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Updated July 2023

Mendocino, California is one of the top weekend destinations in coastal Northern California. This charming town is idyllic, slow in all the right ways, and connected with nature. Over the past five years, I’ve made the journey to this coastal town, three hours north of San Francisco a handful of times. Every time I return home, I feel a bit more grounded and connected. 

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A Weekend Guide to Mendocino, California

I think a large part of why I’m always drawn back to Mendocino is its “sauvage” character. The rough waters of the Pacific Ocean splash up against the headland shores. Whales are often spotted in the distance and birds dive into the waters just in front. 

Behind you, dense and mysterious redwood forests tower over the coastline And there is always just enough fog to remind you that you are indeed in Northern California. Nothing makes for a more cozy stay in a local bed and breakfast when the weather is colder. 

In the center of town is an artist’s haven. Studios, charming boutiques, water towers, historical landmarks, and quirky architecture line the streets. There is a bit of something for everyone here.

So when my mind starts to drift away and crave an escape, I’m always pulled towards this part of Northern California. Since it has been almost four years since the last guide, I thought it was time to write a new travel guide with my favorites. You’ll want to pack a few layers for your trip, plan on traveling slowly, and get intentional with your time outdoors. 

Here’s a look at how to spend a weekend in Mendocino, California, with the best things to do, the best places to eat, and where to stay.

A Weekend Guide to Mendocino, California

Short on Time? Here Are My Top Picks for the Best Hotels in Mendocino:

  1. Heritage House Resort and Spa, for the best oceanfront hotel
  2. Brewery Gulch Inn, for the best Mendocino hotel
  3. SCP Mendocino Inn & Farm, for the best bed-and-breakfast stay
  4. Mendocino Grove, for the best glamping stay
  5. Nicholson House at Beaujolais, for the best Mendocino bed-and-breakfast stay

A Weekend Guide to Mendocino, California

The Best Hotels in Mendocino, California

SCP Mendocino Inn & Farm

SCP Mendocino Inn and farm
Image via

SCP Mendocino Inn & Farm is one of those hidden gems right before you get into Mendocino. The adults-only bed and breakfasts sit on a property with ocean views and llamas roaming freely. Every morning a hotel breakfast is delivered right to your room! Book the best rates here.

Address: 8211 North, CA-1, Little River, CA 95456

Mendocino Grove Glamping

One of my favorite experiences I’ve done in Northern California was glamping at Mendocino Grove. These luxurious tents are adorable! Clean communal bathrooms and nightly dinners (extra), make it feel like camping without the fuss. Book the best rates here.

Address: 9500, 9601 CA-1, Mendocino, CA 95460

Heritage House Resort and Spa

Heritage House Resort and Spa
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Perched on the rugged Mendocino coast, the Heritage House Resort and Spa is a 37-acre sanctuary that blends romantic charm with modern comfort. Its luxurious ocean-view rooms, direct beach access, and organic cafe offer guests a serene escape from the everyday. Just a stone’s throw from the heart of Mendocino, this cliffside retreat is the perfect base for exploring the local attractions or simply unwinding amidst breathtaking natural beauty. Whether you’re seeking adventure or tranquility, the Heritage House Resort and Spa promises an unforgettable coastal getaway. Book the best rates here.

Address: 5200 CA-1, Little River, CA 95456

Nicholson House at Beaujolais

Nicholson House at Beaujolais

Situated in the heart of Mendocino, the Nicholson House at Beaujolais offers a charming and intimate retreat. This bed and breakfast is just a short walk from the beach, headland trails, coffee shops, restaurants, and art galleries, making it an ideal base for exploring the local attractions. With its friendly service, comfortable accommodations, and stunning views of the North Pacific Ocean, the Nicholson House at Beaujolais provides a uniquely personal and inviting experience for those seeking to immerse themselves in the tranquil beauty of Mendocino. Book the best rates here.

Address: 951 Ukiah St, Mendocino, CA 95460

Brewery Gulch Inn

Mendocino Hotels: The Brewery Gulch Inn Review

For an upscale stay near the town of Mendocino, Brewery Gulch Inn is it. This small, boutique hotel has 10 rooms, each carefully decorated and outfitted with cozy furnishings. I love that the hotel is set back off the highway, so you feel very secluded and in nature. Book the best rates here.

Address: 9401 CA-1, Mendocino, CA 95460

Little River Inn

Little River Inn
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For those who want a bigger, family-friendly hotel, The Little River Inn has stunning and spacious rooms. A bit further from town but close enough, this iconic Mendocino hotel has been here for a long time. I love how much light each of the rooms gets! Book the best rates here.

Address: 7901 CA-1, Little River, CA 95456

Restaurants in Mendocino, California

The Bar & Restaurant at Little River Inn

Over the years, I’ve loved sitting at the bar here to catch the sunset over the ocean. The food is delicious (you can eat in the restaurant) and they have a great cocktail menu. They do offer takeout dining right now, so you can order ahead and take your food to-go. If you’re staying at Little River Inn, it is a convenient choice for a few meals while exploring Mendocino. 

Address: 7751 CA-1, Little River, CA 95456

Trillium Cafe

Inside a historic home in Mendocino, they have a lovely patio and interior space to dine in. Fresh local food and classics like a roast baby beet salad are always a win. For dinners on their patio, you will want to reserve in advance for your meal. Right now they are doing takeout orders and offer picnic boxes to-go. 

Address: 10390 Kasten St, Mendocino, CA 95460

Wild Fish

Set along the ocean, this is all things seafood. Wild Fish is an upscale restaurant for the Mendocino area and offers a great wine list. Their focus on sustainability means you can dine knowing your food has been sourced ethically. For dine-in, you will want to reserve in advance by contacting the restaurant directly. 

Address: 7750 CA-1, Little River, CA 95456

Patterson’s Pub

Patterson's Pub
Image via Patterson’s Pub

For a more casual meal, head to the town pub for fish and chips and other classics. They are offering curbside pickup for orders to go, so you’ll want to place your order ahead of time. Patterson’s Pub is well-known for its daily specials which they post on their porch as well!

Address: 10485 Lansing St, Mendocino, CA 95460

Flow Restaurant

Certainly the best view in town for dinner, head to Flow for great drinks and outdoor dining. Their menu features organic meats and vegetables, with many vegan and gluten-free options for guests. It’s a local institution for food and one of my go-to’s for when I visit Mendocino. 

Address: 45040 Main St, Mendocino, CA 95460

Mendocino Cafe

Mendocino Cafe

A classic for a good bite with a patio, this eatery is best known for its lunches. Mendocino Cafe serves healthy options like salads and crab cakes. 

Address: 10451 Lansing St, Mendocino, CA 95460

Café Beaujolais

Opened in 1977, upscale Café Beaujolais is a must-reserve right in town for French classics like steak tartar and seafood linguini. Their current takeout menu offers more diverse options like pizza and their hit Smashburger. 

Address: 961 Ukiah St, Mendocino, CA 95460

Things to Do in Mendocino, California

Rent an Outrigger at Catch-a-Canoe

I’ve done this multiple times and it’s a must every time I visit Mendocino. I love taking an outrigger up the river and spending half a day exploring. Catch-a-Canoe offers daily and hourly rentals, so you can park your car and take off for the day.

You may consider packing a lunch and cruising to the river to stop and enjoy. Along the way, wildlife like seals and otters can be spotted as well. I’d highly recommend planning this in advance, the team can help you figure out if it is better to go in the morning or afternoon depending on the tides. 

The Big River is a big part of Mendocino County, so what better way to experience it than by kayak or outrigger. 

Hike in Russian Gulch State Park

My favorite spot amongst all of the North Coast State Parks is Russian Gulch. It is one of the most beautiful destinations with ocean views. There are a few ways to experience it, whether you drive down to the beach or out to the point.

I’d recommend heading out to the point and getting a beautiful view back at the bridge while you walk the coastal trail. You could also consider grabbing a to-go lunch from town and enjoying it out at the state park at one of the many picnic tables. 

Go Wine Tasting in the Anderson Valley

While you make your drive to Mendocino, you most likely will pass through the Anderson Valley. For us, it’s a hidden gem for wineries and great wine tasting. We are members at Husch Vineyards and love popping in for a tasting out at their picnic tables.

The wine in this part of Mendocino is incredibly good due to its climate and minerality. You’ll find delicious varietals of both white and red wine. Some of the top wineries to visit are Goldeneye Winery, Phillips Hill Winery, and Navarro Vineyards and Winery

Walk the Headlands at the Van Damme State Park

Head to the Cobbler’s Walk near the property of the Inn at the Cobbler’s Walk, to explore along the ocean. This is one of the best long coastal walks in the area. The tall grass sways in the wind, making way to paths that cut in and out. 

While you are exploring Van Damme, you may spot some of the local wildlife like deer and coyotes. Once you get down to the ocean, keep your eyes peeled for the local seals that often sunbathe on the rocks here. 

Visit Glass Beach and Explore Fort Bragg

Not too far north is the famous Glass Beach located in Fort Bragg. It is the perfect beach to go explore on a sunny afternoon. You will want the high sun to see the “sea glass” sparkling with the color which reflects the rays of light.

Afterward, I would recommend heading down to Noyo Harbor to grab lunch at the female-owned Princess Seafood. This seafood joint is absolutely delicious for fresh fish and their crab sandwiches are one of my favorites.

One other outdoor area to explore is MacKerricher State Park. It extends 9 miles over the coast and has sandy dunes with wooded areas to walk. The main beach is the closest beach to the main entrance. 

Explore the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens

With a headlands walk and cafe, you can head here to see 45 acres of landscaped and wild gardens. It is on your way to Fort Bragg, so you could pop in on your way as you explore the coast.

At this time, the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens are requiring advance reservations to enter. I would recommend booking these in advance for your trip due to the high demand. Throughout the year, there are special exhibits and events, so be sure to check that out as well for your trip. 

Ride Through the Redwoods on the Skunk Train Railbikes

The Skunk Train offers one incredible experience to ride through the Redwoods via their new railbikes. You’ll work your way through, getting to soak it all in while riding on a railbike that glides on the railway tracks.

It is a guided tour and you and a partner can ride on the same bike together. They are operating right now and offer advance ticket sales which are highly recommended given the popularity of this outdoor activity.

For families, this is a great thing to go do with kids and incredibly informational. 

Spend an Afternoon at Jug Handle State Natural Reserve

Another popular State Natural Reserve a few miles north of the town of Mendocino is Jug Handle. This expansive reserve is home to different trails that will take you out to the ocean or its secluded beach. The trails are just off the parking lot, so you won’t miss them — be sure to check out the signage for the best choice for you.

You could come here for a beach day at Jug Handle Beach which is tucked away in a cove-like area. The parking lot does get busy on the weekends, so I would highly recommend getting there earlier in the day if you plan to camp out for a beach day. 

Another scenic spot if you’re looking for it is Mendocino Headlands State Park just south of Fort Bragg. There are several hiking trails here to enjoy. 

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A Weekend Guide to Mendocino, California

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