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Marvelous Mendocino

The best of both worlds on the NorCal coast

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Gorgeous sea views draw visitors to Northern California. They come to watch ocean waves crash on granite outcroppings and roll into rocky coves. This dramatic scene is repeated along the coast from Bodega Bay in the south to Crescent City near the Oregon border, a distance of more than 300 miles. Along the way, Highways 1 and 101 pass through a handful of counties but only one — Mendocino — is known for the other attributes that NorCal travelers also seek: great food, outstanding wine, and warm hospitality. 

Little River

My husband and I recently started our stay in the area with a wonderful dinner at the Little River Inn, just two miles south of the town of Mendocino. The Victorian inn began life as a private home in 1853 and now boasts a nine-hole golf course with stunning ocean vistas. At dinner, I enjoyed sable fish with polenta and mushrooms, and Richard gave a thumbs up to the house-made lamb sausage. littleriverinn.com

We spent that night nearby at the charming Glendeven Inn & Lodge, a former farmstead where 31 rooms are set on 16 acres. The adults-only property includes beautiful gardens, a spa, wine tasting and tours, and three Tesla charging stations. Tasty breakfasts, the only meal offered, are delivered. glendeven.com

Delicious breakfasts are served in-room at Glendeven Inn & Lodge
Delicious breakfasts are served in-room at Glendeven Inn & Lodge

Glendeven is surrounded on three sides by Van Damme State Park, and more than five hours of forested trails start at the inn’s front door. One easy wildflower-lined path leads to a cliff with a sweeping ocean view. My favorite, the dreamlike Fern Canyon Trail, offers a magical combination of majestic redwood trees and vibrant green ferns. Nearby, Van Damme Beach is a good spot for sheltered kayaking. 

Closer to Mendocino, the friendly Brewery Gulch Inn offers 11 rooms, delicious breakfasts, and light suppers that arrive in “Mendo boxes.” A wooden deck in front of the great room overlooks Smugglers Cove and is a good spot for watching birds — including acorn woodpeckers and band-tailed pigeons — that come to feeders hanging in a large crape myrtle tree. Families appreciate the lending library of more than 700 DVDs and the numerous shared board games. A local connection: Owner Guy Pacurar was born and raised in Del Mar. brewerygulchinn.com 

Brewery Gulch Inn is an informal lodge overlooking Smuggler’s Cove
Brewery Gulch Inn is an informal lodge overlooking Smuggler’s Cove

Mendocino and Fort Bragg

The town of Mendocino is the stuff of postcards. Cute shops and galleries are interspersed among quaint cottages and colorful gardens, and cafés and pubs cater to the influx of tourists. There’s a good visitor center here but, if you’re short on time, I suggest you head straight out to the breathtaking sights at Mendocino Headlands State Park. Here, you’ll see the views that draw nearly two million visitors a year to this town of less than a thousand residents. 

Miles of trails wind along the cliffs of Mendocino Headlands State Park
Miles of trails wind along the cliffs of Mendocino Headlands State Park

When I return to Mendocino County, it will be to re-walk the Fern Canyon Trail and stand in the majesty of redwood trees. I also want to revisit the beautiful Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, which is located between Mendocino and Fort Bragg. I love my garden in La Jolla, but it was refreshing to see beautiful specimens of plants that want a much cooler and wetter environment.

Fort Bragg’s commercial fishing fleet docks at Noyo Harbor, where we enjoyed a great seafood meal at Harbor View Bistro & Bar. The pan-seared bay scallops with wild mushroom risotto, New England clam chowder, and local petrale sole were all very good. visitmendocino.com

The Inn at Newport Ranch

One Friday in 1985, Connecticut native Willard Jackson saw an ad in The Wall Street Journal for an 850-acre ranch with a mile of ocean frontage in Northern California. He didn’t know where Mendocino County was, but noted that the price was less than the acre he’d just bought on Long Island Sound. He soon visited, bought the ranch in 1986, and now owns a total of 2,400 acres. In 2015, he and his family decided to build an inn so others could enjoy the property. 

Today, guests visiting the ten-room Inn at Newport Ranch ride horses, mountain bike, walk trails, watch for whales, dine on meals prepared by a superb ex-Napa Valley chef, and relax in the luxury of unspoiled nature. The highlight of our stay was a private two-hour UTV tour with our guide, Frank, who showed us the sights and provided a fascinating master class on foraging, the history of redwood logging, and local wildlife. All thanks to one fine Connecticut Yankee. theinnatnewportranch.com

The Inn at Newport Ranch is a private preserve with more than a mile of awe-inspiring coastline views
The Inn at Newport Ranch is a private preserve with more than a mile of awe-inspiring coastline views
Featured Photo Aerial views of The Inn at Newport Beach
Image Credits Photography courtesy of Adams / Hansen Stock Photos, The Inn at Newport Ranch, Glendeven Inn & Lodge

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