A Guide To The Mendocino Coast
We may be a little bias, but Mendocino County has it all - gorgeous coastlines, rolling vineyards, ancient redwood groves, and that undeniable small town charm. These are just a few of the reasons we love living here and why people across the country vacation here.
- Point Cabrillo Light Station State Historic Park: Suitable for all ages, the half-mile paved walk leads you to the lighthouse and the original lightkeepers' houses, both of which you can tour. Kids will love the mini aquarium, which features tide pool life like abalone, crabs, sea anemone, and more. We've been here countless times and keep coming back!
- Russian Gulch State Park Waterfall Hike: This gorgeous six mile hike leads you through lush woods to a 36 ft. waterfall worth seeing. Wear comfortable shoes and get ready to be one with nature!
- Little River Blowhole: Past the Little River Cemetery is a large sinkhole visitors can actually descend down into. Go at low-tide when the ocean hasn't filled the sinkhole and leave the kids with a grandparent. It's a risky descent with only a rope to hold you as you make your way down; however, the views down there are even more incredible than looking over it.
- Big River Beach at Mendocino Headlands State Park: Grab a picnic lunch at nearby Mendoza's and then head to this large beach, which stretches from the mouth of Big River to its emptying into the Pacific Ocean.
- Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens: Truly a magical place, these "47 acres of botanical bliss" have almost every kind of flower imaginable with the Pacific Ocean as its breathtaking backdrop. Our favorite collections include the Dahlias, Heritage Rose Garden, Magnolias, and the Rhododendrons. There's something spectacular every season!
- Caspar Beach: If you're looking for a smaller beach to relax at, this one just a few miles from Mendocino is great. Across the way is the general store where you can pick up refreshments and anything you may have forgotten for your beach day. It's considered one of the safest swimming beaches on the coast!
- Little River Golf Course: Whether you're an avid golfer or looking to try your hand at the sport, you'll fall in love with this 9-hole coastal course. The ocean views, wildlife (it's an Audubon-certified sanctuary), and gorgeous redwoods and pine that surround are simply incredible. Afterwards, grab a drink and whale watch at their bar.
- Ten Mile Beach: Easily the best place to ride bikes on the coast, this long stretch parallels the ocean as it runs through MacKerricher State Park. We spent many weekends of our childhood riding along this trail!
- Van Damme State Park: If you haven't been to the Pygmy Forest, you're in for a treat. Here, the trees don't grow taller than 3 feet unlike the famous redwoods that run up the coast. It's 5 miles in and out and well worth it!
- Patterson's Pub: This cozy Irish pub is a local favorite! Leave the kids at home (21+) and stop in for a beer and steamed mussels with garlic bread (it's not your ordinary bar food). You can thank us later!
- Ledford House: If you're looking for someplace upscale with gorgeous views, look no further than the Ledford House. Their menu is Cal-Med cuisine with coastal offerings like Fisherman's Stew and Provencal Mussels. The ambiance is excellent - ocean views, nightly jazz, and wonderful wines. A bonus is their homemade bread, which you can take home for $5 a loaf.
- Trillium Cafe: If dining in a coastal garden in the village of Mendocino sounds dreamy, wait until you try the food here. Sandra and her husband Saul have really breathed new life into this space and we've always a great meal here. The menu is seasonal - if you come in the fall and winter, definitely get the braised short rib; if you come in the summer, get the Little Gem Salad and Crispy Caught Wild Fish. By the glass or bottle is our Heritage Blend! For dessert, we'd go with the Warm Brandied Fig Bread Pudding or the Vanilla Cheesecake.
- Mendocino Cafe: If you're spending the day shopping in Mendocino, this is the perfect spot to stop for lunch. The menu has something for everyone, whether the popular Thai Firepot sounds good or you want their Cafe Burrito Mojado (Lauren's favorite). Get a seat on their deck if you can!
- Cafe Beaujolais: We love eating at this charming Victorian farmhouse in Mendocino, but we've fallen even more in love with its outdoor "Brickery," which serves up wood-fired pizza for lunch on the weekends. For dinner, you can look forward to excellent cuts of meat, seafood spaghetti, and chocolate pot de creme for dessert.
- Princess Seafood & Marketplace: This female-lead crew not only frequents the Ukiah Farmers Market, but has a dine-in location in the Fort Bragg harbor that's worth visiting. If you're looking for a casual bite that celebrates the day's local catch, come for lunch and come early because the line gets pretty long, especially on weekends! We love the rockfish tacos with mango salsa, but if you're in the mood for fish & chips, they make 'em pretty great here, too.
- Goodlife Cafe & Bakery: This place is always crowded on weekend mornings and for good reason. They make excellent baked goods (ie. sweet morning rolls, flaky croissants, hearty muffins) and a mean latte. Their breakfast burritos are also very popular.
- Luna Trattoria: If you're in the mood for Italian, this hidden spot makes authentic Northern Italian cuisine right here on the coast. Make your way down the lit path and get ready to devour excellent spaghetti carbonara and ravioli of your dreams. And, tell Massimo we sent you!
Many shops have unfortunately close during the pandemic, so we've updated the list when we can.
- Gallery Bookshop & Bookwinkles: We could easily spend hours reading in here! A bonus is their special section dedicated to books about the Mendocino Coast, whether it be on films that have been shot here or coastal poetry. It's the perfect place to pick up a beach read if you've forgotten yours at home.
- Erin Keller Home: This home store located in Mendocino is EVERYTHING. Think eclectic, bohemian, vibrant decor from pillows to dishware. It's a great spot to get design inspo or to bring something fun home from your trip!
- Splendiferous: An all-around great women's clothing boutique that has trendy pieces as well as quality basics. The store owner is so sweet!
- Sherwood Company: An adorable spot for home lovers and gift givers. This well-decorated shop has everything from sweet stationary and wine glasses to baby gifts and art prints.
- Out of this World: Kids and adults will love this elevated toy store, which has everything from science projects and chemistry sets to telescopes and puzzles.
- La Tre: A great mix of brands from Free People to Hudson, this Fort Bragg boutique is the place for the woman with great taste and a California casual vibe. They also have a location on School Street in Ukiah.
- Mendocino Jams & Preserves: This cute, little jam shop is easy to miss because it's at the far end of Mendocino's Main Street; however, you'll be so happy you stopped in. They have everything from "Amish Apple Butter" and "Praline Pecan Sauce" to "Olallieberry Jam" and "Rhubarb Marmalade." We've been coming here since we were kids and love stocking up on our pantry goodies, as well as gifts!
- Papa Bear's Chocolate Haus: One of those places you can't help but stop into, Papa Bear's has been our kryptonite since we were kids! There's almost always a line because it's the perfect post-lunch pick-me-up. We love their all of their fudge, white chocolate raspberry bark, caramel apples...you can't really go wrong!
- Roundman's Smoke House: This tiny Fort Bragg butcher shop is incredible. They smoke everything from fish and pork to cheese and poultry, and the smell inside their shop is heaven for meat lovers! We love picking up their peppered bacon for brunch at home or around the campfire.
- Frankie's Pizza & Ice Cream: Any place that serves two of our favorite food groups is a winner in our book. We're especially partial to the ice cream, which comes from Cowlick's in Fort Bragg; our favorites are Root Beer Float, Chai, Black Forest, and Black Raspberry Chocolate Chunk.
- Albion River Inn: If you're looking for a couple's getaway, this romantic inn minutes from Mendocino has it all - ocean views, spa/soaking tubs, a fireplace in every room, and complimentary chef-prepared breakfast each morning. Their restaurant (mentioned above) is a major plus, since you don't even have to venture into town for an excellent meal.
- Blue Door Inn: This refined B&B is located in the village of Mendocino, just a 2-minute walk from Big River and about a mile from the Mendocino Headlands State Park. It's sleek and stylish, perfect for city folks, yet maintains that charm visitors are looking for when coming to the Mendocino Coast. Each morning, guests awake to a breakfast basket on their doorstep, which makes for a sweet, personal touch. We especially love that they have an afternoon wine hour and gorgeous flower garden.
- Airbnb or VRBO: Another option is to rent a house, which we've done with family and friends in the past and loved. We suggest looking into areas like Caspar South, Surfwood Estates, and Mendocino.
- Camping: A lot of people love to camp on the Mendocino Coast because there are a ton of awesome campsites close to town yet still in the middle of nature. Places to check out include Russian Gulch State Park, Caspar RV Park, MacKerricher State Park, and Mendocino Grove (if you want to "glamp").