Planning your next luxury vacation or relaxing getaway? Consider a visit to Mendocino, located on Northern California’s stunningly rugged coastline. This coastal community overlooking the Pacific Ocean is home to less than 900 full-time residents. However, its postcard-perfect beaches, scenic state parks, historic charm, and an array of art galleries attract close to 2 million visitors each year.
Mendocino is well-known for being a charming small village that feels reminiscent of the New England coast. With its epic redwood forests, restaurants serving fresh local seafood, and quaint homes, you’ll find plenty to do and see in Mendocino — especially if what you want to do simply involves relaxing and soaking up the gorgeous natural surroundings.
Read on to learn the top 10 things to do in Mendocino, including where to hike, dine, and relax.
Why visit Mendocino?
1. Visit the tallest redwoods in the world
A major draw to this part of the world is the opportunity to witness one of nature’s most incredible splendors: the tallest redwood trees in the world. Halfway between Mendocino and Ukiah, approximately 1 hour’s drive along a stunning scenic route, is Montgomery Woods State Park. This 1,142-acre state park is where you’ll find beautiful fern forests and ancient redwood groves with trees so massive they genuinely have to be seen to be believed.
One tree in particular grabs the interest of visitors: The Mendocino Tree, thought to be the tallest living tree in the entire world. Towering 367 feet above the ground, this natural wonder stands a full five stories higher than even the Statue of Liberty. The Mendocino Tree is thought to be more than 1,000 years old and it’s truly a sight to behold, making it one of the top 10 things to do in Mendocino.
2. Enjoy the sunset from your own private villa at Chateau Frolic
Mendocino may be full of charming bed-and-breakfasts, but for the discerning traveler looking for an unforgettable experience, look to Chateau Frolic. Boasting unparalleled views of the wild Pacific Ocean from its clifftop perch, this luxurious vacation villa offers the ultimate oceanfront escape from which to soak in the unforgettable Northern California sunsets.
With floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the ocean as well as upper and lower wooden deck, this 6,385 square foot refuge has plenty of spots perfect for sunset viewing. Cozy up around the fireplace or watch from the outdoor hot tub: With Mendocino’s year-round 60-degree temperatures, you have no shortage of options.
3. Wander through downtown Mendocino
Perched on the ocean side of California’s iconic Highway 1, the village of Mendocino is one of the state’s most charming and scenic towns. Surrounded on three sides by a state park, its rugged, romantic location makes it a fantastic place to spend a relaxed afternoon.
With top-rated restaurants serving local cuisine, unique boutiques filled with local handmade goods, and boutique art galleries, downtown Mendocino has a little something for any traveler’s taste — and it’s easy to see why visiting this picturesque town is one of the top 10 things to do in Mendocino.
4. Enjoy a scenic hike
With memorable views seemingly located around every turn, one of Mendocino’s most prominent attractions for nature lovers is its numerous sites for excellent hiking. Of note is Point Cabrillo Lighthouse, located within walking distance of the Chateau Frolic luxury villa. This beautiful coastal hike takes you along the bluffs of the 300-acre Point Cabrillo Preserve, where you can hunt for sunken treasures on the beach or just enjoy the windswept views.
For those willing to travel a bit further out, check out the breathtaking ocean views at Russian Gulch State Park (3 miles north of Mendocino) or an 8.5-mile loop trail at Fern Canyon, just 4 miles south of Mendocino.
5. Go wine tasting in Anderson Valley
Wine lovers may want to venture 30 miles outside of Mendocino to Anderson Valley, where numerous award-winning winemakers grow popular grape varietals like Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The majority of vineyards offering tastings are located in the town of Philo, where venues like Goldeneye Winery and Bee Hunter Wine provide scenic views and a chance to sample their wares.
6. Enjoy the local Mendocino dining scene
In an area with this much natural splendor, it’s no surprise that there’s an exciting selection of restaurants serving farm-to-table cuisine sourced from the local land. The surrounding area is home to Michelin-starred restaurants like the Harbor House Inn in Elk, where diners can enjoy a meal that leans on local products like seafood and foraged mushrooms.
Or enjoy gorgeous ocean views at the Little River Inn, where the menu includes fine local seafood like Pacific halibut served with blood orange saffron beurre blanc. Vegetarians and vegans will want to check out Raven’s Restaurant for a unique plant-based fine dining experience.
If you’d rather stay in, guests of Chateau Frolic have the option to have meals prepared in-house by a personal chef. Whatever you’re craving, be it local seafood or a bottle of local Pinot Noir from the on-site wine cellar, you can enjoy your own exclusive and private dining experience ensconced in the ultimate luxury.
7. Go kayaking or canoeing
For outdoorsy types seeking a more adventurous way to revel in the area’s wild beauty, consider exploring the Mendocino coast via kayak or canoe. One popular spot for kayaking and canoeing in the area is Big River Estuary, the state’s longest undeveloped estuary spanning eight miles. Surrounded by state park lands, visitors have the opportunity to witness harbor seals, river otters, and a variety of birds.
8. Attend one of Mendocino’s maybe annual events or festivals
One of the best ways to soak up local culture is through annual events and festivals, and Mendocino has no shortage of these to choose from. Whale watching season takes place each December through April and draws travelers from all over the world, particularly for the Mendocino Coast Whale Festival, which takes place each March.
Nature lovers may also be interested in catching harbor seal pupping season at MacKerricher State Park, when they can witness the marine life nurturing their new young.
Those who are more interested in cultural activities than outdoor adventures may want to check out the Mendocino Film Festival in May or Art in the Gardens in August. There’s also the Annual Abalone Cook-Off in October, when local epicureans prepare their most refined versions of this popular local seafood.
9. Ride the famous Skunk Train
While hiking is a major local draw, travelers looking for a less strenuous and more relaxed way to soak up the local scenery will want to check out the Skunk Train. Operating since 1885, this train takes passengers through towering redwood forests, across scenic bridges, through tunnels, and into the Noyo River Canyon to enjoy pristine views.
Departing from Fort Bragg or Willits, the train ride lasts between 75 minutes and 2 hours, depending on the route you choose. More adventurous travelers can try the two-person railbikes, an even more thrilling way to see the epic redwood forest and other natural wonders.
10. Relax, unplug and enjoy Chateau Frolic
Finally, for travelers who are simply looking to get away from it all and want to do it in unparalleled luxury, a stay at Chateau Frolic may be just the thing. Visitors to this luxury vacation villa will have their every need attended to, thanks to private top-of-the-line amenities, VIP services, and a personal concierge.
With an in-house wine cellar, art gallery, and chef’s kitchen with an optional personal chef, there will be no need to leave Chateau Frolic unless you desire to. Cozy up with a blanket next to the fireplace, enjoy a meal prepared with local produce and seafood just for you, hang out and soak up the stunning Pacific Ocean views on one of the two wooden decks, or pop open a bottle of fine local wine.