Is Mendocino, California, Your I Do Destination?
Not everyone wants the stereotypical lying on the beach, sipping a tropical cocktail honeymoon. Maybe your skin crisps up after two minutes in the hot sun or you’ve already done that sort of trip too many times. Whatever the reason, you certainly don’t need to feel as though it’s your only option for a relaxing honeymoon.
An alternative? How about a tucked away community with miles of untouched coastline, majestic forests, and enough wineries and craft breweries to ensure you never go thirsty? Mendocino, California, fits the bill perfectly.
About three hours north of San Francisco, this small community and the surrounding area have more than enough to offer honeymooners. There’s a wealth of charming hotels and bed and breakfasts on hand. A recent stay at the Brewery Gulch Inn in Mendocino proved it to be an ideal spot for honeymooners. In fact, there were two honeymooning couples staying there in two out of the 11 rooms.
A beautiful view of Smugglers Cove and the Pacific Ocean greets guests in the inn’s Great Room, where you can relax with a glass of wine and a book, play a game of chess, grab a DVD to watch in your room, or just enjoy the view. The rooms are cozy, with fireplaces for heat, earth-tone furnishings that feel just right for the surroundings, and Molton Brown toiletries in the bathroom (if you’re familiar with the brand you know how awesome that is).
The Brewery Gulch Inn offers a cooked-to-order breakfast each morning; the Millionaire’s bacon, with its mix of sweet and spicy glaze, is insanely good and worth the extra calories. Then again, there’s also a parfait if you want something on the lighter side. In the evening, a light dinner paired with local beer and wine tastings occurs between 5:30 and 6:30. With all of this you could easily spend your whole trip right there at the hotel, but it’s worth stepping out, at least for a bit.
When you do venture out, there are plenty of options. You can take a stroll through the town of Mendocino and see some of the historical buildings perched on a bluff above the pristine coast, have a drink at the historic Mendocino Inn, or pick up a souvenir at one of the charming shops.
A short walk from the town is the Mendocino Headlands State Park, with a series of hiking trails along the coastline. Even if you’re not a hiker per se, it’s worth a visit, as most of the paths are fine for even the least outdoorsy people.
If you want to branch out even more, grab your car keys and drive north along the coast for about two hours to Humboldt Redwoods State Park, home of the Avenue of the Giants. This road takes you through the most amazing—and huge—redwood trees you’ve ever seen, and there are plenty of places to park and walk around. Ask your hotel for a map or hit up the visitors center when you’re there. You can also do the famous drive through one of several redwood trees. These decades-old tourist attractions are a bit cheesy and a little sad (why would anyone cut a hole into a tree that beautiful?!), but it does make for some fun pictures.
Getting thirsty? The area around Mendocino has quite a few options for wineries and breweries. The climate makes it well suited for Pinot Noir-style grapes, so you’ll find quite a lot of these there, as well as red blends.
A small but popular winery is Navarro Vineyards & Winery in the Anderson Valley, about 40 minutes away from Mendocino. The winery offers tours and tastings of its award winning wines and also makes non-alcoholic grape juice from its Pinot Noir and Gewurztraminer grapes. Trust me, this isn’t your typical Welch’s, and it’s a nice option for whoever drew the short straw as the designated driver.
For beer, head north about 15 minutes from Mendocino to Fort Bragg and the North Coast Brewing Company. Across the street from the brewery is the restaurant and taproom, where you can grab a bite to eat and get a sampler of the Red Seal Ale, Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout, or Scrimshaw Pilsner. South of Mendocino, there’s also the Anderson Valley Brewing Company, with an airy tasting area and a dog-friendly outdoor seating area, just in case you brought your fur baby with you. This in particular seemed to be a popular spot for couples. We stopped by on a Monday at around noon and there were at least five other couples making a pit stop for a pint or tasting.
December through April is prime whale-watching season, and you can book boat tours through your hotel or in town. Mendocino also has kayak or canoe rentals, live music at the Caspar Inn, and botanical gardens. But if it is a laidback honeymoon you’re after, there’s nothing wrong with cozying up in your room or on your private deck with a bottle of wine and just enjoying the scenery.
Full disclosure: I received a discounted media rate at the Brewery Gulch Inn, but all opinions remain my own.