Explore the Beauty of Mendocino
On a gorgeous day, driving to Mendocino, California, is a dream. Wind through the verdant Anderson Valley wine region and the Navarro River Redwoods State Park to Highway 1. Hit the rugged coast and it’s stunning—the crashing waves against the rocks, lush vegetation, and the village of Mendocino sitting high on a bluff.
The quaint town of Mendocino looks much like it did when it was established in the 1850s, except today you’ll find restored saltbox and Victorian houses home to bed and breakfasts, restaurants, and shops. Redwood water towers are still in use since Mendocino has no central water supply.
Mendocino is a great place to escape the crowds and unwind from the 24/7 world. It’s serene, alluring, pet friendly, and full of possibilities for a weekend adventure.
In the heart of town, sits MacCallum House. William Kelley, the town’s founder, built the inn, which sits on two acres of beautiful gardens, in 1882. Today, accommodations are spread over several properties including the restored water tower just outside the main house, which was ours for a night.
The first floor of this three-story structure has high ceilings, exposed wood, and a gas fireplace and combines the bedroom and seating area in one. There’s also a small bath. Up a narrow stairway a large, open bathroom takes up the second floor, complete with soaking tub and sauna. A second bedroom is another flight up. Poke your head out the windows as you climb and get incredible views of the craggy coast and picturesque town. In the morning, enjoy a full breakfast on the charming front porch.
The Stanford Inn by the Sea is an irresistible resort located just minutes south of town by Big River. Perched atop a meadow, the inn boasts views of the ocean and Mendocino, and of organic gardens that supply many ingredients for Ravens’ Restaurant, the inn’s popular vegetarian and vegan restaurant. The inn’s eco-friendly philosophy pervades its gardens, its cuisine, and its work to protect the land.
Pine and redwood paneling and local art accent the décor of the rooms and lodge. Our comfy, two-room suite had a fireplace in each room, as well as a wet bar, deck, antique furniture, an oversized bathroom, and the latest high-tech television and music options. We sampled vegan desserts in the lobby in the late afternoon and savored a huge gourmet breakfast at Ravens’.
Continue a little farther south and discover Glendeven Inn, an upscale boutique inn set on eight acres. The scenery includes thriving gardens and magnificent views, as well as resident llamas. Interiors are a mix of contemporary art and antiques. A three-course breakfast (with the inn’s own farm eggs!) is served in your room.
Even when Mendocino is your destination, it’s impossible to drive through the Anderson Valley AVA without making a stop. We chose Roederer Estate. The winery uses only estate-grown Pinot noir and Chardonnay for its popular sparkling wines. Known for their body and depth of flavor, favorites included the 2003 L’Ermitage Brut, the 2004 L’Ermitage Rosé, and the sweeter MV Extra Dry.
Hiking abounds in the parks throughout the county with trails at every level of experience (call for camping and pet guidelines). The Mendocino Headlands State Park surrounds the town. Nearby, walk the coastal cliffs and get knockout views of the village. In town, follow the Mendocino Headlands Trail from Portuguese Beach south to Big River. At Van Damme State Park, tour the redwood forest then end up coast-side on a beautiful beach. You can also bike many of the trails or hit the water for kayaking and canoeing.
The town honors its founder with the Kelley House Museum. More than 150 years of history resides here. Nearby is the Temple of Kwan Tai, reputed to be the oldest Chinese temple in California that has been open continuously since it was constructed in 1854.
When it’s time to rejuvenate mind, body, and soul, the Stanford Inn offers luxurious spa treatments as well as yoga, nature experiences, and acupuncture. Take a swim in the pool housed in the tropical solarium. At MacCallum House, massage and spa services are available in the comfort of your room.
For fun, Mendocino-only wine tasting, we headed to the Glendeven Wine Bar[n]. Small bites are served with samples of interesting wines (complimentary for inn guests). The barn is decorated with local art rotated every three months.
Mendocino is a mecca for art lovers of all kinds: jewelry, glass, paintings, sculpture, and furniture. Discover galleries and studios as you walk around town, but don’t miss the Mendocino Arts Center, a wonderful space dedicated to local artisans.
There are numerous cute shops in the village that sell clothing, home accessories, and gifts. Favorites include Ocean Quilts, The Attic of Mendocino, Rainsong Shoes, and Sallie Mac. A Friday farmers market is in full bloom from May to November.
On the way to Mendocino, stop at the Boonville General Store for hearty fare. Its scones are some of the best. Delight in fluffy, rich, organic eggs, as well as handmade tortillas and red potatoes. Salads and sandwiches are also popular—especially the grilled organic chicken salad.
As you stroll around town, stop at the Mendocino Market. Its New England clam chowder was spectacular as was the special sandwich of the day (blackened snapper). The market has a great selection of hot and cold wraps and yummy homemade cookies.
At dinner, the Ravens’ Restaurant at the Stanford Inn prepares only vegan cuisine (the balance of the day is vegetarian, too). The combination of ingredients is creative and delicious. Try the sea palm and Japanese root vegetable strudel made from locally harvested sea palm rolled in sesame phyllo and served with umeboshi plum (pickled apricot) and wasabi sauces. The moussaka is a scrumptious layering of eggplant, potato, tomato, zucchini, and spiced lentils with a cashew béchamel. The mint chocolate ganache tart is a decadent finish to a mouth-watering meal. The 2010 Masút Estate Pinot Noir is delicious.
The Grey Whale Bar is an intimate place at MacCallum House to sip a martini and watch the sunset. Enjoy dinner here or in the restaurant. From the homemade sourdough to the luscious oysters, steamed mussels in a red curry coconut broth, and pan-seared scallops and a root vegetable whip, we loved every course. Dessert, as with everything else, is made in-house. The Tahitian vanilla bean, caramel, and pistachio chocolate bark and Irish coffee ice creams paired with a local Brutacao Zinfandel Port were a sweet ending.
PATTY BURNESS can be found on Twitter at @pattygb.