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Mendocino is a quaint little town which is perched on rocky cliffs of the northern California coast. It's allure is not in fancy resorts or nightlife, but in wildflowers, picturesque old water towers, sprawling headlands, fog horns, crashing waves, squawking gulls and friendly locals who live very simply in a place with no traffic lights, high rise buildings or chain restaurants. There are beautiful beach walks and redwood hikes nearby. Restaurants with fresh local fish and organic produce are found in town and all up and down the coast. Anderson Valley and it's many fine wineries are a short distance away and the trip down highway 128 is beautiful.
The Headlands Park has paths where you can walk all the way to the cliffs and boulders of the Pacific Ocean. It's a perfect place to picnin, or to bring your binoculars and spy seals on the rocks and whales in the distance. Many people walk their dogs, hike and jog here in the morning. At sunset. lovers and others park and watch as the sunset paints the water gold and orange. The town and it's old buildings change color by fog, sunlight
Van Damme State Park is an excellent place to hike. In particular, the Fern Gully trail is both a challenging 3 mile hike as well as a true place of beauty. You can start out in the Pygmy Forest, where trees show stunted growth due to soil and growing conditions, and follow the path into the lush valley which is covered in ferns, wild mushrooms and mosses.
What a fun day with your loved one, take a ride through a redwood forest or along the beach or both on horseback! This is a nice stable with good horses and they will tailor your ride and mount according to your riding skills. Not to worry, if you're not experienced, they will provide you with a gentle horse and you'll be given a helmet if you don't bring your own. The mountain redwood trail is quite high in altitude and the views are breathtaking.
Just about 30 minutes from town are the wonderful wineries along Hwy 128 in Anderson Valley. There are some beautiful modern tasting rooms, such as Roederer which produces award winning sparkling wines. There are also tiny family wineries, such as Lazy Creek, who offer tastings in a barn complete with family dogs running around. Pinot Noir grows very well in this area, and many award winning wines come from here.
The drive from Mendocino to Pacific Star winery is about 30 minutes north on Highway 1. They also have a tasting room in Ft. Bragg, but you really need to experience the winery itself for the spectacular setting. The barrels are lined up on a gently sloping hill which ends right at the cliffs of the Pacific Ocean. The wines are delicious. They make a "Dad's Daily Red" blend at a very good price which is a signature wine named in honor of the winemaker's father. There are various animals which roam the grounds, and it's always a friendly, personal experience. A good idea is to pack a picnic lunch, buy a bottle of wine and sit with your lover at the very edge of the cliff in an Adirondack chair enjoyng the sensual experience of great wine, food and nature. Bring the binoculars and spot the spouts from the whales in the distance.
The tallest redwood in California is said to be on this trail. It's about a mile long and a very easy walk. There are picnic tables at the entrance of the trail, but I suggest walking to a remote spot in the deep forest underneath one of these behemoths and sharing a glass of wine and some delicious local cheese . It is so quiet, with just the sounds of birds and the eerie creaking as the trees gently sway in the wind.
Possibly the most romantic room in Mendocino is the Cove Cottage at Alegria. Not fancy or luxurious, it is however cozy and quaint with bamboo floors, Asian decor, an antique wood burning stove, a large private deck with a spectacular ocean view, and a large hot tub a few feet away which sits among flowers and huge trees. At night, there is no more romantic place than in the hot tub under the moon and stars with the fragrance of flowers filling your head and the crashing of waves providing background music. A cold glass of sparkling wine makes the experience complete. Breakfasts are served in a sunny room with a dramatic ocean view and the food is delicious with organic produce used in every dish.
This historic Inn was once an elegant home built in the 1800's. The property has lovely Victorian style rooms in the main house, rustic yet elegant refurnished rooms in what used to be a barn, a few scattered cottages, and elegant new suites up the street from the main house. We stayed in room 17 in the barn studio and enjoyed a huge suite with a large fireplace, spacious bathroom with a sauna, and a private hot tub on our private deck with a slice of ocean view. Very romantic! The room had every amenity. We loved being in the heart of town within walking distance to the shops, restaurants and headlands. This is a fun place to enjoy a drink at night, many locals can be found here. Breakfasts are also delicious and the ocean and garden views are lovely..
A romantic restaurant with fabulous cuisine. The mussels were fresh and melt in your mouth good.
This old hotel oozes charm. It's mustard yellow color makes it easily recognizable from afar when approaching town. The hotel is decorated in deep rich colors and is filled with antiques and Victorian decor. The dining room has a most romantic setting- soft music, white linens, candlelight and a subdued dining experience with excellent service and food. After a meal, sit with your sweetie by the fire on a love seat and enjoy a cognac.
You might wonder why I include an art gallery in romantic things to do and see. First, artist Kevin Milligan is a romantic! He is a wonderful person who loves the town and whose art reflects the beauty of the town and area in a way that photos rarely do. The town and ocean take on many colors as the sun changes position in the sky. Kevin has captured this in his work. The new studio also showcases the work of other local artists and you can easily spend an hour there enjoying the art and the artist. He is also very helpful about sharing the history of some of the places in town and is glad to share his knowledge with others.
Romantic? Maybe not, but it's the only place to use a computer! However, what is romantic is to grab a cup of steaming hazelnut coffee and stroll in the mornings through the headlands as you watch the sun coming up or the fog rolling in. The town wakes gently and gradually the locals are strolling through the streets, the feral cats are darting between the old water towers and the smells of the pastries and coffee cakes begin to fill the fresh saltwater air.
Stanford Inn, a gorgeous place right on the estuary, rents kayaks and canoes on the property for navigating this lovely stretch of water. It's usually calm and if you prefer to paddle with your sweetheart in another location, they will rent carriers for your car.
There are fun festivals to enjoy together in this great town and around the area, including wine events, whale watching, mushroom fests, art festivals and much more. This is the official website for all the wonderful and fun things to do in my favorite small town in America!