimming in the distance… you’ll never want to leave. No wonder it’s become a haven for artists and nature enthusiasts.
The small community has about 1,000 permanent residents, but it’s a tourist destination thanks to the quaint ambiance of the town itself and the spectacular beauty of the coastal headlands. Winding trails and peaceful coves abound on the rocky shoreline, offering ample opportunities for relaxation, recreation, or a bit of both. Just a few hours from San Francisco, Mendocino is a must-visit for weekend road trippers.
Coastal Mendocino is a gorgeous seaside enclave just 155 miles up the Pacific coast from San Francisco. This easy, scenic drive makes it a perfect destination for a weekend getaway or even an extended day trip. Follow US-101 N out of the city for about 85 miles.
Near Cloverdale, take exit 522 for CA-128 W toward Fort Bragg/Mendocino. You’ll need to make a left and then hang a quick right less than a mile later to stay on CA-128 W. Crank down the windows and inhale that refreshing breeze as you ease closer to the coastline. After about 55 miles, you’ll continue on as the road turns into CA-1 N/Shoreline Hwy. Your little slice of paradise is waiting just 10 miles up the road.
You’ll fall in love the moment you see the gorgeous historic home with lush gardens that have been nourished by the fresh, salty ocean breeze. Directly across from Big River Beach in Mendocino, the Didjeridoo Dreamtime Inn features unique rooms with en suite private baths. Some rooms have fireplaces or ocean views. Enjoy a glass of wine in the gardens or relax with a fine cigar (smoking is permitted on the grounds). Your stay includes endless coffee in the lobby and an organic breakfast served fresh every morning.
The Holiday Inn Express Fort Bragg is just up the road from Mendocino proper, only a 6-minute walk from the beach, and a mile from the Mendocino Botanical Gardens. The clean, modern rooms are quiet and well-appointed with coffee machines, microwaves, and refrigerators, plus free wi-fi and satellite TV. Guests love the hot breakfast with omelets, cinnamon rolls, and delicious pancakes. The hotel features a year-round indoor pool and a fitness facility. This property is pet-friendly.
The Mendocino Inn & Spa is a recently renovated property tucked away in the trees with calming lavender blooming at the entry to set the tone for your peaceful stay. This is a great getaway for adults. The wellness facility features spa packages, access to the hot tub/jacuzzi, and luxurious massages. Just a 14-minute walk from the beach, with ocean views from the upper terrace. Enjoy breakfast from the comfort of your bed – they serve it fresh to your door daily.
This historic home converted into a quaint restaurant is a perfect destination for a light vegetarian lunch or an early dinner on the cozy back terrace. The service is excellent and the food at this top-rated restaurant wins raves from locals and tourists alike. Try the Pt. Reyes blue cheese salad with grilled prawns for a lighter meal, and then indulge in one of their many delicious desserts, like the pear clafoutis with homemade ice cream or the unusual lemon Napoleon tart. Open 7 days. Pricing is moderate-high, but attire is casual.
Good Life Café & Bakery is one of the few options in Mendocino for a quick and easy breakfast or lunch. Order a delicious veggie quiche or a piping hot panini at the counter and enjoy it at one of the casual picnic tables on the patio. The extensive menu features options for vegans, vegetarians, omnivores, paleo dieters, and more – choose from five different types of milk for your coffee alone. Speaking of which, the coffee here really is something special and the homemade chai tea blend is to die for. Open daily at 8 am.
Frankie’s is a local favorite for a bargain meal, serving up pizza, ice cream, and delicious casual fare. Many restaurants in Mendocino are more formal, but this is a great spot for lunch or an early dinner with the kids. Their mushroom pizza with pesto is rich and indulgent and the falafel sandwiches are really tasty. The Cow Licks ice cream is a real treat – try a double scoop sundae with caramel sauce. Open Tuesday through Sunday. Free wi-fi for guests.
Just two miles north of Mendocino, the varied terrain of Russian Gulch State Park is a popular spot for hiking, biking, kayaking, and simply enjoying the spectacular scenery. The inland trails, like Fern Canyon Trail, wind between majestic redwoods with low mossy groundcover, culminating in a 36’ waterfall. Headlands Trail leads to the rocky coastline, where the waves crash furiously into the sinkhole at Devil’s Punchbowl. Russian Gulch State Park features 15 total miles of trails, with some designated for bikers and horseback riders.
The Art Center in Mendocino is much more than just a museum. It’s a living, breathing artist workshop that offers more than 150 retreat-style classes each year. Try your hand at painting, jewelry-making, sculpture, fiber arts, and more. The galleries feature revolving exhibits from local and national artists alike with all types of media represented. Artists flock to the Mendocino Coast area for the rugged scenery and tranquil lifestyle. Check out how they’ve been inspired, and then join a class to create a lasting, tangible memory you can bring home.
Mendocino Headlands Park is a diverse, beautiful destination year-round. Forget the lure of the southern beaches; the rugged coastline, winding cliffside trails, and spectacular views at Headlands will make you fall in love. View wildflowers in the spring or take advantage of amazing whale watching as the grey whales migrate south in the winter months. The easily accessible park is perfect for a picnic lunch with a glass of wine followed by an easy stroll through the shallows. Despite its popularity, the expansive park often feels quiet and secluded.
Few people have the opportunity to get an up close and personal look at the rich history of the Chinese immigrants who came to California during the Gold Rush. The Temple of Kwan Tai, owned and operated by the great granddaughter of one of those men, was originally a Taoist temple that served the community. It was dedicated to the Chinese god of war, which is a Taoist symbol of integrity and loyalty. The altar, shrine, and furnishings are original. The small building won’t take long to tour, but it’s a unique, humbling experience that should not be overlooked.
The Kelley House Museum’s mission is to preserve and share the rich history of the Mendocino Coast. Located in the historic Kelley home and open four days a week, it is the only museum-quality research facility in the region and receives requests from around the world for genealogical information, photographs, and documents. The docents here are incredibly knowledgeable and eager to share little-known facts about the region. Walking tours of Mendocino are offered every Saturday and Sunday at 11 am for just $10, but admission to the house and museum is free.