Modern Guide to Mendocino County: Farm-Fresh Eats, Quirky B&Bs + Breathtaking Views
Mendocino Village (Courtesy of @visitmendocino)

Modern Guide to Mendocino County: Farm-Fresh Eats, Quirky B&Bs + Breathtaking Views

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Mendocino seems plucked out of a storybook, with its magical coastal scenery, picturesque storefronts, and charming inns.

It's where New England style meets California living. It's where the redwoods converge with the Pacific Ocean. It's where you can't get a bar of cell service, and you're not even mad about it. Packed with dramatic cliffside hikes and some of California's best farm-to-table restaurants, this is one place that should top your Northern California bucket list.


The road to Mendocino County is almost as pretty as the region itself; in roughly three hours you will pass by the understated Anderson Valley wine region and head through the soaring redwoods before spilling onto Highway 1 to enter the majestic seaside community of Mendocino. Here's what to do along the way.

Where to Eat in Mendocino

Boonville Hotel + Restaurant

(Courtesy of @boonvillehotel)

Lauren’s at The Buckthorn

Lauren’s has been a part of the Boonville food scene for more than 25 years but it was only last year that proprietor Lauren Keating and partner Natalie Matson moved the local favorite into The Buckthorn Building, combining it with its eponymous pub. Now, for the first time, the restaurant has a full bar for washing down its locally grown salads, sandwiches, and veggie-full mains. If you can swing it, visit on Taco Tuesdays, when Lauren’s carnitas and chipotle prawn tacos rake in the rave reviews, or for Friday night oysters and live music. // 14081 Hwy 128 (Boonville), laurensgoodfood.com

GoodLife Cafe & Bakery

Located in the village, stop here to kick off your day before exploring nearby shops. Not only does the cafe serve fair trade coffee, it also offers a full menu of made-from-scratch food, including breakfast pastries, burritos, and salads. A ton of vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options are available. There's often a long line but it moves fast, and you'll have your pick-me-up in no time. // 10483 Lansing St. (Mendocino), goodlifecafemendo.com

Wild Fish

Don't leave Mendocino County without eating at this tiny oceanside hideaway attached to a post office and a gas station. Gaze out the window to see waves crashing against the shore and feast on local fish caught just a few hours earlier. Make sure to try the creamy crab bisque and the raw platter stacked with ceviche, mussels and oysters, as well as the fresh catch of the day. // 7750 N. Hwy 1 (Little River), wild-fish.com

Cafe Beaujolais

Cafe Beaujolais has been a destination for decades, once known for its beloved breakfasts whipped up by the original chef and owner Margaret Fox. New owners, Peter and Melissa Lopez, along with their chef/son Julian, bought the cafe in late 2016. Julian, who has cooked at restaurants in France, Washington, and California, is intent on preserving the classic menu and building on it with bold new flavors, demonstrated in dishes such as the pork tenderloin marsala, served with a soubise risotto, maitake mushrooms, onion brulee, and asparagus. Their newest addition, The Waiting Room, serves artisan coffee, baked goods, and drinks in a cozy, fire-warmed space. The building itself is an adorable yellow Victorian farmhouse surrounded by a white picket fence and a lush garden filled with antique roses and edible flowers. Inside, the mint-green walls are decorated with photographs that pay homage to local ranchers and farmers. // 61 Ukiah St. (Mendocino), cafebeaujolais.com

Eggheads

There's no place like Eggheads. At this quirky, Wizard of Oz–themed restaurant in downtown Fort Bragg, the walls are filled with memorabilia from the classic film, and the focus (surprise!) is eggs. With two dozen omelettes, countless takes on eggs Benedict, and any scramble you could dream of, it can be hard to choose. We recommend one of the multiple Dungeness crab options, especially when smothered with hollandaise sauce. During busy hours, be prepared to wait—after all, it is the greatest restaurant of Oz. // 326 N Main St. (Fort Bragg), facebook.com/eggheadsrestaurant

Boonville Hotel + Restaurant

The Boonville Hotel's restaurant is a pleasant surprise that pushes the culinary envelope in Mendo, serving a three- or five-course family-style prix-fixe meal Thursdays through Mondays. The dishes change nightly and are inspired by what's in season; recent dishes include whole roasted petrale sole with almonds, tarragon, and summer squash, and grilled flat iron steak with summer potato salad. In the warmer months (June though mid October), the restaurant sets out blankets and tables in the courtyard. // 14050 Hwy 128 (Boonville), boonvillehotel.com/eat

Ledford House Restaurant

Down Highway 1, a few miles south of Mendocino in the town of Albion, you'll find the picturesque Ledford House perched on a cliff in the headlands. The elegant dining room serves a French Country–inspired menu grounded in new California style that embraces local ingredients, with dishes such as lamb shank slow cooked in red wine, and peppercorn encrusted filet mignon. The bar may have one of the best views anywhere on the coast. // 3000 CA-1 (Albion), ledfordhouse.com

Trillium Cafe

Another gem in the heart of Mendocino Village, this restored cottage overlooks Big River Bay and delivers inspired California cuisine. If the weather's nice, snag a table outside on the dog-friendly patio next to the culinary garden filled with flowers and herbs to be used in the kitchen. Menu highlights include the griled Covelo Ranch flat iron steak, with hmashed potatoes and porcini mushroom demi glace, and a grilled pork chop with roasted fingerling potatoes and pineapple sweet and sour sauce. Don't skip dessert: Both the decadent chocolate fudge cake and lemon cheesecake with blueberry sauce are worth the splurge. // 7051 CA-1 (Little River), trilliummendocino.com

What to Do in Mendocino

Mendocino Headlands State Park

(Courtesy of @activenorcal)

Mendocino Headlands State Park

After grabbing your morning coffee, stroll through the streets of Mendocino village and continue onto the headlands that surround the downtown area on three sides. The trail runs the length of the park, providing a leisurely walk through the meadows where you can stop at various viewpoints to take in the rugged coastline. Take your time making your way along the cliffs or take the stairs down to Big River Beach. // N CA-1 (Mendocino), parks.ca.gov

Russian Gulch State Park

This expansive park is a playground for everyone, offering a range of hikes from a quick one-hour stroll to a full day on the move. If you're looking for a more leisurely hike and Pacific Ocean views, take the one-hour Headlands Trail to the park's famous sinkhole, Devil's Punchbowl. If you're up for even more action, take the Fern Canyon Trail to get an up-close look at the waterfall, about a seven-mile roundtrip journey. // N CA-1 (Mendocino), parks.ca.gov

Kayak the Big River

Take to the water on the Big River estuary in the Mendocino Headlands State Park and paddle past redwoods and rugged beaches. Head to the launch point on South Big River Road off Highway 1 and stop by Catch-a-Canoe (10051 S Big River Rd., Mendocino), which provides both guided tours or kayak and canoe rentals if you want to go it alone. Depending on the time of year you may see otters or harbor seals.

Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens

As one of the few public gardens in the country directly on the coast, these botanical gardens are next-level. Stretching across 47 acres, you'll meander by manicured gardens, a dense pine forest, streams, and all kinds of plants—colorful rhododendrons, fuchsias, dahlias, magnolias, and succulents. All paths lead to the ocean. End your visit with a snack at the on-site cafe or purchase a plant to bring home from the gift shop and nursery. Another bonus: On-leash dogs are welcome! // 18220 CA-1 (Fort Bragg), gardenbythesea.org

Whale Watching

The Mendocino Coast is one of the best places to get a glimpse of California gray whales. From November through February they migrate from Alaska to Baja California, then return north February through April. These gentle giants tend to swim very close to shore. Make sure to book your whale-watching charter well in advance (our recommendations are Telstar Charters at32390 N Harbor Dr. or Anchor Charter Boats at 32440 N Harbor Dr., both in Fort Bragg).

Where to Drink + Smoke in Mendocino

Navarro Vineyards in Philo

(Courtesy of @navarrovineyards)

Patterson's Pub

This Irish pub opened in the 1980s when husband and wife Tony and Mary Ann moved from Ireland to the California coast. They like to refer to the pub as the "best-stocked bar north of the Golden Gate Bridge." You can't hate that. // 10485 Lansing St. (Mendocino), pattersonspub.com

Cannabis 21+

At this woman and veteran-owned dispensary in Ukiah, they don’t just tend the bud, they offer a laid back space for partaking in it, too. In their Bud Lounge, there are games, music, and all the weed you could ever want. Open from 9am to 10pm daily. // 2397 N. State St. (Ukiah), c21plus.com

North Coast Brewing Company

This beloved pit stop in downtown Fort Bragg, serves a wide selection of beers—try the Old Stock Cellar Reserve, a small batch beer aged in rye whiskey barrels. The brewery also serves a full pub menu of crowd pleasers, including the garlic waffle fries and fish and chips. Don't miss other great breweries in the area, too. The Ukiah Brewing Co. & Restaurant (102 S. State St., Ukiah) and Anderson Valley Brewing Company (17700 Boonville Rd., Boonville) are also local favorites. // 444 N. Main St. (Fort Bragg), northcoastbrewing.com

Navarro Vineyards

The area's cool, coastal climate makes it the perfect environment for grapes, in robust and high-end pinot noir, in particular. At Navarro Vineyards, post up at the outdoor tasting counter to enjoy a gorgeous view of vines along the rolling hills and a large variety of wine. This winery offers both refreshing whites and award-winning reds, including their Alsatian-style gewürztraminer, old-vine zinfandel, and crisp rosé. We recommend you check out more than one vineyard, though. Other favorites are Goldeneye Winery (9200 CA-128, Philo), Handley Cellars (3151 Hwy 128, Philo), and Roederer Estates (4501 CA-128, Philo). // 5601 Hwy.1 (Philo), navarrowine.com

The Bohemian Chemist

This charming dispensary in Philo is a vintage apothecary for the cannabis-loving set. Their organic, terroir-driven product is grown locally, on a hillside farm perched above Anderson Valley, and fashioned into rollies, edibles, and more. The shop also teams up regularly with SF Chef Bronson Macomber for tours, tastings, and cannabis-infused dinners. Stop by the shop in The Madrones Wednesdays through Mondays. // 9000 CA-128 (Philo), thebohemianchemist.com

Toulouse Vineyards & Winery

In our humble opinion, Toulouse is one of the best kept secrets not just of Mendocino County but of California Wine Country at large. Consistently turning out beautiful Burgundian-style pinots (as well lovely Alsatian rieslings and summery rosés), Toulouse is a soulful family-owned operation. Take your pup, grab a seat at a picnic table in the front or on the patio out back, and say hello to winemaker/proprietor Vern Boltz. // 8001 Hwy. 128 (Philo), toulousevineyards.com

Hopland Tap

It’s only fitting that this craft beer destination calls Hopland home. The gastropub, which focuses on locally-sourced beer, wine, and food, is tucked into a historic building hung with rotating local art, and has a beer garden to boot. Family-friendly during daytime hours, you’ll also find weekly live music, monthly dog adoption parties, and weekend bbqs. // 13351 Hwy 101 S (Hopland), hoplandtap.com

Where to Shop in Mendocino

Bates & Maillard Farmhouse Mercantile in Boonville

(Courtesy of @farmhouse128)

Bates & Maillard Farmhouse Mercantile

Boonville’s adorable Farmhouse Mercantile is stuffed to the brim with the careful craftsmanship of talented local artisans. It's ostensibly a general store with gifts of all sorts but their home goods game, with its hand-carved wooden spoons, ceramics, and dining room linens, is especially strong. We dare you to walk in here without finding something that’s just right. // 14111 Hwy 128 (Boonville), farmhouse128.com

Gallery Bookshop

When you enter this charming independent shop, the host feline, Catsby, will likely greet you. And as you're browsing, gaze over the shelves to look directly at the Pacific and take note of what may be the best view at any bookstore ever. // 319 Kasten St. (Mendocino), gallerybookshop.com

Splendiferous

One of the many cute shops in downtown Fort Bragg, this store stocks hand-picked fashion for women, including denim by Joes, Hudson, and Genetic, and a variety of children's clothing from companies like Kiwi Industries and Funkie Baby. // 115 E Laurel St (Fort Bragg), shopsplendiferous.com

Pippi's Longstockings

Two UC Santa Cruz graduates opened this store in the 2006 to focus on one thing: Socks! You'll find any type of fun and crazy footwear you can imagine, from bull dog socks to donut socks to artichoke socks. It rocks. // 123 East Laurel Street (Fort Bragg), pippisocks.com

Where to Stay in Mendocino

SCP Mendocino in Little River

(Courtesy of @scpmendocino)

SCP Mendocino Inn and Farm

Surrounded by Van Damme State Park, SCP Mendocino Inn and Farm is a holistic getaway with an ocean view. Its 31 mindfully-designed rooms, most with wood-burning fireplaces, are spread out across the 15-acre property in both historic and contemporary buildings. From their mid-19th century farmhouse to their lodge, recent renovations highlight the beauty and rustic luxury of California’s north coast. Breakfast is grown and gathered straight from the estate farm every morning and each evening, a wine tasting features Mendo vineyards like Husch. // 8211 N CA-1 (Little River), scphotel.com

MacCallum House Inn

If any place encapsulates Mendocino, MacCallum House Inn is it. The stately boutique hotel represents the best of the New England-style architecture. Back in 1882, William Kelley built the home as a wedding gift to his daughter Daisy MacCallum and the local paper gave it a rave review: "Hot and cold water in three different places (count 'em!)." Today, the property offers stays in the main house, seven cottages, and a pet-friendly barn, as well as breakfast (we still think about the buckwheat pancakes with pecan butter and berries), stocked mini bars, and hot tubs (in select rooms). // 45020 Albion St. (Mendocino), maccallumhouse.com

Brewery Gulch Inn

Take refuge at the well-known inn that sits atop a bluff with dramatic views of Smuggler's Cove. The historic Arts and Crafts–style lodge is built from salvaged virgin redwood timber. Entering the lobby, you're greeted by soaring glass windows and the warmth radiating off the four-sided glass-and-steel fireplace anchoring the room. Cooked to order breakfast and buffet dinners made with locally sourced ingredients are included. // 9401 N Highway 1 (Mendocino), brewerygulchinn.com

Philo Apple Farm

For one of the most unique lodging experience in Mendocino, stay—and cook!—at the Philo Apple Farm, which welcomes guests to experience living on a working farm. Its founders Sally and Don Schmitt have a concrete place in the history of California cuisine as the original owners of the iconic Napa restaurant, The French Laundry. Today, their farm has changed with the times, adapting sustainable and organic practices And it's truly a family affair, with three generations tending the land. As part of the weekend cooking retreats, guests assist with meals throughout their stay, all inspired by the farm's own bounty. Dates book fast, so plan ahead. // 18501 Philo Greenwood Rd. (Philo), philoapplefarm.com

The Heritage House Resort & Spa

This cliffside retreat in Little River combines the drama of the Mendocino coast with a clean, coastal grandmother aesthetic. Everything on the 37 oceanfront acres strewn with cypress, eucalyptus, and lavender, is geared towards relaxation including firepits, Sunday morning yoga, gardens, and walking trails. The on site 5200 Restaurant and Lounge offer curated menus of classic food and cocktails. // 5200 N Hwy 1 (Little River), heritagehouseresort.com


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