Travel: Things to do up the coast in beautiful Mendocino

The stately Mendocino Point Cabrillo Lighthouse, by Jefferson Graham for the PhotowalksTV series

What to do in the fabulous North Coast, just two and a half hours up the road from San Francisco?

How does strolling all over a historic Victorian town, with miles and miles of seaside bluffs, hidden beaches and rocky coast sound? That’s Mendocino!

Add to that great waterfalls, bridges, a beach renowned for sea glass, a historic lighthouse and a backdrop that doubled for coastal Maine on the old “Murder, She Wrote” TV show and you should be able to keep yourself busy for a few days. And more.

Yes, we have great beaches and coastline in the South Bay, but it doesn’t look like this, as I point out in the latest PhotowalksTV episode. How many victorians can you point out in Hermosa and Redondo?

Mendo, as locals call it, is a former logging town that now thrives mostly on tourism. A visit to town will be mostly on foot. Everything you need to see, in the Village, is easily accessible via foot. You’ll get in your car to go out of town to see the Point Cabrillo Lighthouse, Russian Gulch State Park and the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens.

Here’s a quick walking itinerary:

Start at the Ford House Visitor Center, a house first built in 1854. The Center is chock full of welcome maps and information, and also serves as the Visitors Center for the Mendocino Headlands State Park, which is directly behind the building, and curves all through town. Spend lots of time exploring the trails of the Headlands, which are stunning.

Turn left and enjoy the businesses on Main Street, which include the historic Mendocino Inn, Dick’s Pub and the sprawling Bookwinkle’s book shop.

Continue up Kasten Street for two blocks and turn right on Little Lake Street and look for the big white, two-story Victorian that should be familiar to you as the house where Jessica Fletcher lived in Murder, She Wrote. And do what many of the Instagram age are doing: get a selfie of yourself in front of the home.

Walk one block, back to Lansing Street, and check out the big Harvest Market, the only place to buy groceries in the village, and the other shops and cafes on the street, which include Patterson’s Pub, the Good Life Cafe and the Savings Bank of Mendocino. Walk inside and you’ll see an old bank that still looks like it did in the early 1900s, with tellers behind cages. Then step outside and marvel at the statue atop the building. Up there you’ll see Father Time with wings and a sickle, standing behind a woman and braiding her hair.

 From here, continue strolling through town marveling at the many beautiful victorian buildings. MacCallum Home is at 45020 Albion and is quite the sight, as is the interior of the Mendocino Inn on Main Street.

Once you’ve explored town, hop in the car and head north to Russian Gulch State Park and the Point Cabrillo Lighthouse. Russian Gulch is an eight minute drive, and the highlight is the hike to the waterfall. Afterwards, continue up the road to the Lighthouse. On another outing, go to Fort Bragg for the Botanical Garden and Glass Beach. 

If you go, a drive from the South Bay to Mendocino will take about ten hours. You could also fly to the San Francisco Bay Area, (SFO, Oakland, San Jose or Sacramento) rent a car and drive. It’s also possible to fly to Santa Rosa, which is about an hour away. 

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