The coastal region of Mendocino County has long been a popular vacation destination with the picturesque art colony of Mendocino being the most well known draw. But we have also grown to love the funky, diverse, and extremely friendly town of Fort Bragg. Here's a bit of introduction to Fort Bragg, Mendocino, and a few local attractions. We've also tossed in some about some interesting places to check out for those coming here from the Bay Area.

Fort Bragg

From its origins as a logging and commercial fishing center, this town of 6,500 has evolved into a diverse city serving the needs of more than 25,000 residents of the North Coast. The last of the logging mills closed in 2002, but there is still a small commercial fishing fleet in Noyo Harbor with a good selection of charters for whale watching and salmon fishing cruises.

Watching the California gray whales is a popular pastime, as they migrate to their summer waters in Mexico (January and February) and then as they return to the frigid waters of the Bering Sea during March and April. Abalone diving and sport fishing are major draw, as are the numerous dive shops and scenic cruises out of the harbor.

Fort Bragg is a perfect site for vacation getaways, with dozens of annual celebrations and festivals, including the Whale Festival, Winesong, and Paul Bunyan Days. Fort Bragg is also the site of the famous Skunk Train depot, which provides scenic excursions through the local redwood forests. Dating from 1885, the Skunk was originally a logging train; today it carries passengers along a 40-mile route through mountains and redwoods to the inland town of Willits and back. Discover hidden treasures at Glass Beach. And be sure not to miss the numerous museums in the area for more about local history and culture. The Guest House Museum on Main Street was built entirely of redwood in 1892 and is filled with pictures and artifacts depicting the area’s rich history. Downtown fort Bragg also offers a variety of shopping and dining choices, including antique shops, boutiques, art galleries and dozens of restaurants of all types and price levels. If you like high-quality microbrewed beer make sure to check out the Mendocino Brewing Company on Route 1 on the north end of Fort Bregg.

Fort Bragg has a number of very good food markets including a Safeway and the Harvest Market, which is more gourmet-oriented. The Safeway is right on Route 1 in Fort Bragg and the Harvest Market is at the intersection of Route 1 and Route 20, just south of the Noyo River Bridge.

North of Fort Bragg where we are, Route 1 becomes very lightly populated, running past miles of exquisite coastal vistas with only one small settlement, Westport, along the 25 miles before it abruptly turns inward. The reason for Route 1's shift from the sea is the mysterious Lost Coast of California. Due north, where no highway could possibly run, the King Range vaults out of the sea, rising over 4,000 feet in less than three miles. It is a wilderness inhabited by black bears and bald eagles, with an abandoned lighthouse and a solitary beach piled with ancient Indian shell mounds.

Mendocino

In the town of Mendocino, which sits on a headland above the sea, you will discover New England incarnate, California style. Settled in 1852, the town was built largely by Yankees who decorated their village with wooden towers, Victorian homes, and a Gothic Revival Presbyterian church. The town, originally a vital lumber port, has become a well-known and popular artists’ colony. With a shoreline honeycombed by beaches and a villagescape capped with a white church steeple, Mendocino is a beautiful spot. The village is surrounded on three sides by gentle trails that meander along the rugged coastline, providing spectacular views of sea arches (like the one in front of our house here at Whale Rock), ancient blow holes, hidden grottos, and the ever-changing Pacific Ocean. Point Cabrillo Lighthouse offers a leisurely stroll through the meadow and along the windswept bluffs of the 300 acre Point Cabrillo Preserve. You will learn a little coastal ecology and some Mendocino history, including the story of the Frolic, the 1850 shipwreck that changed the north coast forever.

Mendocino is also a great place to shop and eat with dozens of small shops, galleries, and boutiques and a salivating array of restaurants and cafes. To earn that four course dinner, you can rent mountain bikes to explore Mendocino Village or to bike through the redwoods and fern canyons of the State parks.

State Parks and Notable Attractions

MacKerricher State Park, just north of Fort Bragg, includes the northern three miles of the Ten Mile Coastal trail which runs along the western edge of a 1,285 acre sand dune complex known as the Ten Mile Beach and Dunes. The park is n excellent whale viewing point, as well as a great place to catch the antics of local surfers. Hiking trails abound along the coastline, with five state parks within 15 miles. Spectacular waterfalls, as well as fern grottos and canyons, dot the countryside.

Mendocino Botantical Gardens, just south of Fort Bragg, is an extraordinary public garden, situated directly on the Pacific Ocean. The gentle climate of the area makes this coastal preserve, with three miles of luxuriant pathways, attractive every season of the year. Gardens of heathers, perennials, succulents and rhododendrons, to name a few, grow in colorful profusion here, and trails lead past ivy, ferns and dwarf conifers to a coastal bluff with vistas up and down the rugged shoreline. Don't miss their plants sales in the In spring (April 26-27, 2003) and fall (September 20-21, 2003).

On the Way

The drive from the Bay Area is one of the most beautiful in all of California. Route 128 from 101 to the coast will first take you through rolling hills of the Anderson Valley dotted with great wineries and orchards, then through a wonderfully dark and mysterious stretch of old-growth redwoods, and finally slipping past the Navarro River to the renowned vistas along the Pacific Coast. On that last stretch winding north along Pacific Coast Highway to Mendocino and Fort Bragg, you'll cruise past the seaside villages of Elk, Albion, and Little River, which gaze down on the ocean from rocky heights. The coastline is a stunning intaglio of river valleys and soft and green forested ridges that fall way into pocket beaches and narrow coves.

Enjoy your visit to coatal Mendocino Coutny. We're sure you'll find the views majestic, the people charming, and the overall experience unforgettable.

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If you would like to learn more details about the beautiful Mendocino coast, try these links:

www.fortbragg.com
www.mendocino.com