Mendocino – an isolated small community along northern California’s rugged coastline – has ridden the economic waves of good and bad…
Founded in 1850, Mendocino was a booming logging community with about 3,500 residents. Saloons, hotels and brothels were everywhere. By the 1940s, the population had declined significantly and Mendocino nearly became a ghost town.
But riding the tide, artist Bill Zacha opened the Mendocino Art Center in the 1950s breathing new life into the seaside village.
Today Mendocino is home to around 1,000 residents who primarily cater to the flock of tourists who drive up the coast from San Francisco to enjoy Mendocino’s three famed W’s… waves, wine and wilderness.
Activities in Mendocino County
Explore the Big River
The Big River Estuary is an eight mile stretch of rich biological diversity and is home for a variety of freshwater fish and several endangered species such as the Coho salmon and the California Golden Beaver.
Established in 1972, local company Catch a Canoe & Bicycles Too provides kayaks, canoes, bicycles and outriggers – all to help you explore the Big River.
Now I know what you’re thinking… Skunk Train? That can’t be good.
But don’t let the name fool you.
The Skunk Train is Ford Bragg’s pride and joy that runs along an old logging rail line that winds through redwood groves, two mountain tunnels, the Noyo River Canyon, and crosses more than 30 bridges.
After a long day of sight-seeing, the Skunk Train also has delicious barbecue dinners at sunset on Saturday evenings between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
Credit: Slideshow Bruce
Mendocino Headlands State Park
Mendocino Headlands State Park has countless trails that cross the rugged coastline, pass through beaches, and go through rocky coves that surround the village of Mendocino. The Historic Ford House showcases Mendocino’s rich logging history through photographs, tools and relics.
Wine Tasting in Mendocino County
The climate in Mendocino County simulates the growth of a wide range of grape varieties such as Pinot Noir, Alsace, Petite Sirah, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and more.
With around 60 wineries, tasting options are nearly endless and with low to no costs – why not give it a try?
One option is Parducci Wine Cellars – an organic winery located in Ukiah that has wine tours that explains how organic wine is made. You can also have a picnic on their back patio while looking over their vineyards and the Mayacamas Mountain Range.
When to Go
The best time to visit Mendocino County is from May to November. The area will be warmer throughout the months of May to October and will gradually start to cool as November approaches.
From May to October the average high temperature ranges from 55.7 to 62.6° F (13.17 to 17.11° C) and the average low temperature ranges from 48.2 to 54° F (9 to 12.22° C).
Getting There & Around
Mendocino County is located 163 miles(262.3 km) north of San Francisco – roughly a three hour trip.
The best way to get to Mendocino County from San Francisco International Airport is by taking US 101 North and then merging onto CA-128 West to Mendocino.
There are also smaller domestic airports in the area.
- Mid-range accommodations: $145 – $200
- Meals: $15 – $25
- A bottle of beer: $4
- Shopping in Mendocino for original artwork.
- Attend one of the many festivals in Mendocino County, including the Mendocino Music Festival, Mendocino, Wine & Mushroom Festival, and Fort Bragg Whale Festival.
- Visit one of the museums. Mendocino County has a rich history from logging to art so there’s something for everyone. Some of the museums are even free.
- Forget to try the local cuisine as the quality rivals that of Napa Valley’s and the food is grown organically and sustainably. Try eating at places such as Ravens (for vegetarians and vegans) or MacCallum House Restaurant for fresh game.
- Plan on finding a Big Mac in Mendocino County as most business is franchise-free. However, Fort Bragg does have some common chains.
- The Skunk Train was aptly named in 1925 when this vintage locomotive switched from a steam-powered engine to a more smelly gas-powered engine. However, it’s odorless today.
- Mendocino County gets its name from Cape Mendocino which was named by Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo in 1542 when he was on a voyage along the Pacific Coast.
- Located in Mendocino is Out of This World – Northern California’s largest shop for discount binocular and all things related to hunting bird watching.
Feature Image Credit: jordanfischer