Mendocino, California is one of the top weekend destinations in Northern California. This coastal town is idyllic, it’s 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.
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.
In the center of town is an artist’s haven. Studios, charming boutiques, 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 slow, 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
The Best Hotels in Mendocino, California
Glendeven Inn & Lodge
This is one of those hidden gems right before you get into Mendocino. The adults-only hotel sits on a property with ocean views and llamas roam freely. Every morning a hotel breakfast is delivered right to your room!
Brewery Gulch Inn
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.
Little River Inn
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!
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), makes it feel like camping without the fuss.
Browse more Mendocino hotels here:
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 the hotel, it is a convenient choice for a few meals while exploring Mendocino.
Address: 7751 CA-1, Little River, CA 95456
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
Set along the ocean, this is all things seafood. It 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
For a more casual meal, head to the town pub for fish&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 their daily specials which they post on their porch as well!
Address: 10485 Lansing St, Mendocino, CA 95460
Certainly the best view in town for dinner, head here 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
A classic for a good bite with a patio, this eatery is best known for its lunches. They serve healthy options like their salads and crab cakes.
Address: 10451 Lansing St, Mendocino, CA 95460
Opened in 1977, this upscale 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 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 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 Winery 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 Hall, 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 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 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 giving 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 from 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 that is tucked away down 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.