Manchester Beach KOA:
A Tradition Away From Holiday Bliss
By Joscelyn Willett

It is Monday morning, and the coffeepot is missing. Your answering machine looks you famously in the eye and winks. Once. Twice. Alas, there are three messages from your mother. Will you be bringing cheese blintz or apple strudel? For those of you who are from the old school of spending insufferable hours planning and preparing (or, if you are like me, procrastinating) to spread cheer this winter season, plan on taking this year off and let the great outdoors do the work for you. Think frankfurters in place of fruit cake, marshmallows on sticks, the wide open sky littered with stars, and haven’t you always wondered what "chestnuts roasting on an open fire" taste like?


Manchester Beach KOA, located 153 miles north of San Francisco, offers a delightful escape for the entire family. Set between a peaceful valley of Redwoods and the magnificent Pacific Ocean, this charming getaway is just one of the many treasures of beautiful Mendocino County. Driving up Highway One will provide exceptional scenic views; however the coastal route is, at times, quite curvy and not recommended if towing a trailer. Highway 101-128 takes you inland, where gentle vineyards and farmland graciously guide you on your journey.

Offering an impressive array of accommodations, Manchester Beach KOA is an award-winning park featuring large RV sites with hook-up options, cozy log cabins (complete with electricity!), comfortable and spacious cottages with full amenities (bathroom, kitchenette, fireplace), and private tent sites tucked beneath massive Monterey Pines. Make your stay as rustic or refined as you like!

In addition to the exceptional lodging facilities, Manchester Beach KOA offers seasonal events and entertainment, such as complimentary hay-rides to the nearby shore, abalone feeds, ice-cream socials, storytelling, treasure hunts, and a variety of other fun activities for adults and children alike. A heated swimming pool and relaxing spa offer a well-deserved break after the all-too-familiar anxiety of the holidays.

Children gather in the arcade room to play pool and video games. Horseshoe pits as well as a playground and ping-pong tables invite everyone’s inner child to play along. And that’s without even leaving the site!


Nearby, Sea Ranch Golf Course and local fishing off Point Arena Pier give outdoor sports lovers a break from the norm. Tours of the majestic Point Arena lighthouse are available daily, as well as guided whale watching and horseback riding. A number of quaint shops and home-style restaurants give the area a welcoming charm.
So pull out your sleeping bags and dust off your hiking boots. Pack plenty of comfy clothes to bundle up in for late-night campfire singing. Bring your favorite stories and your warmest socks. Pack a cooler full of goodies and stash your binoculars in your backpack. Then, gather up your family and hit the road. After all, a full tank of gas and a few favorite CDs are all you need to start a terrific new tradition.

My family and I visited Manchester Beach KOA for the first time in early October and have vowed to make it an annual vacation spot. This unexpected and delightfully friendly site is the perfect home away from home. Living in San Francisco, we are not strangers to the smell of salt in the air; but when I arose one morning while staying at MB KOA and jogged the mile or so to the beach, I knew this was unlike any place I’d ever visited.

As I made my way across the dunes and stepped on to the clean, white shore, I took a breath of the crisp, untainted air drifting quietly from the rolling hills behind me. I felt, in that moment, a sense of calm rarely found in the city, and I knew I would have to return. There is something truly pastoral and pure about the coast of Mendocino, and I invite you all to experience the pleasure of its beauty and peace with those you love. During this new year, consider taking in Northern California’s magic and the wonder that is Manchester Beach.

General information regarding reservations, rates, accommodations, etc., as well as information on local events, weather/tides, and day trips are available at From now through March 15th, rates are 10% lower than during seasonal months, so take advantage!



*Bring plenty of warm clothes.
*Bring your swimsuit.
*Pack a tarp in case of rain.
*Bring sunglasses.
*Allow plenty of travel time, especially if you are taking the winding coastal route.
*Take the inland route (101-128) if towing a trailer or arriving in an RV.
*Be nice to the chipmunks.


* - for info on the campground.
*  - directions to KOA.

Joscelyn Willett lives and studies Creative Writing in San Francisco. She began her camping experience as a small girl, spending time fishing and hiking in Truckee, California, with her family. She recently spent two weeks in Montana, where she and her husband, Jason, explored the Tobacco Roots, went mountain biking through Peace Valley, and swam (froze) in the beautiful Missouri River.

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