An Idyllic Escape Waits Just a Few Hours North of San Francisco in Coastal Mendocino
- Written byJennie Nunn
One thing you’ll quickly discover about Mendocino is that just about every inch looks like it belongs in an Ansel Adams photography tome. Surrounded by massive redwood trees, rugged cliffs and a white-capped, navy blue coastline, the frame-worthy beauty is what makes the destination one of the most coveted spots in the state.
Situated 155 miles north of San Francisco, the storied logging town dates to 1850 with the inception of Mendocino Lumber Company—the vision of railroad builder Henry Meiggs. Today the seaside town (also the film location for many scenes in Murder, She Wrote) is bustling with 24 state and national parks, more than 90 wineries and numerous restaurants.
Reminiscent of a cozy, wood-shingled cabin with Craftsman-style touches, the 11-room Brewery Gulch Inn overlooking Smuggler’s Cove resides on the original homestead of Mendocino pioneer Homer Barton. Designed by Belgian-born architect Caroline LaPere using 150-year-old, eco-salvaged, first-growth virgin redwood timbers, the inn features rooms with ocean views, gas fireplaces, Sferra linens and writing desks. Submerge into the beauty of the surroundings with two new shinrin-yoku (a Japanese term for forest bathing) offerings, including a 1½-hour guided meditation through the forest or a full-day journey with yoga, a light lunch prepared by the inn’s chef and a relaxing soak at Mendocino’s Sweetwater Spa.
For 80 years the 65-room Little River Inn, a former Victorian home, has welcomed guests from around the globe with an on-site restaurant and bar, an 18-hole golf course with a driving range and putting green, a day spa and tennis courts.
Following a five-year renovation completed last year, the 10-room Harbor House Inn is complete with wraparound decks, a 3,400-bottle wine cellar and a Michelin-starred restaurant headed by executive chef Matthew Kammerer.
Approximately 20 miles north of Mendocino, the Inn at Newport Ranch is situated on the former site of Newport—a small town conceived in the late 1800s around a steep lumber chute used to transport giant logs into floating schooners. Comprised of 2,000 acres, the property features a main building with a 20-foot-wide walk-in fireplace, a private hot tub housed in a water tower-like structure and a spa framed with a grove of six redwood trees.
In Fort Bragg (nine miles north of Mendocino), visitors can explore the native flora and fauna at Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens. The 47-acre sprawling oasis features the Dahlia Garden with more than 400 individual plants representing 150 varieties, an expansive heath and heather collection in hues of copper, pink and gold, and a coastal bluff and marine zone lined with coastal grasslands—a perfect viewing spots for whale-watching.
Originally built in 1885 as a means to haul redwood logs from Glen Blair to a lumber mill near Fort Bragg, the Skunk Train offers trips through old-growth redwood groves, the Noyo River Estuary and a scenic, 7-mile round trip winding through the Pudding Creek Estuary. You can also explore Mendocino by horseback at Ricochet Ridge Ranch. The numerous trail rides include one-hour beach rides to Ten Mile Beach in nearby Cleone and four-hour private forest rides through natural habitats and ranch land trails at MacKerricher State Park.
At Lula Cellars, a boutique winery set on 22 acres in the “Deep End” of the Anderson Valley, sample wines such as pinot noir and gewürztraminer—only available for sale in the tasting room and online. For dinner, don’t miss Wild Fish overlooking the crashing waves of Little River Cove for daily rotating, locally sourced selections including a smoked fish plate with smoked sablefish, pickled shallots, capers, yogurt and grilled bread, and local rock cod with red chimichurri and herbs.