Gaze At Some Of America’s Finest Artists At The Highlight Gallery
Editor’s Note: There’s no photo available at the time of writing
This Mendocino tourist attraction is historic and plays host to the Highlight Gallery, which is set within the views of Mendocino Bay. The three storey building is filled with artworks all handmade in the USA, from wood furniture, sculptures, and paintings. Since its creation in 1978 the gallery has grown and grown, now it is one of the largest and oldest collections in the Pacific North West. They regularly host art shows, with all details being available online.
Address: 45094 Main St, Mendocino, CA 95460
Opening Times: Daily, 10am – 5pm
The Temple of Kwan Tai is a 19th century house dedicated to the Taoist god of war, not what you would expect to find in Mendocino. Four generations of protectors and carers have looked after this temple and its bright colours stand proud against the Mendocino background. It is believed to be the oldest Taoist temple in rural California. You can tour the temple but by appointment only, details of booking are available on the website.
Temple of Kwan Tai
Enjoy Van Damme State Park
There are a wealth of gorgeous state parks around Mendocino to explore, and Van Damme State Park is yet another such park.
Van Damme State Park has an easy-to-access pygmy forest! The trail is only 0.25-mile, a fully accessible boardwalk with interpretive plaques. Keep an eye out for birds!
The longer hike to Fern Canyon allows you to see many of the parks habitats, from the stunted trees in the pygmy forest to the taller trees and lush green understory along Little River at the bottom of the canyon.
There are other hiking trails in the park, and some biking trails as well.
Van Damme Beach is a popular kayaking spot. At the southern end of the beach, you will find good tidepooling at low tide.
Kayak Mendocino offers guided kayak tours of the sea caves and tide pools at Van Damme State Park. Tours are offered year round.
Visit The Mendocino Farmers Market
The Mendocino farmers market runs every Friday between noon and 2 pm in historic downtown Mendocino. Live music is performed every evening at the market, and fresh fruits, nuts, and crafts are available for purchase. Main Street is lined with historic homes and cottages that surround the farmers market. Mendocino celebrates the second Saturday of the month as well.
In addition to the Taste of Mendocino event, which serves food from participating local restaurants at two locations throughout town, art galleries are open for art lovers, a used bookstore sale is held at the historic city hall with over 30 vendors, and features live musical performances. This is your ultimate farm to fork destination, with such an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables.
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Located within the Van Damme State Park, the Pygmy Forest is home to a series of tree stumps that are no taller than three feet, and a visit here is one of the best things to do in Mendocino. Trees develop vertical roots as they grow, and when these roots hit bedrock, the trees stop growing. When humans then remove the trees, the remaining root structures look like stumps.
In this forest, however, there are several trees that have grown in height beyond three feet, making for an amazing photo opportunity that will have you believing youre in a land far away from Northern California. Some of the photos I took are amazing!
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Spend The Day In Fort Bragg
Just a 15-minute drive north of Mendocino, doing a day trip to Fort Bragg is one of the best things to do near Mendocino.
There are a lot of things to do in Fort Bragg but the 3-4 activities Id recommend for a day trip from Mendocino are walking around downtown Fort Bragg, hopping on the Skunk Train or riding railbikes through the forest, and visiting Glass Beach.
- Downtown Fort BraggHistorically restored storefronts, good food, art galleries, and a great museum is what you can expect to find with a walk around downtown Fort Bragg. Stop at the Guest House Museum to learn more about Fort Braggs logging and railroad past, grab lunch and a pint at North Coast Brewing Co., and pop your head into the small boutiques and art galleries around town.
- The Skunk Train The Skunk Train is an institution in Mendocino County and a popular family outing with young ones. This historic train takes you on a peaceful journey through the redwoods. If youre visiting in December, they run a holiday Skunk Train, which includes hot cocoa, Christmas carols, sugar cookies,Christmas decorations, a holiday skit, and numerous SANTA sightings.
- RailbikesIf youre looking for a more active and open-air ride through the redwood forest, sign up for a railbike tour . These two-person electric railbikes follow historic railroad tracks and take you past Pudding Creek, trestle bridges, and quiet redwoods. Its one of the most unique ways to experience the California redwoods.
Jug Handle State Natural Reserve
Head to Jug Handle State Natural Reserve in Fort Bragg to take in some of the best views in Mendocino and walk the popular Ecological Staircase Trail.
The 5.1-mile Ecological Staircase Trail is one of the best spots to see a pygmy forest up close.
The staircase also consists of layers of marine terraces that have distinct geology and flora. Its one of the most unique natural history spots on the Mendocino Coast.
Other sights to see at Jug Handle State Natural Reserve include Jug Handle State Beach, panoramic ocean views, and a historic bridge that was built in the 1930s.
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Ride The Skunk Train Railbikes
Even before you arrive at the Skunk Train station in Fort Bragg, the distinctive name is sure to intrigue you. The train dates to the 1880s when the Fort Bragg Railroad was founded as a means of transporting timber. It acquired its unusual nickname in the 1920s, when a combination of gas-powered engines and stoves burning crude oil to keep passengers warm produced a pungent odor reminiscent of skunks.
Whenever possible, everyone should experience a skunk train railbike. Mendocino has one of the most beautiful coastlines in California. The steep rolling hills covered in redwoods are unbelievable. To be able to ride on the old steam engines through parts of the hike-only section of the forest is worth every penny.
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The Mendocino coast is all about the awe-inspiring and lengthy views of nature. This stretch of coastline offers its sights to anyone willing to stroll along the sandy beaches and wooden boardwalks that lead out from quaint Mendocino Village.
One of the best things to do in Mendocino is to visit Big River Beach, which offers endless beaches for exploring, relaxing, and taking in the sights. Make Big River Beach part of your Mendocino vacation itinerary by extending your stay a few extra days.
Know this: Bluffs along the Mendocino Coast are fragile due to erosion and may give way under your weight. Whenever you walk in a park or overlook along the coast, you should stay off the cliff or bluff edges.
Kayak Or Canoe The Big River Estuary
Although ocean kayaking in Mendocino is popular, the Mendocino area also offers a unique experience of canoeing or kayaking the Big River Estuary.
The Big River Estuary is one of the best spots for wildlife watching in Mendocino.
Dont be surprised if you come across harbor seals, Great Blue Herons, and a few of the 22 different types of fish that call this place home.
Catch-a-Canoe is a local company that offers daily canoe, kayak, stand-up paddleboard, and redwood outrigger rentals so you can enjoy the beautiful experience of cruising by the local wildlife from the water.
Local tip: Your time on the Big River should be based around tides since its a tidal estuary. Call Catch-a-Canoe ahead of time to ask for the best time to start your journey.
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Hendy Woods State Park
This hidden gem of a state park is 45 minutes southeast of Mendocino on Highway 128. It features camping, hiking, and two magnificent groves of redwood trees. And because it’s a slightly more remote location, the lack of crowds at Hendy Woods rarely spooks the resident wildlife.
The Big Hendy Grove and Discovery Trail that tour the 300-foot trees of Hendy Woods is simply breathtaking and often teeming with wildlife big and small. Other outdoor things to do at Hendy Woods State Park include exploring the Hermit Hut Trail and swimming in the Navarro River.
Towards the ocean from Hendy Woods State Park along Highway 128, Ross Ranch is another fun stop for tourists and residents of the region. This family-owned business offers guided horseback rides either on a secluded beach or through a forested inland canyon. A few popular riding options include two-hour tours, with 90 minutes spent in the saddle.
Address: 18599 Philo Greenwood Road, Philo, California
Where To Stay In Mendocino
We actually discovered the adorable Andiron Seaside Inn & Cabins almost on accident. It was 2 days before our trip to Mendocino and we were frantically browsing local accommodations trying to find anywhere to stay, when we came upon this little gem. The pricing was reasonable, the location was great, and we suspected the place might have that ~character~ that our favorite places to stay do. You know what I mean, right?
When we arrived, we were blown away. The Andiron Inn is totally weird and kitschy, and SO up our alley!
We arrived during Happy Hour and gratefully sat down by a crackling fire to enjoy local wine and beer, home-made fondue with apples, bread and mushrooms, and local mustard with pretzels. We chatted with the other guests and the incredibly friendly owners while taking in the eclectic weird-ness of the decorations.
Also, Jeremy made some goat friends. Yep: The Andiron Inn has goats Jeremy loves all animals indiscriminately, but I had a traumatic experience growing up on my parents farm in Kentucky. Long story short, we had a goat and her name was Daisy and she was SO mean to me. Wow, that sounded a lot less traumatic than it actually was. OK, there IS a longer story than that, but its a really long story, so Im just gonna show you some pictures of Jeremy hanging out with these goats instead, which seemed a lot nicer .
Meet the Andiron Inn Goats: Peanut Butter, Cocoa, and Sugar!
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Experience Navarro Vineyards & Winery
Take on California and its thriving vineyard and winery scene with an exceptional experience from Navarro Vineyards & Winery. One of the leading ventures in the area, this long-standing, family-owned and run vineyard and winery have been in business for nearly half a century. From the vines to bottles, this quaint business offers its superb drinks directly from their tasting room. It is unlikely that youâd come across their brand in big-name stores, making it all the more exclusive. You definitely have to drop by and experience this place for yourself.
Navarro Vineyards & Winery
Opening hours: 9am – 5pm
Visit Jug Handle State Natural Reserve
Our favorite state park near Mendocino, Jug Handle State Natural Reserve is home to many unusual flora, including a pygmy forest!
The park is located about 5 miles north of the village. If you enjoy plants, you must not miss this park when you visit Mendocino.
Hike the 5-mile out and back Ecological Staircase Trail, which takes you up from the bluffs and through redwoods along a series of three terraces into the pygmy forest, where the stunted trees are actually very old.
You will see Bolander pine, dwarf manzanita, and pygmy cypress, among other species of plants.
If you have limited time, you can just walk part of the trail along the headlands, for spectacular ocean views. There is a staircase that leads down to the beach, where you can walk at low tide.
Swimming is not recommended since the waves are rough here. If you bring a picnic lunch, there are tables by the parking area.
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The Town Planner Calendar
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To see why so many homeowners love the Town Planner, and why it has such a high retention rate as an advertising tool, please view some of our sample calendars.
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Explore Sea Caves By Kayak
Kayaking the sea caves along Mendocinos coastline is a one-of-a-kind experience.
It combines beautiful scenery, a good workout, and the chance to see marine life and interesting geological history up close.
Sign up for an hour and a half tour with Kayak Mendocino to explore the sea caves around Van Damme State Park.
Throughout the tour, youll get your fill of birdwatching, saying hi to the harbor seals, and navigating dark and breezy caves to your hearts content.
Otherwise, if youre looking for more adventurous and fun things to do, you could sign up for a whitewater kayaking trip.
Liquid Fusion Kayak offers three-hour whitewater kayaking tours in the ocean that allow you to test your skills in the waves and explore unique rock gardens.
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How To Get To Mendocino From San Francisco
There are 2 ways to get to Mendocino from the San Francisco Bay Area: the fast route, and the scenic route! We recommend you take the scenic route one way and the fast route the other way.
The Scenic Route is Highway One, aka the Pacific Coast Highway, aka the most beautiful coastal drive in the world. Most folks think that Highway One runs along Californias Central Coast between LA and SF and then ends, not realizing that it actually continues north for even more stunning coastal vistas!
Weve driven the entire length of the 1 many times and were just as in love with the North route as we are with the South section. Driving north from San Francisco to Mendocino on Highway One will take around 6 hours. To make it a little bit shorter, connect with Highway 1 north of Point Reyes. But if youve never taken this route, its really worth the extra time!
The fast route is Highway 101. Youll be driving up through wine country, then cutting over towards the coast on Highway 128 a windy, scenic road through rolling forested hills and after about an hour, youll reach the 1 for just a few miles of coastal scenery. Driving north from San Francisco to Mendocino on Highway 101 will take around 3 hours.
Everyone knows half the fun of a good road trip is the stops along the way, so weve included our favorite stops along each route below!
The History Of Mendocino Village
Mendocino Village, on the other hand, was once a haven for sailors and lumberjacks who worked at its thriving seaport and various logging operations. Settled in the mid- to late-1800s, the houses and businesses were built in the Victorian and Gothic architectural style popular at the time, and the now historic thoroughfares were lined with raucous saloons and flophouses.
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Marvelous Things To Do In Mendocino California On A Weekend Getaway
By Lia Garcia | March 1, 2022
Please double check what’s open before your trip and follow all local vax & mask guidelines to keep yourself and others safe! Also, ads are how we pay our bills and keep our blog free for you to enjoy. We also use affiliate links if you make a purchase through them, we may receive a small commission at no cost to you.
Mendocino, California is located just a few hours north of San Francisco on Californias stunning Pacific Coast Highway. Its one of the best weekend trips from San Francisco, and weve been up to visit multiple times. Mendocino is known for its world-class wine and stunning coastal views, and the area is a perfect spot for a romantic getaway or girls trip!
The first time Jeremy and I visited Mendocino, we were actually going primarily forGlass Beach just north of Mendocino in Fort Bragg, and one of the most popular spots in the area. And while Glass Beach was pretty rad and we even met a pig named Ollie frolicking on the beach, which isnt like a regular thing, but nonetheless memorable we fell in love with so many spots along the way leading up to Fort Bragg, like Elk, Little River,Point Arena, and Mendocino itself.
Here are our favorite things to do in Mendocino! None of them involve Porsches, kites, or frolicking pigs, sorry to dissapoint.
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