An Adventure in Mendocino County, California: What to Eat, Drink and Do

A trip to Mendocino, California feels pretty magical. It’s like stepping into another world, even though it’s located just a few hours north driving from the San Francisco Bay Area.

Mendocino is an outdoorsy destination perched right on California’s Northern coast — it’s rugged and wild (and usually about 15 – 20 degrees cooler than the rest of the state when it comes to summertime temps!) offering seemingly endless opportunities for exploration.

Here are a few suggestions on how to spend a wonderfully adventurous weekend in Mendocino County.

Morning: Grab a Brew and a Bite at GoodLife Cafe & Bakery

Good Life Cafe in Mendocino
Photo Courtesy of Visit Mendocino County

GoodLife Cafe & Bakery is favored by locals and visitors alike for a tasty and fresh breakfast or lunch. From baked treats to burritos to full luncheon entrees such as soups and salads, there’s no shortage of healthy (and delicious) fare to enjoy at this downtown outpost. Everything you’ll encounter is made from scratch using ingredients that are locally sourced (whenever possible) as well as organic and seasonally fresh.

In fact, the menu varies by season (and sometimes even by day!) depending on the ingredients the cooks can get their hands on. But one thing’s for sure — no matter what you order, it’s going to be good.

Afternoon: Go for a Hike at Russian Gulch State Park

We spent the afternoon hiking the Fern Canyon, North and South Trail Loop trail — an eight mile loop trail that features a beautiful waterfall. It wasn’t too steep at any point, and it was a great way to enjoy the opportunity to do some natural “forest bathing” with a side trip to the beach afterward!

That’s one of the things I love most about Mendocino is the access to the beautiful towering redwood trees and the ocean scenery.

We also checked out the Devil’s Punchbowl, a 100-foot by 60-foot basin that was created back when a tunnel penetrating inland from the ocean collapsed. At high tide, it’s a hurricane. of swirling water. At low tide, you can see the beach below!

Enjoy a Well-Deserved Lunch at Fog Eater Cafe

Fog Eater Cafe is a must-stop spot when in Mendocino Village. This vegetarian eatery sits in the heart of Mendocino Village, boasting the unique combination of “Southern comfort food meets fresh and healthy fare.” The team only uses organic produce, and sources everything from nearby, within Mendocino or Sonoma counties.

From gluten free hush puppies with pepper jelly aioli or Heirloom Grits with smoked tomato broth, black eyed peas, and a choice of poached egg or tofu it’s always an adventure to dine here.

Head to the Glass Beach for some Oceanside Views

Glass Beach, the southern beach of MacKerricher State Park in Fort Bragg is literally scattered with bits of sparkling sea glass — no wonder it’s internationally famous. It gets its name from the smooth colorful glass pieces that you can find mixed into the pebbly beach as common as the sand itself.

So, where did the glass come from? This site was once a trash dump, and over time, the little bits of broken bottles from the garbage cans of local residents have transformed into these naturally made treasures which you can find to take pictures.

It is illegal to remove any glass from Glass Beach, so please don’t leave with any! Let’s be respectful and preserve this natural wonder as it is — and keep it in our memories only (not our pockets!!) so that future generations can also visit and admire it someday.

Pay a Visit to a Local Craft Brewery for Happy Hour

There are a plethora of craft breweries (and taprooms/tasting rooms) in Mendocino. If you’re into the brews I’d recommend hitting up North Coast Brewing Company or Overtime Brewing — both of which are in downtown Fort Bragg.

North Coast Brewing Company is a well-known pioneer in the Craft Beer movement. This independent brewery dates back to 1988 and has since then claimed more than 110 awards in national and international competitions. Here, you’ll find a dining room that serves a variety of seafood (it is Mendocino County, after all!), burgers, and vegetarian dishes. There’s also pet-friendly outdoor seating for those who want to bring their furry companions.

Nearby Overtime Brewing is the town’s newest brewery, born from a long-time dream of its two co-brewers. These masterminds first started brewing at the crafty age of seventeen and since then have built a brew empire in the town of Fort Bragg.

Enjoy Dinner at Little River Inn

Little River Inn has been owned and operated by the same family for generations. It’s stood the test of time as a favorite for visitors to set as home base for their Mendocino travels, and locals to grab a tasty bite to eat or play a round of golf. The inn is perched on the hillside up above Van Damme State Beach with great views of the sea and the sand below.

We didn’t spend the night, but we did step in for a bite. First, we went to Ole’s Whale Watch bar to have a cocktail while, well, watching for whales — since the windows of this bar look out straight onto the horizon of the ocean. We started off with one of the signature cocktails, the “Coastal Mirage.” Made with Local 162 Vodka, elderflower, lemon, aztec bitters, and mint — it’s a delightful and refreshing combination.

Next, we enjoyed dinner at the Little River Inn Restaurant. We started off with a round of the fresh steamed clam chowder which was delightful and fresh. I’m from Boston, and I think this might be the best chow(dah?) I’ve ever had. It was loaded with fresh steamed clams (still in the shell) and filled with smoked bacon, potatoes, onion, celery and just a touch of cream.

For dinner, we split the house-made tagliatelle which was divine. Red wine braised Beef Cheeks, king trumpet mushroom, braising jus over house-made pasta. Mmmm! I also ordered a baby kale caesar salad which came topped with fresh fish, capers, anchovies, parmesan, Caesar dressing, and garlic croutons. YUM!

Spend the night at Glendeven Inn & Lodge and Feed the Llamas at Dusk

After dinner, retire to your restful quarters at the Glendeven Inn & Lodge. This historic inn offers a sense of seclusion, and even though it’s just two miles from Mendocino Village, it’s a peaceful escape tucked away amongst the redwoods amidst fresh ocean air.

The property is flanked on three sides by Van Damme State Park and feels like the perfect combination of being in the wilderness while also never being too far from civilization.

The Main Farmhouse at Glendeven Inn was constructed back in 1867 and formally converted into an inn in 1977. Its current owners acquired it in 2007 and have since then thoughtfully expanded its space in a labor of love, by introducing more units and lodging options (all with a respectful thoughtfulness and attention to detail to preserve its originality).

Today, Glendeven Inn & Lodge sits on 15 acres, comprising of four buildings (including the two dating back to the 1800s) and a sleek, bright and modern feeling main Lodge. The property feels like an idyllic farmhouse chic getaway, with luxurious amenities and some genuine space to breathe.

One of the best parts of spending a night at the inn is the animals on-site. Llamas and chickens roam at will — and guests are welcome to watch as the llamas are fed at dusk (and maybe even get some feeding in themselves, if they’re lucky!). 

A Trip Back into a Simpler Time

Mendocino conjures up daydream images of a relaxing vacation. From wine tasting and craft brews to redwoods, and views of the sea — its natural beauty (including seemingly endless scenic beach coastline) feel like an unspoiled trip to an uncomplicated time.


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