THE THRIFTY TOURIST
Mendocino County offers spectacular views, world-class dining and lodging, a renowned wine region, award-winning breweries and a plethora of interesting finds and delights! The beauty of Mendocino, aside from the actual natural beauty, is that deals and thrills can be had for those in the know!
Certainly state, county and city parks offer wonderful outdoor recreational opportunities, and other natural wonders include the Point Stornetta Lands in Point Arena. This California Coastal National Monument includes 1,600 acres of rugged bluffs, cypress forest and scenic cliffs. Or check out one of the most unique beaches you’ll ever come across – Bowling Ball Beach – a beach literally littered with large bowling ball-shaped concretions, worn by the tides. With two lighthouses spanning Point Arena to Caspar, there is more exceptional coastline to discover. Just two miles south of Fort Bragg are the stunning Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, with their own coastline access and a nominal entry fee.
Venturing towards inland Mendocino, the Drive-Thru Tree in Leggett is a must if only to check off the bucket list. In Willits, take a nature walk or sign up for a tour of the historic Ridgewood Ranch, the resting place of the beloved and famous racehorse, Seabiscuit. In Hopland, make an appointment to meander around the UC Hopland Research & Extension Center – especially during wildflower and lambing seasons.
More than a daytrip
It’s just not possible to do and see it all in one day, so make the most of your time in Mendocino County and stay a few nights. There are plenty of options – from camping (there are KOAs around the County) to fun and quirky spots like the Old West Inn in Willits to beachside motels like the Beachcomber in Fort Bragg, to locally owned vacation rentals. Whether you’re traveling RV style or have your tent ready to go, you’ll find lots of cool RV Parks, campgrounds and places to rest under the stars at most of the State Parks – MacKerricher, Van Damme, Russian Gulch, Hendy Woods, to name just a few! Retreat Centers offer another option for affordable stays – like Lord’s Land Retreat in Albion, River’s Bend in Philo, and Jughandle Farm & Nature Center in Caspar.
Good Eats and Affordable Treats
Certainly, Mendocino County offers up some fantastic local markets and corner stores, yet some of the best places to find cheap eats are hot dog carts, taco trucks, and food shacks. You’ll also find some dishes that won’t bust your budget at some of the newest places around – like five-dollar tacos at the New Museum Brewers + Blenders in Point Arena. You can’t beat a tasty taco especially when paired with a selection of delicious beers. Coffeehouses around the county are also a great bet for good eats, and if you find yourself in Noyo Harbor in Fort Bragg, you’ll find fresh fish and chips, and other seafood, plus a literal ship to table offering at Princess Seafood. Traveling through Anderson Valley, you don’t want to miss Boont Berry Farm, a micro market that’s big on organic and local, with vegan and vegetarian options. Kemmy’s Pies in Willits is a specialty pie shop with both sweet and savory offerings. And when you head south on Highway 101, you can’t miss The Golden Pig in Hopland with their six-buck pulled pork hand pie. And just a few steps away, Bluebird Café for breakfast or lunch is the place to be with generous plates of the best diner fare. Discover all the delicious eats throughout the county!
Cool, Historic and Artsy
There is no shortage of interesting places to visit in Mendocino County – like the Sea Glass Gallery and Museum in Fort Bragg that tells the sordid tale of just how sea glass came to be. And at Noyo Center for Marine Science, you’ll be awed by the size of sea mammal skeletons, not to mention all the interesting factoids and tidbits. Fort Bragg is also home to the Mendocino Coast Model Railroad & Historical Society – it’s really cool as is the Triangle Tattoo & Museum…one of the few tattoo museums in the country! In Willits, there’s a lot of buzz about the Roots of Motive Power. Willits is also where you’ll find the Mendocino County Museum, where their current exhibition tells the history of the California Grizzly Bear. In Ukiah, the Grace Hudson Museum and historic Sun House are sure to delight, as are the downtown murals that are part of the Mendocino County Arts public arts scene. The Gualala Arts Center on the south coast offers art indoors and out, an amphitheater and rustic event space under canopies of redwoods.
Mendocino County isn’t big on hustle and bustle, or even late nights out. Mendocino is about quality of life and being in the moment…and that’s within everyone’s budget! So come visit, stay a night or more, and see what you’ve been missing!