Hi I'm Jessica Wright, a native of Northern California and the founder behind the travel blog, Bon Traveler. When I'm not abroad, I spend my weekends exploring my backyard, taking road trips to explore.
Northern California is diverse – from national parks to dramatic coasts – making it the perfect place to always have a new adventure.
Mendocino County is one of my favorite places in California to explore as you get the best coastal views and an opportunity to disconnect. The picturesque cities, wonderful seafood and beautiful landscapes are just a few reasons to visit this part of California.
Here's a look at my absolute guide to Mendocino County!
Best time to visit
Mendocino County can really be a destination all year long depending on what you want to do. The northern coast of California tends to run colder than most areas, often with a layer of fog in the morning that will rise from the afternoon in the summer months.
My favorite time to visit is in the early autumn, where the sun breaks and the winds are lighter, making it the perfect time to be outside.
I highly recommend packing layers for any time of year and always with a windbreaker to cut the wind chill.
Where to stay
My favorite part of Mendocino County to stay is close to the seaside town of Mendocino as it is well located to explore the area. You can climb up and down the coast to visit nearby destinations and head inland to find timber forests.
On a recent stay, I visited the Glendeven Inn & Lodge for the first time just a few minutes south of Mendocino. It is a hidden gem in the area as it sits on beautiful property by the road. The adult-only hotel has its own farm and the refurbished rooms are beautiful.
In addition, a hot breakfast is delivered to your room each morning in a picnic basket!
For a more adventurous stay, I love Mendocino Grove Glamping. These tents are ideal for those who want to be outdoors and get a camping experience without the hassle. They have shared bathrooms and even offer a dinner around the campfire (at an additional cost) as part of the stay.
If you want to stay further north on the coast, I would highly recommend The Inn at Newport Ranch, located in the Fort Bragg coastal fog.
Some of my favorite hotels in the area can be found here: the best hotels on the northern coast of California.
What to do
Rent a Canoe Outrigger and climb the estuary of large rivers
This is a favorite morning activity at Mendocino. It's a chance to see the wildlife and enjoy the scenery. Head to Catch-A-Canoe and rent one of their wooden shafts to raise the river. You could spend a few hours doing this and even bring a picnic to enjoy on the river.
Local shop in Mendocino
The city of Mendocino is full of local artists and boutiques. The historic city has a few main blocks where you could spend an hour or two exploring.
Explore the Russian Gulch State Park
Sure, one of the most picturesque parks in the area, this is great for getting a mix of both the coast and access to a small beach.
Head to the beaches and follow the marked paths that go up the coast. Make sure you keep an eye out for the whales crossing here!
Try Railbikes with Skunk Train
One of the most famous sights of the Mendocino province is the historic Skunk train. They have now opened up a new experience that gives you a completely different perspective of the redwoods – a guided tour of motorized railbikes that sit on the railways.
You walk through the woods and stop occasionally with your guide to learn more about the area.
Where to eat
Ole's bar at the Little River Inn – One of my favorite places to sit at the bar and take in the seaside views, you can even spot whales here. The food is local food and the cocktail menu is great.
Café Beaujolais – For a more luxurious dinner, be sure to book here. Known for its French-inspired menu using local ingredients, linguini seafood is a favorite.
Flow – Right in Mendocino, this simpler restaurant is perfect for a lunch with a view. The fish taverns are great here.
The restaurant at Harbor House Inn – South of Mendocino is a Michelin star restaurant in Elk. The experience is unforgettable and perfect for a special occasion.
Princess seafood – In the port of Noyo of Fort Bragg is this woman-operated seagoing factory. They go daily to grab fresh seafood and their crab sandwich is out of this world.
Around + Time
To explore this part of California, a road trip is the best way to see the area. You could easily spend two or three nights alone in Mendocino and continue to see more coastline both north and south.
What to expect
Mendocino County is a destination for those who want to get outdoors and slow down.
There is so much natural beauty here and open land to explore. The cell service may be unstable, so I would recommend downloading offline maps to Google before you arrive. Also keep in mind that many restaurants and cafes will close early, so be sure to check opening hours ahead of time.
Mendocino County and its wonderful coastline are such a special place.
The ability to be outdoors in the stunning scenery and at the same time enjoy great cuisine is unique in this part of California. It's the ultimate road trip destination for a family getaway, a trip with friends or even a solo adventure.
There is so much to discover here to find more suggestions Mendocino Weekend Guide.