Rugged Coasts & Toasts: A Weekend Guide To Mendocino

We wanted a quick weekend away from San Francisco and heard about a quaint little town on the coast called Mendocino.

Mendocino is located three hours north of San Francisco (by car.)

Mendocino seaside


There, we check into the Didjeridoo Dreamtime Inn, a funky B&B that has a reputation for serving the best breakfast in town, a standing Sunday night Abalone dinner free to guests and town members where they only ask you to bring a bottle of wine or a dessert, and an owner who defends his B&B on Yelp to any who dare give him anything that utter praise. My wife books, so naturally we get the best room in the house, complete with a jetted tub and a very comfortable king sized bed.

Mendocino hotel b&b

With all this nature around on this bright sunny day, we decide to go find the best burger in town at Patterson’s Pub and watch the Cal football game (well I decided.) The burgers are fantastic, the drinks are stiff, and the Bears win! What a great start to the day.

We then walk over to the Headlands State Park at the edge of town and do a loop around for an hour or so. It is sunny, not a cloud in the sky, and it literally feels like 80 degrees. Apparently it has been cloudy and cold in Mendocino for 30 straight days up until today. Luck!

Trillium restaurant Mendocino
PHOTO Trillium

Back to the B&B for a nap, then off to dinner at Trillium, a very highly rated restaurant in town. The weather is so nice, so we choose to sit outside. We eat local catch of the day and have a nice bottle of local Toulouse Pinot Noir.


Mendocino ocean view

We wake up the next morning to our heavily hyped, yet still amazing breakfast. It is served at 9am–do not be late! Then off to Fort Bragg, about ten miles north on the 1, just to check it out as we’ve heard good things. We want to check out Glass Beach, but it is closed. Who heard of such a thing? Next time.

We go to the Mendocino Coast Botanical Garden which butts up on a cliff above the ocean. Just a beautiful place to walk around, smell the hundreds of varieties of flowers, picnic, or where you can simply spend an hour or three as you see fit.

Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens
PHOTO Mendocino Coast Botanical Garden

We head back to town for lunch at a new restaurant on the main drag (if you can call it that) called Flow. There’s a beautiful view of the Mendocino Bay from their deck, but it is so hot, we have to move inside. Not typical Mendo weather! The food is amazing, everything is organic, farm to table. They make a watermelon rose spritzer with some fresh herbs, delicious and refreshing!

MacCallum House Mendocino
PHOTO MacCallum House

I remember seeing a sign for a fundraiser on the lawn at the MacCallum House house, so we head there. They are pouring some great local wine and have live band playing classic rock cover songs, so we sit down on the lawn in the sun and enjoy ourselves ‘til about 4. I decide we need to get a “to go” bottle of wine and head down to the expansive, sandy beach along Big River, just under the towering highway 1 bridge just south of town. The beach is packed, people are swimming, bbqs are going, dogs are running, so we sit down, crack the bottle, and relax in the sun until the sun ducks behind the cliffs.

We may or may not have fallen asleep, but we wake up in time to head back to make our 8:30 dinner reservations at Café Beaujolais, or what we consider the best restaurant in town, competing with anything in any city for sure. The fresh seafood and creative recipes don’t disappoint! Off to bed…


Mendocino canoes

Next up in the morning is the coolest thing at Catch-A-Canoe just on the other side of the bridge south of town. They have a 9 person canoe kitted out with both a full sail and a solar powered motor. The sail helps us hit 4 knots going downwind/inland, and the engine helps us hit the same speed coming back against the current and wind. We see harbor seals, river otters, ospreys, sandpipers, egrets, and countless other birds. What a great ride! 2+ hours for $65/person is a steal, so this is a must! I would be remiss if I didn’t make an environmental plug here. This land would be barren of all trees (and hence wildlife) for hundreds of acres if not for the perseverance of a tiny environmental group called the Mendocino Land Trust, back in 2002, when they raised ~$30M and bought the land from the Hawthorn Timber logging company assuring that it is as beautiful today as it will be in 100 years and beyond. Bravo!

With the weekend coming to a close, we cruise back through Anderson Valley (Pinot Noir country), we don’t have a lot of time given the canoe ride, but we stop at Hanley for some great Pinot and Rose. We’ve been to Baxter, Navarro, Goldeneye (Anderson outpost of Duckhorn), Toulouse, and Husch in the past, you just can’t go wrong with their cool climate wines. What a way to wrap up a trip! So if you are looking for relaxing getaway with many activities to partake in (or not!), Mendocino is a great choice year-round.

To follow Jason’s itinerary, click on the map:

map weekend in mendocino


Jason Canter


Jason loves beaches, sailing, diving & trying new foods. His travel style is about staying central & close to the action. His favorite country is Mexico & he never travels without his Tumi roller.

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