Summer Trip to Mendocino

This summer is  all about getting away locally  for us. First Carmel and Big Sur and now Mendocino. While the central coast is popular with all visitors, I think the northern coast of California is a more local hangout. It isn't that you don't see foreigners it is just that this area has fewer big name destinations, there's no Monterey Aqarium here. It's all about the scenery, the walking, the wine and the food.

The MacCallum House and water tower  dressed up for the Fourth of July

I've been going to Mendocino for almost twenty years, it's a scenic Victorian town on the north coast a little more than three hours from San Francisco. It's the perfect romantic weekend away. Combine a dog friendly hotel (the MacCallum House above) and a fabulous hot tub place (Sweetwater Inn) and I'm in heaven. I'll write separate posts on each of these to give you the full flavour!

Looking back at Main Street from the headlands. These buildings look out directly at the Pacific.

The town has a very western feel with lots of wooden Victorian architecture and a main street facing the extensive headlands that jut out into the Pacific. You really are on the edge of California here. There's a laid back, relaxed Berkeley-by-the sea feeling. There are several art galleries, wine tasting rooms and an excellent bookshop.

There are lots of distinctive water towers throughout town, some of which have been turned into atmospheric accommodations. The one on the right was used to house an enormous American flag for the Fourth of July. The coastal views from town and along Highway one are fantastic. It was cool and cloudy during our visit so the pictures aren't great, I hope they give you a feel for the beauty of the place.

There are lots of wonderful gardens throughout the area, including many surrounding the numerous bed and breakfasts. The Mendocino Coast  Botanical Gardens in nearby Fort Bragg is well worth a side trip and they're dog friendly. 

One of my favorite reasons to visit Mendocino is the places you can see on the way. The views are spectacular if you come up the coastal highway from the Bay Area via Point Reyes or the Russian River, but it's also lovely (and quicker) to drive up through Healdsburg and the wine growing Anderson Valley. The redwoods are majestic and tower over Highway 128.

Redwoods on Highway 128 near the coast

Vineyards in the Anderson Valley, Highway 128

Mendocino is one of my favourite places to visit in California, even when  it's cloudy! We happened to be there for the annual Mendocino Music Festival which was great. Each day we could hear both the concerts and the rehearsals from the deck outside our room, it was such serendipity to be there for it. We went to hear the bluegrass group the Travelin' McCourys in the huge tent set up on the headlands and had a great time. Mendocino is such a small town we bumped into the band both before and after the show, how often does that happen?

Natural beauty of the Headlands

Travel Tips:
Stop at Willis Seafood and Raw Bar in Healdburg for a lovely lunch.  It's a block off the main plaza and I love to sit outside. If you're looking for something faster or for picnic fixins try the Oakville Grocery on the corner of the Plaza. It's the most upscale "grocery store" you'll ever see, but the wine selection is excellent and the sandwiches and prepared salads are perfect for a picnic lunch. 

For wine tasting on the way I like the friendly people at Navarro and the sparkling wines at Scharffenburger. We've been meaning to stop off at Goldeneye which makes a good Pinot Noir but haven't done it yet, they have a vineyard tour I'm interested in trying sometime.