This article originally appeared in the December 2015 issue of Uptown magazine and December 2015 issue of So Scottsdale! magazine.
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, 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.
Certified by the Green Hotels Association, the inn blends environmental consciousness with a luxury experience. Your stay includes a gourmet breakfast and an evening “light dinner buffet” that features Northern California's rich culinary bounty. Dinner always includes a selection of local wines and brews along with 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.
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.
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.
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.