Mendocino, a quaint coastal community three hours north of the Bay Area, is just far enough away from San Francisco that it’s less crowded than places like Tomales Bay or Big Sur, but it’s close enough to visit for a long weekend trip. With a laid-back feel, gorgeous coastal views at nearly every turn, and a charming seven-block, Victorian-lined downtown dotted with boutiques and galleries, and it’s a great option for a honeymoon close to San Francisco.
A Room with a View at the Brewery Gulch Inn
Built from recycled redwood, the ten-room Brewery Gulch Inn, is surrounded by ancient trees and offers stunning views of the cerulean surf of Smuggler’s Cove. All rooms have private balconies or patios, fireplaces, and gorgeous views of the Pacific, and many have large soaking tubs. The heart of the inn is the large common room and dining area, built around a massive four-sided fireplace. Stays include complimentary made-to-order breakfast, evening wine hour with heavy hors d’oeuvres, and the services of a pre-arrival concierge who can arrange wine tasting, horseback riding, dinner reservations or an in-room massage.
Dinner at the Little River Inn
A few miles south of the town of Mendocino, the 75-year-old Little River Inn serves breakfast, Sunday brunch, and nightly dinner in a cozy setting. Signature dishes include the “osso bucco” of slow braised pork shank over soft polenta and a pan-seared sole almandine, as well as seasonal salads and hearty burgers. Pre- or post-meal, stop by the Whale Watch bar for a cocktail, and if you don’t feel like driving after dinner, book into the inn, where rooms have ocean views, fireplaces, steam showers, Jacuzzi tubs, or individual hot tubs.
A Sunset Stroll on Glass Beach
Just north of Mendocino in Fort Bragg, you’ll find one of the most unique beaches in the world. After the great quake of 1906, and for decades afterwards, the beach was the site of a town dump. The dump was closed in 1967 and the beach has since been cleaned, but much of the glass remains, having been rounded and polished by the sea. Now the beach is covered with billions of pieces of beautiful sea glass in dozens of colors. Glass Beach is said to have the highest concentration of sea glass in the world, making it a popular tourist attraction. It’s also a lovely beach in its own right, with plentiful tidepools to explore.
Coastal History at the Point Cabrillo Lighthouse
Set in a State Historic Park on a headland that juts out into the Pacific, the Point Cabrillo lighthouse not only offers some of the best ocean views, it also provides visitors with a dose of history and an inside look at what life was once like along the California coast. Inside the lighthouse, exhibits detail some of the shipwrecks that occurred off the coast, and old photographs and memorabilia show what life was like for the lighthouse keepers and their families. There are three restored homes on the property as well. One is a period museum of a lightkeeper’s house in the 1930s, while the other two are vacation homes available to rent. There’s also a Marine Science Exhibit with a 240-gallon saltwater aquarium and information about the sealife found in the area.
The Wineries of Anderson Valley
While certainly not as well known as Napa and Sonoma to the south, Anderson Valley holds its own against more prominent wine regions. The 15-mile long valley excels at producing Pinor Noir and Alsace varietals like Gewürztraminer. And unlike certain other valleys, the wineries here tend to be very laid back—there are no big bus tour groups, the tasting fees are low (usually less than $5), and there are no appointments needed. Check out the sparkling wines at Roderer Estate, which offers a lovely patio with a view over the wines, or sample the delicious pinots at the intimate and laid-back tasting room at Lula Cellars, where the sample award-winning wines are often poured by the winemaker himself.