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Mendocino CA Travel Guide: What to Do, Where to Stay & What to Eat

Travel

Three hours north of San Francisco, through the massive redwood groves, beyond the vineyard-lined hills, and past the windy stretch of CA-128, lies a sleepy coastal town “plucked out of a storybook.” Mendocino is home to roaming llamas, the dazzling 24/7 performance of the Pacific Ocean and unassuming fine dining restaurants next to post offices and gas stations. So turn off your cell phone, roll your shoulders back and relax. Mendocino is a breath of fresh air.

Of all of the cities in my Travel Guides, Mendocino stands out for its seaside storybook vibes.

Where to Stay

Inn & Lodge at Glendeven

For James’ birthday, we stayed at the Inn & Lodge at Glendeven, a fancy bed and breakfast. They had me at the image above, ha. A friend who saw my Instagram story told me she’d stayed before, too (and loved it).

We stayed in the Inn (the Lodge is brand new and almost finished being built) in the Briar Rose room.

One of my favorite things was waking up, sitting outside on the patio and eating our three-course breakfast (delivered in a basket), while watching the llamas graze. James built a fire, so we had the sound of a crackling fire in one ear and the ocean waves in the other.

Breakfast is made with the eggs laid by their chickens and produce from their garden.

Did I mention they have llamas?! Big, fluffy llamas.

In the afternoon, we took one of the trails down to the beach where it was cold and clear and beautiful.

Where to Eat

Wild Fish

wild fish seafood restaurant dinner in mendocino

Craving seafood? Look no further than the gas station in Little River, just a couple miles south of Mendocino. Go past the pumps, walk around the corner and duck into Wild Fish. Yes, it’s attached to the post office and yes, it’s tiny, but it serves really good (you guessed it) wild-caught fish with undeniable charm.

Quiet Like Horses Travel Guides Tip: Order the sablefish (also known as black cod). It comes perfectly cooked and each bite is like butter.

Because the restaurant is right on the water, the views are said to be incredible.

Trillium Cafe

For lunch, we split the fish tacos and a cheeseburger at Trillium Cafe, which is right in the middle of Mendocino village. The burger was delicious, and there’s a nice outdoor patio for al fresco dining.

What to Do

Walk around Mendocino village

mendocino village water towers

If you look up the definition of quaint (also see “charming”) in the dictionary, you’ll find a picture of Mendocino village. The storefronts are cute and half the town seems to live and/or work out of converted water towers. And because the Mendocino headlands border the town, you’ll catch a brilliant view of the ocean no matter which way you turn.

Grab coffee at Good Life Cafe

For a post-lunch pick-me-up, we stoped for coffee at Good Life Cafe. (Get the salted caramel latte.) Sit and chat; read a book; or shop the handmade ceramics and jewelry for sale by local artists.

Walk the Mendocino Headlands Trail

With our coffees to warm us, we made our way to the Mendocino Headlands Trail. I can’t recommend it enough. It’s super easy to walk to from the village (you can’t miss it), and the views are spectacular.

PSA: Found! The perfect white long sleeve tee. This one by Splendid is form fitting without being clingy (very important), drapes nicely and has a flattering rounded V-neckline. It’s the perfect shirt to tuck in. (I love it so much, I just bought it in grey.)

The ocean is right there. It was like experiencing an interactive modern-art installation on a massive scale. By the end of our walk, we were covered in a fine sea-salt mist. I could stay all day.

It looks like milk, James said. I agreed.

This mushroom made me laugh. Have you ever seen such a convincing, real-life version of the mushroom from the Mario video games before?

Unplug

Lastly, the best thing to do in Mendocino is … nothing. Do you remember the last time you sat around, eating cookies and playing Uno? Me neither. We played multiple rounds with nothing but the uninterrupted peace and quiet to keep us company.

Back in our room, we lounged around in our bathrobes, reading and enjoying the crackle of the fire. Every now and then, when James threw another log on, we’d have a bit of excitement as the fire really got going. It was so different from a typical night in San Francisco–I loved it.

(Isn’t it funny how we have to get away to do nothing these days?)

Hike to a Waterfall

There are so many trails in the area, from challenging ones to short jaunts (see the Mendocino Headlands trail above for an easy hike). We did one somewhere in the middle called the Fern Canyon Trail at Russian Gulch State Park, which was about five miles long. There’s a waterfall at the end!

Where to Shop

Honey & Ro

A well-curated boutique, Honey & Ro carries a beautiful selection of jewelry, home goods and clothes. I discovered the jewelry designer Polly Wales. How incredible are Polly Wales rings?

Mendocino Jams & Preserves

photo by Mia N.

Mendocino James & Preserves is an entire shop dedicated to selling jams. And mustards. And some nut butters. Basically, if you can spread it on toast, you can find it here. There’s nothing like tasting your twelfth jam sample to make you appreciate the slow pace of the day.

Watch Our Mendocino Highlights

Still curious what Mendocino’s like? Check out my Instagram Highlights from our Mendocino CA weekend.

mendocino ca story highlight

Get More Travel Tips

If you’re planning a trip soon, check out my travel guides for more fun destination ideas and travel tips.

Last modified: March 20, 2019