California Dreamin’: Soak Up Quiet Coastal Life in Picturesque Mendocino

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Mendocino, about a three-hour drive north of San Francisco, is filled with diverse landscapes, from vineyards and rolling hills to redwood forests and rocky shores. Its temperate climate lends itself to vacationing any time of year (just be sure to pack layers!), and there are activities aplenty. Mendocino is a place where life slows down a bit, affording you the chance to take in stunning seaside scenery, peruse boutiques and galleries, and savor the local flavors of both food and wine.

The Drive to Mendocino

As you head north on U.S. Route 101, you'll pass through Sonoma Valley, home to undulating vineyards and some amazing wines. The town of Healdsburg is worth a stop to explore the quaint downtown area's shops, restaurants, and of course, wineries. Pop into Costeaux Bakery on Healdsburg Avenue for a slice of their award-winning Princess Cake that is often garnished with holly for the holidays.

As you leave U.S. Route 101 and wind across the countryside on State Route 128, you'll pass by some of the country's best organic wineries. The landscape transforms when you reach the towering redwoods in Navarro River Redwoods State Park. You soon end up on the Pacific Coast Highway just a few miles south of Mendocino Village.

A Luxury Inn

Brewery Gulch Inn will make your Mendocino visit even more memorable. The quaint, 10-room inn was constructed on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean using 150-year-old eco-salvaged, first-growth, virgin redwoods pulled from the mud in nearby Big River. This boutique inn has accolades as a AAA Four Diamond property and has been a top hotel with both Travel + Leisure and Condé Nast.

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Brewery Gulch Inn. Photo courtesy Brewery Gulch Inn

Brewery Gulch Inn. Photo courtesy Brewery Gulch Inn

Certified by the Green Hotels Association, the inn blends environmental consciousness with a luxury experience. Your stay includes a gourmet breakfast and an evening tapas plate that features Northern California's rich culinary bounty.

Mendo Boxes at Brewery Gulch Inn

Dinner is a unique tapas concept, served in the inn's signature redwood “Mendo boxes”. Photo courtesy Brewery Gulch Inn

Dinner always includes a selection of local wines, brews, and delectable food that is usually natural, organic, and local. Meals are served in the Great Room alongside a four-sided fireplace with picturesque views of Smuggler's Cove.

Mendo Boxes

The tapas-style meals, served in redwood bento-style boxes, reflect the local flavors. Photo courtesy Brewery Gulch Inn


The historic town of Mendocino Village, perched on the headlands above the ocean, is home to cafés and charming boutiques. Stop by the Village Toy Store, which is filled with European toys. Then, pop into The Gallery Bookshop, a cozy independent bookstore with spectacular ocean views.

Main Street of Mendocino Village.

Main Street of Mendocino Village. Photo courtesy Visit Mendocino County

About 15 minutes north of Mendocino Village is Fort Bragg, home to Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens. With 47 acres overlooking the Pacific, this is one of only a few public gardens that reaches the coast. During December, thousands of twinkling lights fill the gardens.

While in Fort Bragg, opt for dinner at Mendo Bistro on Main Street. the locally sourced options include housemade pasta and hearty meals of duck, venison, quail, and seafood.

You can't leave the area without a wine tasting, and the famed Anderson Valley is just a short drive away. Here, you'll find wonderful pinot noir at Lula Cellars and great sparkling wines at Scharffenberger Cellars and Roederer Estate.


Mendocino. Photo courtesy Visit Mendocino

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Plan a Trip to Mendocino

Whether you're hunting for the best pinot, embarking on a whale-watching excursion (yes, they have those, too), or simply seeking a chance to slow down and relax, you're sure to discover a bit of your own quiet paradise in Mendocino. When you plan your trip to Mendocino, another California destination, or some other fabulous wine region, let Wander with Wonder be your guide.

California Dreamin': Soak up quiet coastal life in picturesque Mendocino

This article originally appeared in the December 2015 issue of Uptown magazine and the December 2015 issue of So Scottsdale! magazine.


Written by Susan Lanier-Graham

Founder and publisher Susan Lanier-Graham has traveled the world for the past twenty years, filling a passport or two along the way. She has wandered through the jungles of Thailand, explored the mysteries of the Great Pyramids, and shared the night with a leopard in Zambia. She sailed in the Mediterranean, sipped her way through Burgundy canals and Champagne caves. She followed Rembrandt’s footsteps through Amsterdam. Susan found her center on the red rocks of Sedona and soaked up an exquisite sunset over the Indian Ocean in Bali. Susan is always looking for wow moments around the world or across the street to share with adventure lovers everywhere. She has authored more than 75 books and hundreds of magazine articles. Susan is an award-winning travel writer and member of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW) and International Food, Wine and Travel Writers Association (IFWTWA). She is a Certified California Wine Appellation Specialist (CWAS). Susan's work still regularly appears in print and online. Susan is an award-winning travel writer, a member of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW) and is a Certified California Wine Appellation Specialist (CWAS). Susan has worked as an ambassador for Travelocity and is currently a travel ambassador for Rocky Mountaineer. Her work regularly appears in print and online in a variety of publications. These include various AAA publications, Postcards for Travel Leaders,,,, So Scottsdale, Uptown, Green Living AZ, Life Refined, Modern Luxury,, WHERE Arizona, WHERE Traveler Phoenix + Scottsdale, and more.

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