36 Hours in Mendocino

By Kate Riley July 2, 2020

Yesterday I returned from an overnight road trip with my daughter, we drove up the Northern California coastline to neighboring Mendocino County and spent the night at a little B&B. I wanted to squeeze in a little getaway to a place I’ve never been, and spend some one-on-one time with my teenager. A little coastal road trip was the perfect medicine for our cabin fever!

We got very lucky with the weather. As we pulled into town the sun was shining and when we left the next afternoon, fog had already settled over the county. Unlike Southern California beaches where you can pretty much guarantee sunshine most of the year, Northern California’s coastal weather is unpredictable, it changes from hour to hour, day to day, but that’s what makes our coastline mysterious and alluring! Some of our vistas look like they’re straight out of a “Best of California” travel guide.

I’ve lived my entire life in Northern California. I’ve traveled east to Sacramento and Tahoe and I’ve been to most of the southern parts of our state, but this was the first time I’ve been this far north along the coast. What took me so long?!


The drive is a winding one, so if you ever make the Highway 1 road trip, be prepared to go slow around all the bends as you make your way north, but on arrival in Mendocino, you’ll enjoy one of the most charming towns in California! The town is easy to explore within a 24 hour period.

The architecture is a mixture of clapboard sided homes and Victorians with white picket fences. The town feels like a throwback to a bygone era, no wonder it’s a destination for so many travelers to the region! The residences have my favorite kind of gardens: wild yet manicured. There must be something in the soil because the lavender and hydrangea are some of the most intense shades of purple I’ve ever seen.

A few of the shops were open so we stopped in to browse the locally made goods and enjoy the sunny weather and coastal views before heading back home to Sonoma County.

The entire town is being very conscientious because of Covid-19. There weren’t many people there mid week so it was sleepy, but thankfully everyone was wearing masks and social distancing and using hand sanitizer. The local merchants were grateful we stopped in for the day in support of the community.

Add Mendocino County to your travel list if you’re ever in California, the hiking paths and views of the ocean are some of the most scenic in the USA!

** 7/4 update. Friends, it’s been brought to my  attention that Mendocino lacks the hospital care to deal with a large number of coronavirus patients at this time. My plans to travel were made in mid June when the virus was under greater control. With surging cases in the state right now, I agree with the few locals who wrote to me it’s best to postpone any traveling to Mendocino until the virus is not as dangerous to their community. Stay well my friends to the north!


  1. Kate, You’re hooked now. You’ll go back again and again like my wife and I. We love Mendo!

      • Hey Kate: Went there with family in ’68 when I was ten. Been going back and back ever since. Almost never changes (thankfully) a real life Brigadoon!

    • Soo blessed I live in Mendocino. Came to visit for the first time 5 years ago . Came to visit from Dallas Tx. Landed a job the next day. Moved . Met my soulmate ,married him. And presently enjoying the adventure. Mendocino is truly magical❤️😎

      • Yep! Totally magical!! The town was ready to open for July but from my conversation with a restaurant owner I learned they’re going to have to close indoor dining again. Not sure what the status is among B&Bs and hotels but they’re doing touchless check in so no one is coming in direct contact with others. It was a short window to visit for a day but sadly I’ll have to wait to visit again when the virus is under control.

  2. We agree! We’ve lived in Willits since rhe early 1990’s – inland from Mendocino coast and a beautiful one hour drive through the glorious redwoods.
    After traveling along many coasts in the USA, Europe & South America, Mendocino coast is the most spectacular. The towns are socially & environmentally conscious. The people are warm & kind.
    Traveling home always brings us joy, living in the midst of tall trees & healthy air and water.

    • You’re right! Everyone was so kind. Smiling eyes behind masks and welcoming words in the midst of the pandemic. Truly wonderful area, I can see why you love it so!

  3. Mendocino is my Happy Place! SO wish I were there right now! Until I can get there again, thanks for the lovely photos.

  4. We live in beautiful Calaveras County in the Sierra foothills. Lakes, streams, rivers, and beautiful forests. Sill, every year my wife and I go to Mendocino and Fort Bragg for a few days.We’ll be there next week to enjoy the ocean and do some surf fishing. And some great restaurants to go with the awesome vistas.

  5. Mendocino … breathtaking views, quaint village, excellent dining, friendly people, beautiful beaches and charming homes and B&B’s. One of my most favorite spots to unwind, reset, relax and take in the fresh ocean breezes. Meander through the Mendocino Botanical Gardens; sea shell, rock & agate collecting and watching the sea lions along the beach at Mac Kerricher State Park and hitting all the amazing shops for that perfect find. My soul needs a trip over there very soon ♡

  6. I left bed there for 10 years and worked at sweet water gardens as a massage therapist everyone is so friendly the ocean is bright blue and you can smell the salty sea

  7. Wear your masks, wash your hands and socially distance like us locals, please. With that in mind you are welcome here to visit. Just keep your COVID at home.♥️

  8. I’m surprised the county let you visit. Our annual summer trip to Mendocino was cancelled by the county. Masks and social distancing aside they did not want people from other parts of the state to visit. I’m happy you enjoyed one of our favorite vacation spots.

    • They were closed all of June and opened up for July, but with rising number of cases in the state, the restaurants are shutting down for indoor service again. It’s such a difficult situation, the merchants want the business as long as people respect the social distancing + masks + frequent hand washing/hand sanitizer in effect. It was nice to visit if only for a day!

    • Vacation home rentals are open now, like in Irish Beach, just south of Mendocino.

  9. My wife and I came to Mendocino in the fall and then again in early spring, every year for about 10 years. We lived in NW Montana then. We moved to the coast 4 years ago. We love Mendocino and Fort Bragg. I’m in Mendocino every day and never tire of the beauty and the people.

  10. If you come here, be respectful and wear a mask and respect our safety protocols. Do not make us ask you to mask up or step back. We have little to no resources for dealing with COVID in our tiny community and we have mixed feelings about opening our economy. Health and exposure vs economic survival. We welcome people who are respectful and grateful and make all of the efforts to protect our special community from the pandemic

    • The locals were VERY nice and welcoming! Everyone was wearing masks and using hand sanitizer at every entrance. Social distancing in place, everyone keeping their distance! Also touchless check in at the Air B&B. I was so impressed with how conscientious everyone was being. :)

  11. I LOVE it here. This was one of the last trips we enjoyed before the cancer won. I want to go back but my Beloved isn’t with me n I can’t face that glorious beauty without him. Hopefully someday soon . I love reading of others having an Excellent time, it helps motivate me to visit again.

  12. Seems untimely to tell everyone to come to our coast while there’s a surging pandemic. We don’t have near by hospitals that can handle a spike of COVID cases, which with 100% certainty, is caused by people “escaping” here. 36 hours is all it takes for you to infect us, go back to your home with nearby hospitals, leaving us with an infection rate that bottlenecks our local healthcare. Bad timing for a quaint travel review spotlighting our area. Thank you for being respectful with masks and social distancing, but we get lots of disrespectful tourists at this time, and some of them may read your blog. Just saying.

    • Thank you for your comment! An update on the post I hope reflects the community’s concerns. :)

  13. Love love this area. Men do and Humboult are my favorite. Lived in Klamath for 6 months and perfect. Trinidad awesome area too. From Eureka to Cresant City California u have to visit. Travel the coast and u want regret. The town of Arvada nice too. Lived in Orick too. I lived on coast in my Rv for 2 yrs

  14. Hi Kate, just saw this post. That picture of the “crop” of Acanthus Mollis is amazing! As an avid gardener I loved all the pictures of the plants. Thanks for a look see at beautiful Mendocino!

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