We just got back from an extraordinary long weekend in Mendocino and Fort Bragg, California.
The two towns are less than 10 miles apart yet very different. Both enjoy a long history. Mendocino with its charming inns and hotels, unique shops and upscale food scene is probably the best known.
Fort Bragg, alternatively, is the larger commercial and business center. It is home to the seasonal Skunk Train and its historic ride through the coastal mountains and its stands of old growth forests. The journey is loved by young and old alike.
We were blessed with wonderful weather with almost no wind, long sunny days with long walks along many beaches and oceanside bluffs.
We enjoyed excellent food, some old favorites and a few new favorites. We thought we would share some of our experiences with our friends and family.
On the Road: After decades of taking the same route (fastest, most direct) to the North Coast we decided to take a longer slower route along more of the coast. This took us through Sebastopol, along the Russian River and some of the most beautiful coastline in the state.
We stopped in Point Arena to see the famed lighthouse and then on to the town by the same name where we discovered a great “watering hole”.
The Pier Chowder House & Tap Room
Super fresh seafood and shellfish at affordable prices right on the edge of the local pier. And the views were pretty special too. The historic bar looks pretty inviting around cocktail hour.
While there are many options for lodging ranging from opulent B&Bs to simple motels, we forgot about the Memorial Day holiday. We almost did not go because hotel rates were off the charts, $200, $300 or more per night.
Fortunately, we reached out to our old stand by, The Harbor Lite Motel where we have stayed many times. Perched on the bluff above Noyo Harbor we scored a Deluxe King room for well under $200 per night. (It helps being recognized as a frequent visitor.)
MacKerricher State Park is one of our favorite parks just north of Fort Bragg. There is no fee for day use visitors. There is a nice display of a whale skeleton just inside the gates, homage no doubt to the whaling history in the area ages ago. There are ample picnic grounds, clean restrooms, a gorgeous beach and a wonderful raised boardwalk out to the headlands. It is a wonderful way to spend a few hours or a few days. Keep an eye out for creatures big and small: sea lions and whales, bunnies and chipmunks, deer.
Noyo Headlands Park
A massive former lumber facility has been reinvented with the creation of the Noyo Headlands Park. The entrance is just north of Downtown Fort Bragg and opens an expansive area to hiking and biking, beachcombing and tide pools. Albeit crowded for the holiday, the park easily absorbed the masses and we often felt like we had the place all to ourselves (more or less).
Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens
Every once and a while you stumble upon a place that exceeds all expectations. This is the case for the 47 acres that comprise the Botanical Gardens in Fort Bragg. Divided into two distinct parts, one focused on a series of gardens, the second focused on trails and open land of the Coastal bluffs.
There is also a Plant Nursery, café, and a charming gift shop with unique products. Together the total package is a true gem and well worth the $14.00 admission.
In the center of Fort Bragg’s charming little downtown are several quality choices for food and drink.
Headlands Coffeehouse, 120 East Laurel Street, is as local as you can get. Extensive list of coffees, teas, juices, beer and wine. Equally extensive list of food from “morning food” to salads, Panini, and house made entrees.
Silver’s at The Wharf, on Noyo River is our go to spot for the freshest seafood in the harbor setting. Great cocktails and an extensive menu. Reservations suggested during peak season.
Cucina Verona, 124 East Laurel Street, serving quality meals breakfast, lunch and dinner. We enjoyed the fluffiest frittatas for breakfast one morning and excellent salad and pizza one evening. It seems to get better with every visit.
Taka’s Japanese Grill, 250 North Main St. serves great Japanese food as good as any in San Francisco. Sushi, Tempura, Teriyaki, Udon and more. Our newest discovery! We will go back!
Highlight meal. We cannot go to Mendocino without at least one meal at Café Beaujolais in Mendocino. Our lunch began with iced teas with vanilla and a bread basket of two house bakery breads.
We both had the cream of nettle soup with white truffle oil.
John had a huge shredded chicken salad with nuts and veggies with an Asian dressing. Jim had a wild mushroom pasta with cherry tomatoes and cream sauce.
We shared a molten chocolate cake with ice cream.
(We waddled out for a very long walk.)
Also noteworthy for house made jams, jellies, mustards and much more is Mendocino Jams and Preserves, “at the Ocean End of Main Street”. It is a ‘must’ stop for us. They also ship! MendoJams.com