Mendocino County is located just a few hours above San Francisco, California, and the first region where you’ll see some of Northern California’s glorious redwoods. The two best ways to drive to Mendocino County is the inland route on HWY 101, through the picturesque Mendocino Wine Country over rolling hills among sprawling vineyards and through towering redwood forests.
The coastal route on Hwy 1, takes a little longer as you wind your way along the rugged coastline dotted by coastal villages. The south coast starts next to our neighbor Sea Ranch through Gualala to Point Arena. The mistiness of the below beach in Mendocino felt precisely how it looks – serene, mysterious and yet raw and wild at the same time.
Due to the varied terrain and expansive range of micro-climates, the Mendocino wine growing region is able to produce an impressive variety of grapes that create superior wines. Nearly 40 wineries are located in three regions of Mendocino County – Redwood Valley – Ukiah, Hopland and Anderson Valley. Redwood Valley – Ukiah and Hopland are both in the Russian River area of the County. See our blog post write-up on a couple of gems we discovered along the way.
The town of Mendocino itself is charming and definitely worth a stroll.
Weathered fences and porches add to the ambiance.
Yeah, there really is a “Dick’s Place.” We even danced to 1980’s music via a jukebox one night – not sure if the dog was still around then or not.
Below, husband and wife team will give you warm hospitality at the Belgian Chocolate Shop in downtown Mendocino.
I’d recommend a few days in the Mendocino / Fort Bragg area and using Mendocino as your base. (be sure to read my write-ups on lodging and hotels in the area and our reviews on Blackberry Inn and the infamous vegan resort Stanford Inn By the Sea). Once you’re based in Mendocino, we’d suggest heading south once you hit the coast to stop over in Albion and Elk, which straddle where Hwy 128 meets the sea. Heading north from Hwy 128 you’ll also discover Little River which is right next to Mendocino and I’d strongly recommend making a reservation at Wild Fish in Little River on the ocean. The northern route to the coast from Hwy 101 will take you to historical Fort Bragg.
Below, Noyo Harbor in Fort Bragg
Then, there’s the magical infamous Glass Beach, also in Fort Bragg. See our separate write-up on Glass Beach for more information on this interesting and unique gem.
And let’s not forget the incredible stretch of Redwoods you pass through on your way to the coast.
The Redwoods in Northern California in the late summer and fall is magical. No, more than magical! Need I say more?