The village of Mendocino looks like a postcard, perched on a rocky peninsula jutting into the Pacific. The entire village is on the National Register of Historic Places, and if it weren’t for the cars, you could easily imagine that you were back in the 19th century. Founded in 1852, many of Mendocino’s settlers hailed from New England, and their influence can still be seen in the architecture of the Victorian-era homes and buildings.
To learn more about the town’s fascinating past, stop in at the Ford House, the home of one of the early pioneers which now serves as the Visitors’ Center. The house is set on the headlands which border three sides of the village, allowing unobstructed ocean views from nearly everywhere in town. Stop in at Out of This World for a pair of binoculars to get a better view of the area’s birds, or just take a peek through one of their world-class telescopes, trained at the world-class view. Across Main Street is the Kelley House, another historic home which is a museum and hosts ever-changing exhibits about local history, as well as highly enjoyable weekend walking tours of the village replete with scandal and secrets.
Continuing down Main Street, you’ll find Dick’s Place, one of the few classic bars in America with an ocean view, where the door is usually open, both literally and figuratively, as it has been for nearly a century. Gallery Bookshop has a wide array of books on every topic, and cozy window seats overlooking the ocean where you can settle in for a good read. You might even be graced by a visit from the bookstore’s resident fluffy (but somewhat grumpy) feline, The Great Catsby. The bookstore often holds author readings and special events like solstice poetry readings.
Take the trail and steps beside the iconic Presbyterian Church to access Big River beach, where you can enjoy the sandy shore, walk the paved haul road, or rent a canoe or kayak at Catch-a-Canoe to explore the tranquility of the river. Or extend your walk out from Main Street to the Mendocino Headlands, which wrap around the entire village to the west and offering some staggeringly beautiful sunsets on a nightly basis (fog willing). A little further north is Russian Gulch, with its lush Fern Canyon trail and fairytale waterfall on the eastern end and soft, sandy beach on the western end.
Every seaside town needs a lighthouse, and Point Cabrillo, Mendocino’s lighthouse, is as small and quaint as the town itself, both perched on rocky bluffs overlooking the wild ocean.
Despite the town’s small size, there are many excellent dining options, from the upscale Café Beaujolais to Southern comfort food reimagined as vegetarian at the Fog Eater Café to a taste of northern Italy at Luna Trattoria. When evening falls, head to the Mendocino Theatre Company for an evening of unforgettable entertainment, the perfect end to the perfect Mendocino day.