Situated just 3 hours north of San Francisco, Mendocino is that slice of rugged paradise for curious Californians and weekend getaway seekers yearning to escape the daily grind. Think small-town hippy vibes and funky artisanal stores, as well as long and winding drives through majestic landscapes. The Pacific Ocean meets wine country and Redwood Forests, a juxtaposition of Instagram-ready landscapes you’ll want on your feed. So if you are asking “Is Mendocino worth visiting?”, the answer is yes! Read on for our comprehensive list of the best things to do in Mendocino. And we’ll also let you in on a little secret regarding the best vacation rental Mendocino has to offer.
How do I get from San Francisco to Mendocino?
We begin our Mendocino road trip in sunny San Francisco, where culture, class, and trendy travel vibes give this city its iconic fame. Head North on Highway 101 and exit left onto the 128 towards Anderson Valley. The picturesque drive up the Californian coast through Anderson Valley wine country is a journey through towering Redwoods native to the region. The highway is dotted with local vineyards, cider factories, and quaint family-owned restaurants offering some of the finest Mendocino local cuisine.
One of our favorite stops for organic farming, livestock, and wine, wine, wine is Pennyroyal Farm in the tiny town of Boonville. The farm’s sheep and goats are the perfect petting opportunity for children, and adults will revel in sampling hand-crafted cheeses from the onsite creamery. Stop for lunch and fill up on farm-to-table Mendocino local cuisine and indulge in a glass or two of the farm's own wines, created expertly from grapes grown in the property’s personal vineyards. Those looking to purchase a gift or something to enjoy later will adore the onsite store. Learn more about the Pennyroyal Farm here.
What are the best things to do in Mendocino County?
Further along the road to paradise, you’ll find the Hendy Woods State Park. Located in Philo. This is the perfect place to stretch your legs and admire the beauty of the region’s towering Redwoods up close and personal. If you have time to spare, take a hike on one of the park’s many trails, a canoe/kayak ride during winter months, or a summer swim. Fun fact? The park was once home to the Hendy Hermit, a Russian immigrant who lived in a fallen Redwood for 18 years in the middle of the 20th century. You can visit this and other improvised shelters on a half-day hiking experience. For more info on the park’s rules and safety regulations, visit the website here.
If you haven’t already stopped at Boonville’s Pennyroyal Farm, The Bewildered Pig in Philo is a gastronomic experience perfect for couples on romantic getaways in Mendocino. Opening hours change on a seasonal basis, and walk-ins cannot be guaranteed, so reserving in advance is a must. Menus are preset and offered at a fixed price. Enjoy palette-tingling wine pairings (additional fee applies), an onsite apothecary carrying a full line of skincare, aromatherapy, and edible elixirs, as well as a gorgeous market where you can pick up something to take home. Definitely worth the stop, you can check out all of the details here.
Continue on your way and exit the 128 where it meets California’s historic Highway 1. Just a few miles South you’ll arrive at the small town of Elk, where the Harbor House Inn offers 6 cozy rooms and 5 standalone cottages for those wanting to bunk down in luxury for the night. Sip wine in the property's private cove and bask in stunning views of the region's famous cliff and ocean landscapes. The property's onsite restaurant is Michelin Star-rated, sourcing its ingredients from its very own farm. It’s the perfect place to pop the question! Learn more here.
The town of Mendocino itself is located North on Highway 1, so you’ll have to turn around when leaving Harbor House Inn. This hidden gem is a former fishing town characterized by its Old California charm. You’ll be greeted by friendly faces, artistic personalities, and all-round good people. With a fixed population of less than 1,000 inhabitants, Mendocino is blessed with local Californian and international tourism year-round. Known as the oceanside paradise where the Californian cliffs end and the Pacific Ocean begins, Mendocino boasts stunning scenery and year-round mild weather.
Take long afternoon strolls through quaint side streets and wander through mom-and-pop bookstores, before stopping in for some of that famous Mendocino local cuisine at one of the many tiny Mendocino restaurants found in the village. The Mendocino art scene is popular among locals and travelers alike. Why not take a class at the Mendocino Art Center before popping into some of the area’s lovely artisanal chocolate galleries for a tasty treat?
Where Can I Stay In Mendocino?
When researching Mendocino accommodations, you’ll find a plethora of quaint bed and breakfasts, boutique spa hotels, and vacation rentals on offer. Looking for something warm, private, and luxurious? Welcome to our stunning, oceanfront Chateau Frolic. Nestled high in the rugged cliffs surrounding the village, this luxury vacation villa is surrounded by 6,385 square feet of stunning landscaping and unparalleled views, meaning privacy goes without saying. Within walking distance of the historic Point Cabrillo Lighthouse, families and honeymooners will revel in collecting tiny treasures from the famous 1850s Shipwreck, “The Frolic” as they was over sandy shores. The 4 bedroom, 3 bathroom masterpiece sleeps 8 and features a cozy onsite library, outdoor hot tub, and a barbeque area designed for family fun. Ask your Destinations in Paradise travel advisor for information on our private chefs and servers, who are ready and waiting to whip up mouthwatering meals in the property's fully-equipped kitchen for a small additional fee.
What’s North of Mendocino?
Just a few miles North of Mendocino, you’ll find Fort Bragg, a small city founded prior to the American Civil War as a military garrison. The Mendocino Sea Glass Beach is a must-see, named after a time when it was covered in sparkling sea glass formed from the dumping of rubbish into the sea just North of the site. Remember, collecting glass onsite is prohibited and will incur a fine, so be sure to limit your souvenirs to pics for the Gram!
Fort Bragg is also home to the Fort Bragg Railroad. This is one spot that those looking for Mendocino family activities won’t want to miss. Cycling tours through Redwood trails, hiking, and sightseeing are options, and children won’t stop smiling on the “Skunk Train Tour”. Originally constructed by the Fort Bragg Redwood Company in 1885 to transport its materials, the train was nicknamed after its unfortunate-smelling exhaust system. Modern technology means the smell is gone and the train tour now transports sightseers through some of the park's most stunning scenery.
Can I Play Golf in Mendocino?
Yes, you can! The Little River Inn and Golf Course is located just South of Mendocino Village and is the only course located within 60 miles. Winding its way through the Redwoods and boasting stunning ocean views, don’t be surprised if you encounter the odd local deer as you play your way through this 9-hole wonderland. Enjoy a late afternoon round or two and stop by the Little River Inn for a scrumptious evening meal by the ocean. https://www.littleriverinn.com/
So, really, is Medocino worth visiting?
We think we have explained why! If you are still on the fence, learn more about wining, dining, and luxury spa days in and around Mendocino by visiting our blog. A Mendocino road trip is a must, whatever your vacation dynamic. Contact Destinations In Paradise and book your getaway today!
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