MAGICAL MENDOCINOOct 12, 2018 01:04PM ● By Pam Kessler
It seems plucked out of a storybook. It's where New England style meets California living and redwoods converge with the Pacific Ocean. A weekend in Mendocino transforms, and it’s only a three and half hour jaunt away. You’ll find dramatic scenery, picturesque storefronts,and fabulous places to stay. And if hitting the road means bringing your furry best friend, the north coast is calling with plenty of dog-friendly resorts.
Begin your adventure on Highway 128 in Boonville, where you’ll find a welcoming general store, little boutiques, and good eats. The town’s architecture is eclectic and friendly—a mix of quaint buildings some dating back to the turn of the century. Grab a sandwich with the locals at Mosswood Market, then browse the shelves at Farmhouse Mercantile—bits of decor, kitchen tools, and linens. Head to Hendy Woods State Park for a retreat among the giant redwoods.
Herds of goats—all with their own names—produce the rich milk that create the world-class goat cheeses at Pennyroyal Farm. (They do sheep cheeses too!) Daughter of the founders of Navarro Wines, Sarah Cahn Bennett founded Pennyroyal Farmstead with her friend Erica after graduating from UC Davis. Take a tour of their amazing farmstead, sip their delicious wines, and savor their creamy cheeses. It will leave you with a lasting memory. pennyroyalfarm.com
Back on Highway 128 to Mendocino, you’ll drive through the Anderson Valley wine region, renowned for its Pinot Noir grapes that thrive in a place where the sun, the wind and the soil meet. Tasting standouts:
Navarro Vineyards: Robust Pinot Noir wine is the centerpiece sipped while surrounded by sprawling hills of gorgeous vines. They also produce refreshing whites, old-vine zinfandel, and crisp rosé. navarrowine.com
Toulouse Vineyards: One of Mendocino County’s best kept secrets, Toulouse turns out beautiful Burgundian-style pinots and rose’s. Take your pup and grab a seat at a picnic table. toulousevineyards.com
Goldeneye Winery: In 1996, Margaret and Dan Duckhorn established a winery here to make a Pinot Noir that could rival Merlots produced by Duckhorn Vineyards in Napa Valley. Sit on the patio overlooking the vineyards, sip exquisite pinots and savor a cheese or charcuterie plate. goldeneyewinery.com
Little River Inn
Savvy travelers know fall is a good time to pack the corkscrew and the hiking boots for an adventure on Northern California's coast. As the temperatures slide, hotel rates dip, and nature takes on a colorful glow. A good place to recharge is at the Little River Inn (above). Pull up an Adirondack chair, breathe in the ocean air, and savor exceptional seafood. Pets are welcome at this historic, family-run coastal retreat, and dog-friendly rooms come with patios and fireplaces. A golf course, spa, and cocktails at Ole’s Whale Watch Bar complete the experience. littleriverinn.com
Pets are greeted with open arms at this eco-chic resort on the Mendocino Coast. Most dog-friendly rooms come with ocean views, fireplaces, and big patio decks. The only eco-vegan coastal resort in California, whether you are vegan or not, a respite at Stanford Inn (above) is truly a remarkable experience filled with fragrant garden aromas and crisp coastal air. Seasonal vegetables emerge in tasty vegan recipes that push the culinary envelope in dishes like Sea Palm & Root Vegetable Strudel—local sea palm, carrots, and onion wrapped in sesame phyllo with broccoli, shiitake, and cashews. Stretch in yoga classes, dip in the solarium pool, rent a bike, or take a walk to the coast. www.stanfordinn.com
Don't leave Mendocino without eating at this tiny seafood hideaway. If you’re staying at Little River Inn, the resort’s lawn ends at Wild Fish. Gaze out the windows from the dining room watching waves crash below while feasting on fresh fish caught just a few hours earlier. Make sure to order the creamy crab bisque and the raw platter stacked with ceviche, mussels and oysters. wild-fish.com
On Highway One, a few miles south of Mendocino in the town of Albion, you'll find this picturesque spot perched on a cliff. An elegant dining room serves a French Country–inspired menu: try slow-cooked saucy lamb shank and peppercorn encrusted filet mignon. The bar has one of the best views on the coast. Take it all in to the sounds of nightly live jazz. ledfordhouse.com
Charming clapboard inns, cottages, and B&B’s dot Mendocino’s picturesque streets. Inside a yellow Victorian surrounded by a white picket fence is one of Mendocino’s top culinary destinations, Café Beaujolais. Its storied cuisine lives deep in French roots serving eclectic twists on seared foie gras, ranch steak tartare, and ribeye slathered in bone marrow butter. Photographs on the mint-green walls pay homage to local ranchers and farmers. cafebeaujolais.com
Another gem in the heart of the village, this restored cottage overlooks Big River Bay. If the weather's nice, sit outside on the dog-friendly patio. Menu highlights include braised short ribs and a grilled pork chop with gnocchi and squash. Don't skip dessert: both the chocolate Kahlua torte and fresh Meyer lemon napoleon are worth the splurge. trilliummendocino.com
At this popular Fort Bragg hole-in-the wall, the focus is on eggs. With two dozen omelets, countless takes on Benedict, and any scramble you want, it’s hard to get a table. Try Dorothy's Revenge: a poached egg with fresh Dungeness crab and bacon smothered in champagne hollandaise sauce. fortbraggrestaurants.com
Russian Gulch State Park
You can go on a one hour stroll or a full day hike here. If you're looking for something leisurely with ocean views, take the one-hour Headlands Trail to the park's famous sinkhole, Devil's Punchbowl. If you're up for more action, take the Fern Canyon Trail for an up-close look at the waterfall, about a seven-mile journey.parksca.gov
One of the few public gardens in the country on the coast, Mendocino’s botanical gardens are next-level. Stretching across 47-acres, you'll find rhododendrons, fuchsias, dahlias, magnolias, and succulents. Another bonus: on-leash dogs are welcome.
This picturesque Fort Brag village is the place to watch local fisherman reel in their catch. Grab a seat at a waterfront fish house, order a pint of craft beer, a bowl of steaming clam chowder and an order of fish n chips. Hit the fish market to pack up sea delicacies to take home.
From November through February, you can watch gray whales emigrate from Alaska to Baja California. They return north February through April. These gentle giants tend to swim very close to shore. If you want to get up close and personal, book a whale-watching boat charter.
North Coast Brewing Company
This beloved craft brewery in downtown Fort Bragg serves a wide selection of beers and expansive pub menu. Order the ‘sampler’ for a taste of what’s on tap. Ukiah Brewing Co. & Restaurant and Anderson Valley Brewing Company are also local favorites. northcoastbrewing.com
PACIFIC STAR WINERY
Take a drive north of Fort Bragg on the spectacular coast highway and stop at the only winery on the California coast. Located on a bluff above the Pacific Ocean, the views are simply breathtaking. They also do some nice wines to sip and savor with a picnic outdoors. pacificstarwinery.com