Where To Stay + What To Do In Mendocino County California #travel
One of the places that I’ve always wanted to visit is Mendocino County in California. Many people think of wine when they hear the word Mendocino but the area has a lot more offer than that. Located approximately three hours north of San Francisco, Mendocino is home to pristine beaches, towering redwood trees, glorious wildflowers, and green, hilly parks. If nature isn’t your thing, there’s plenty of museums, shopping areas, restaurants, and monthly festivals.
Since I’ve added Mendocino County to my bucket list, I thought I’d share a few places of interest with you.
Where To Stay
Overlooking the beautiful Pacific Ocean, the Little River Inn is a Gothic white Victorian surrounded by tulips, daffodils, and wildflowers. This full-service resort is family owned and run so you’re certain to feel right at home. After you’ve played their nine-hole Audubon-certified golf course, hit some tennis balls on the professional courts, or relaxed in their day spa, you’ll be ready to eat at their chef-driven restaurant. Accommodations at the inn comprise 66 guest rooms ranging from the modest to the luxurious – and each one of them has an ocean-view.
If you’re bringing Fido or Fluffy with you, Mendocino County has plenty of pet-friendly options. The Atrium Bed and Breakfast allows pets and they offer clean and comfortable studios with a mini-fridge, toaster oven, coffeemaker, and flat-screen TV.
Next up is the Brewery Gulch Inn which is situated high above atmospheric Smuggler’s Cove. Travel + Leisure named the 10-room Brewery Gulch Inn as the #53 best hotel in the world, and Condé Nast Traveler named them the best inn in Northern California. Constructed in 2001 from 150-year old redwood reclaimed from the nearby Big River, it’s an architectural masterpiece that offers every modern convenience. Guests rave about the warmth and comfort of the inn and compare the ambiance to staying at a good friend’s well-appointed rustic-chic home.
Executive Chef Scott Allen, who cooks only for guests of the inn, trained at various 5-star restaurants. Chef Allen’s new breakfast menu for spring includes a slice of grilled brioche served open-faced, topped with brown sugar bacon and served with sliced fried green tomatoes, fanned avocado and peppery arugula dressed with a toasted shallot vinaigrette. The inn’s property borders the 50,000 acres of virgin redwoods and wildflower-studded meadows that make up the Jackson Demonstration State Forest.
If hiking and horseback riding is your thing, you’ll want to stay at the spectacular Inn at Newport Ranch. Open since early 2016, the property boasts 50-mile views across the Pacific and over 20 miles of hiking and horseback riding trails. Designed by Vermont architects Dave Sellers and Jim Sanford, each room housed in the multiple structures that make up the inn is carefully appointed, incorporating handcrafted touches, such as headboards from single burls and antique building materials found on the site.
Vegetables from the inn’s organic gardens (sugar snap peas, golden wax beans, rainbow chard and watermelon radishes in the Spring) grace the plates of guests, and their head gardener ensures everything – from produce to herbs to flowers – is grown sustainably. At the end of a day spent exploring secluded redwoods and rocky beaches, guests can relax in the Great Room with Mendocino wines and beers and then head to the 7-person hot tub which sits atop a water tower and boasts stunning views of the sunset.
Since The Inn at Newport Ranch is a working cattle ranch, no pets are allowed.
What To Do
Located near the town of Fort Bragg, Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens is one of the few public gardens in the US with ocean frontage. The Gardens is well-known for their Rhododendron collection (they have more than 1,000) and they host California’s largest rhododendron show each April. They were recently voted the 5th “Best Botanical Garden” in the Nation by USA Today “10Best” Reader’s Choice Travel Awards.
The south path of the Gardens leads to the ocean which is an ideal spot to watch breaching whales (especially during the early spring migration). I loved watching the dolphins when I lived in Florida so whale watching is right up my alley. 😉 If you’d like to learn about natural history, you can join one of their docent-led walks where you’ll discover mushrooms that grow on the property and learn how to best observe birds in the wild (among other subjects).
Fort Bragg (in Mendocino County) is home to a heritage railroad that has been operating on the Mendocino Coast since 1885: the Skunk Train. Originally designed to move logs, today the train allows riders to explore beautiful forests and pristine streams that are sometimes inaccessible by any other means. Your view from the rail cars may include deer sipping water from the Noyo River, blue heron wading in the streams, osprey soaring in the sky, and sometimes, if you’re lucky, you’ll spot an otter.
Running from Fort Bragg to the frontier town of Willits, the scenic 40-mile railroad has been named one of the “10 Best Rail Tours in the Country” by USA Today and one of the “Top 10 family Activities in California” by National Geographic Traveler.
Note: Dogs are allowed on board and the Skunk is handicap accessible with some limitations. Refer to the website for specific information.
If you’re a sea glass lover like me then a visit to Glass Beach is a must-do. There’s only one downside–you’re not allowed to remove any of the glass. A local ordinance prohibits it. With that being said, it’s still a beautiful site to see. The sea glass is actually made from items that were dumped there in 1906 and then again in the 1960’s. Since green, brown and clear (white) are the most common glass that was disposed of, the majority pieces are those colors. Occasionally, you’ll find pottery chips and rarer colors of glass. Only a few items were actually stored in red, blue, lavender, purple or pink glass containers so it’s rare to find like-colored sea glass.
According to mendocino.com, here are details on what you will see:
SAPPHIRES – BLUE GLASS
For instance, very rare Cobalt Blue, the “sapphire” of the beach, came from such apothecary items as Milk of Magnesia, Vick’s Vapo Rub, Noxema, Nivea, and Bromo Seltzer bottles, along with some prescription bottles and perfumes
RUBIES ~ RED GLASS
The extremely rare red pieces, or “rubies” of the beach, might come from perfume bottles, the tail lights on old automobiles, lantern and traffic light lenses, or even some types of old beer bottles, like the bottles made by Anchor Hocking for Schlitz Beer in the 1950’s.
Pinks, lavenders, purples, lime greens and other rare shades came from things like perfume bottles and art glass. Many lavenders and pinks come from what was originally clear glass that was clarified with magnesium (lavender) or selenium (pink). The glass has to be clarified with these minerals because the sand from which glass is made is actually amber in color. Over time the sun causes the magnesium and selenium to oxidize, creating the lavender and pink colors.
COMMON SEA GLASS
Greens, browns, and aquas come from beer and soda bottles, and nearly every other source, like Clorox Bleach jugs, shampoos, etc.
And sometimes, like in the old town dumps in Fort Bragg, California, the sea glass is also passed through fires and becomes “Fire Glass”, the rarest of sea glass, and often has “inclusions” (things inside), just like, or better than, precious gems.
Finally, if you’re looking for a kid-friendly attraction, consider Confusion Hill. Confusion Hill is a unique family-friendly attraction that features the World Famous Gravity House, the Redwood Shoe house, the World’s Largest Free-Standing Redwood Chainsaw Carving, and a miniature Mountain Train Ride.
The Gravity House sounds interesting because for whatever reason (and it’s unexplained) your body will defy the Laws of Nature! Once you’re inside the house, gravity is confused and it pulls you in different directions. Even standing up straight is quite a challenge.
As you can see, Mendocino County has a lot more to offer than wineries and wine tours. It’s a great place to explore nature, relax, and have some fun. I definitely hope to visit one day soon!
Have you ever been to Mendocino County? Can you recommend any places to stay or visit? Tell us about it in the comments section.
A big thanks to Chalkboard Communications for the assets used in this post.