Outdoor Fun along the Mendocino Coast
By E.P.

While Mendocino is often advertised as as a romantic getaway, it’s an ideal destination for families who love the outdoors. This coastal locale beckons Silicon Valley types who need a break from the stresses of daily living. Awesome views, unique stores, and amazing hikes are but a few reasons why you should make a point of visiting with the kids.


From the South Bay, it takes about 5 hours to get to Mendocino.  We generally take
101 north, and then take Hwy 20 over to the coast.  This brings you very near to Ft. Bragg, Mendocino’s next door neighbor.

Another option is 101 north, and when you get near Cloverdale, take Hwy 128 over to the coast. This brings you to the coast a little south of Mendocino.  BE AWARE: Hwy 128 is scenic but also quite windy. 

If your kids are prone to carsickness, give them an antidote ahead of time.  Also, to minimize carsickness, have them actually look at the beautiful scenery on Hwy 128 rather than looking down at something in their lap. Hwy 128 also has some nice wineries.  Navarro Vineyards, for example, has a nice picnic area. You might consider the coastal route (Hwy 1), either coming or going. While it extends your trip, the ride delivers gorgeous views.


When bringing the kids along, we tend to pass on the nice but small and pricey romantic B&B's.  For years we stayed in a wonderful old farmhouse that provided lots of room
(inside and out) for our kids.  Since that is no longer available, we have been staying at the Best Western just north of Ft. Bragg.  There is also the Manchester KOA south of Mendocino if you desire to camp. (See story on Manchester in the index -Editors).


:  One great ride is the old logging road that runs along the coast  It's part of MacKerricher State Park . You can access this biking road from the Best Western. The good news is that you don't need to drive to get there.  There is also a viewing area to see Sea Lions.

Russian Gulch State Park
has a beautiful waterfall trail nearby. You can ride your mountain bike for most of the trail but you have to walk the last mile to get to the falls. (Bring a cable and lock for your bike).

:  There are a number of state parks along the coast between Mendocino and Ft. Bragg such as the Mendocino Headlands, Russian Gulch State Park, Jug Handle State Reserve and Manchester State Park. 

Points of interest include:
 Fern Canyon in Van Damm State Park, the ecological staircase in Jughandle State Park, and Mendocino Headlands, a great place to see the coast and hike some trails.

: The kids enjoy playing and exploring at any beach, and, in particular, we have found wonderful tide pooling just south of Pudding Creek, located at the northern end of Ft. Bragg. You must be sure to go during low tide.  

As you walk around the ocean-facing side of some of the big rocks you'll see lots of sea life, including more starfish than you will have ever seen.

Another great find is Glass Beach in Fort Bragg. Tiny "pebbles" of polished glass form the "sand" on this beach. One unique icon is the Point Cabrillo Lighthouse which offers tours every Sunday.  It's 2 miles north of Mendocino on Point Cabrillo Drive.

If you have time, ride the Skunk Railroad.  This old, steam locomotive is fun for train afficianados. Be forewarned that it is a long ride.  You have a choice of the half or full day trip. 

The half-day trip is the best bet.  The train borders a creek and so there are a lot of small bridges and nice views.  Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens is not only a nice place for a walk, but it also features a few attractive places to see tide pools.  Our kids like to catch the small hermit crabs that frequent the shore.

The local Guest House Museum has artifacts and pictures of Fort Bragg when it was a busy lumber town.


If you are in town during July, check out the Annual Fort Bragg July 4 Salmon Bake.   It's a good feed.  There are a lot of people so the city has set up bus shuttles from the local college to the eating area in Noyo Harbour.  There is also an Independence Day Fireworks show. 

Check with the chamber of  commerce to see the exact date of the fireworks since they may not be exactly on July 4.


Another reason we loved our old farm house was because we could cook our own simple meals and didn't have to eat out 3 times a day.  Since then, some places we have enjoyed include:

Cow Lick's Ice Cream Café
(ask for a taste of their "black forest ice cream!)

250B North Main Street
Fort Bragg, CA  95437
Phone: (707) 962-9271

Sharon's By the Sea
(nice seafood with a great view of Noyo Harbor, Ft. Bragg)

32100 N Harbor Dr
Fort Bragg, CA 95437-5545  
(707) 962-0680

North Coast Brewing Co. for seafood, burgers, pasta
444 N. Main St.
Fort Bragg, CA  95437
Phone: (707) 964-3400
Fax: (707) 964-8768
Email: info@northcoastbrewing.com

Subway Sandwiches & Salads
141 B Boatyard Dr.
Fort Bragg, CA  95437
Phone: (707) 964-2882
Fax: (707) 964-3883

Mendocino Bakery

10485 Lansing St
Mendocino, CA 95460  
Phone: (707) 937-0836


When we visited Mendocino as a couple we enjoyed meandering all the small shops in town.  This is not enjoyable for us as a family. In fact, we spend very little time actually in Mendocino.  We prefer to enjoy the natural ttractions surrounding this area, and tend to eat our meals in Ft. Bragg.


Don't miss Cow Lick's in Ft. Bragg.
Cow Lick's Ice Cream Cafe

250B North Main Street
Fort Bragg, CA  95437
Phone: (707) 962-9271

There is also a toy store just down the street from Cow Lick's.  It can provide a
chance for the kids to pick out something fun and inexpensive on the trip.
Spunky Skunk Toy Store
350 N Main Street, Fort Bragg, CA 95437

There is also another small toy store in Mendocino.
Village Toy Store

10450 Lansing St.

I always make a point of visiting one clothing store in Mendocino. Preferences vary, but I always find something I like there.  Its a treat to shop while my husband takes the kids to explore the Mendocino Headlands. 
Fancy That
13 Ukiah Street Mendocino


www.mendocino.com  - for info on lodging, dining, and entertainment.
www.mendocinocoast.com  - ditto.

Author, E.P., lives in Sunnyvale. This is her second article for BAFT.

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