With picturesque beaches, blazing sunsets, winding country roads and quaint small towns all nestled together, its no wonder people make the drive up the Northern California coast to Mendocino County. We enjoyed a tranquil 3 days in Mendocino which is a perfect amount of time to taste, explore and relax in a unique environment of tall redwoods huddled among stunning beaches.
What started out historically as the town dump, is now beautiful Glass Beach. In the early 20th century Fort Bragg residents threw their garbage beyond the cliffs owned by the Union Lumber Company. Over the years the pounding waves broke down and cleaned most of the beach, leaving only the smooth glass and occasional pottery shards that are present today. Thanks to several large rock formations between the beach and the ocean, the water here is very calm and gentle. The beach was recently included in CNN’s 22 best beaches in America.
With heavyweights like Napa and Sonoma Counties nearby, its easy to overlook Mendocino County as a wine region worth exploring. Fortunately, other peoples unfamiliarity can be your gain. With over 40 wineries on 3 different “tour routes” there are plenty of tasting rooms to explore. Forget about the $20 tasting fees and limos packed with bachelorette party revelers you’ll find in wine valleys further southeast. Here, you’re more likely to chat up the winemaker that has been with the grapes every step of the way from vine to bottle. Also worth noting is that a third of California’s certified organic vineyards are located in Mendocino County. Check out this link with a breakdown of area wineries to help you pick which ones may be best for your visit.
If you prefer beer to wine there are many great options for you too. Within driving distance you can visit Anderson Valley (home of my favorite the Summer Solstice), North Coast Brewery, Mendocino Brewery and Ukiah Brewing Company. Cheers!
Several people we spoke with recommended the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens in Fort Bragg. The best times of year to visit are early spring for the Rhododendrons and late summer/early fall for the Dahlias. There’s also a Christmastime festival of lights.
More than 60 movies have been filmed in Mendocino, including several that garnered Oscars. James Dean was here in 1954 for East of Eden. The coming of age WWII period piece Summer of ’42 was shot in 1970. Other notables include Cujo, Overboard, Karate Kid III and The Majestic. However, its likely that Mendocino’s most famous fictional character is from the small screen. Angela Lansbury played novelist turned super sleuth Jessica Fletcher in television’s Murder She Wrote from 1984 to 1996. Although set in Cabot Cove, Maine, the majority of the show’s exterior scenery was shot in Mendocino, as well as 9 full episodes. Ms. Fletcher’s home in the show is in reality the Blair House Bed and Breakfast located in the heart of downtown.
One might say that the Brewery Gulch Inn is the best-kept secret in Mendocino, but the fact that it’s ranked first on both TripAdvisor and Yelp suggests that the word is already out. Unlike the reputation of many B&Bs (think plaid wallpaper and doilies,) The Brewery Gulch is modern and sleek.
The Inn is constructed from beautiful redwood pulled from the depths of the nearby Big River, having been perfectly preserved in the cold waters for more than 100 years. The central great room is open and airy, with an inviting fireplace. The location once housed a brewery on the property long ago. The Brewery Gulch also includes an unbelievable breakfast and an extensive aperitivo hour with a spread unlike any we’ve seen at other properties. We skipped going out to dinner and breakfast because the food at the Inn just couldn’t be topped.
For more information about Mendocino check out the website from their tourism board.