Oakland to Mendocino County
After spending some memorable days in Oakland and the Bay Area, leave the exciting urban environment behind and begin your rural Northern California experience! Oakland to Mendocino County is the ideal side trip from Oakland that would involve either one of two nights on the Mendocino Coast and/or Anderson Valley. Two nights would provide the opportunity to take in the magnificent ocean views, do some hiking and wine tasting and visit the redwoods, with some time to relax and unwind. No matter how many nights you stay, this itinerary will have you sampling all three main attractions Mendocino County offers; wine, the redwoods and the Pacific.
Start your trip driving north via I 580, crossing the San Francisco Bay at the Richmond Bridge and continuing north on Highway 101. The highway traverses a portion of Sonoma County wine country and the cities of Santa Rosa and Healdsburg, offering you numerous opportunities along the way to stop, shop and sample.
Continue north on Highway 101 to Cloverdale, only 90 miles and 90 minutes away from Oakland. Turn WEST on CA Highway 128 and soon you will be in Mendocino County wine country, including the famous Anderson Valley, home to some of the country’s best Pinot Noir.
Before reaching Anderson Valley though you’ll pass through Yorkville Highlands, also home to great wineries such as Maple Creek, Yorkville Cellars and Meyer Family Estate. A stop at the Yorkville Market offers opportunity to enjoy locally sourced, made-to-order sandwiches and a comprehensive overview of Highway 128 wines.
The town of Boonville, only 28 miles from Cloverdale, is the heart of Anderson Valley. As one of its claims to fame, the town has its own language, Bootling, which was started by the children of Boonville as a language game which enabled them to speak freely in front of elders without being understood. But more importantly for wine lovers, Boonville is also home to tasting rooms for Marietta, Harmonique, Foursight and Seebass, as well as art galleries, restaurants and shops. Try the famous ice cream from Paysanne, or if you are in the mood for beer, Anderson Valley Brewery has some of the best microbrews anywhere. It also offers tours and disc golf.
A new treat in Boonville is Pennyroyal Farm, producers of a variety of delicious goat and sheep cheeses along with their own brand of wine. Property tours are by appointment and are definitely worth taking. Wine and cheese pairings follow the tour and on weekends, their estate chef will wow you with locally sourced seasonal culinary delights.
From Boonville, continue west on Highway 128. You are still in wine country with numerous tasting rooms right along the road, Golden Eye, Witching Stick, Navarro, Greenwood Ridge, Phillips Hill, Roederer, Handley, and Lula are just a few of the great wineries you’ll be passing along the way.
For a change of pace and some snacks, stop at one of the two fruit producers along the way. The Apple Farm is a quarter-mile off of Hwy 128 on Philo Greenwood Road; they’re a self-serve farm stand offering fresh and dried fruit, chutneys, juices and cider. [Another benefit is being next door to Hendy Woods State Park, home to not one, but two old-growth redwood groves with trees dating back to before ?Columbus? discovery of the new world.] Gowen’s Oak Tree, on Highway 128, also has a farm stand where you can buy a variety of fresh local produce and apple ciders.
Speaking of food, Anderson Valley has an abundance of dining options including the Bewildered Pig, the Boonville Hotel, Lizzby’s and Mosswood Cafe.
There is so much to do in Anderson Valley you might consider spending the night. Sheep Dung Estates has lovely secluded pet friendly cottages. The Boonville Hotel, Anderson Valley Inn and the Madrones also offer unique accommodations.
From Boonville, meander another 23 miles until the highway merges into iconic Highway 1, the Pacific Coast Highway. But before the merge, you will travel through a canopy of magnificent redwoods. Stop for a selfie at Navarro River Redwoods State Park.
As you reach the coast, go past the bridge and proceed north on Highway 1. You’ll find stunning vistas ripe for photo stops along the route overlooking the wild Pacific Ocean. In 10 miles you will be greeted by views of historic Mendocino Village. The entire town is on the National Register of Historic Places and most of the Victorian buildings have been preserved.
Mendocino is known for its charming inns and fine dining. Some of the best known lodging options are the Joshua Grindle Inn, the Little River Inn, Stanford Inn, Alegria and Sweetwater. Dining at Cafe Beaujolais, Trillium, Flow, or the Mendocino Cafe will be sure to please. Between Highway 128 and Mendocino, the Albion River Inn and the Ledford House offer innovative dining. Albion has ocean view rooms to swoon over, making it a perfect romantic getaway!
Stay overnight in Mendocino to enjoy the historic ambiance, complimented by hiking on one of the many State Parks and Reserves nearby. Mendocino Headlands State Park basically surrounds the town with numerous trails and Pacific views. Van Damme State Park is 2 miles away as is Russian Gulch State Park. Both have gentle hiking trails. Point Cabrillo Light Station is another option for a gentle hike.
There are no chain stores in the village so shopping for local crafts, art and creative goods is one of the attractions. The Mendocino Art Center has a great gift shop featuring the handiwork of many local artisans. The center also has exhibition space for art shows, and working studios where artists from around the world come to teach and learn in a variety of media. Patterson’s Pub and Dick Place Bar offer some late-night entertainment in the company of locals.
For a more laid-back vibe, after you have explored Mendocino, head 8 miles north on Highway 1 to Fort Bragg. Your first stop should be the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, 47 acres of beauty all the way to the ocean. In 2017, it was voted as the fifth best Botanical Garden in the nation by USA Today readers!
Fort Bragg is a former timber and fishing town transformed into an exciting eclectic tourist destination. Noyo Harbor, one of only a few working harbors in northern California, has whale watching, deep sea fishing and a handful of funky restaurants such as Django’s Rough Bar, Sea Pal Cove, and Silver’s at the Wharf; seafood is a specialty at each.
The city itself has numerous lodging options, from the beachfront Beachcomber Motel, to pedestrian friendly in-town historic properties such as the Weller House and contemporary chains like Motel 6 and Holiday Inn Express. A paved portion of the California Coastal Trail was just completed and runs from the southern edge of town about 12 miles north to MacKerricher State Park. It is ADA compatible.
Other activities in or near town are kayaking, boating, horseback riding on the beach and the redwoods at Ricochet Ridge Ranch, sea lion and whale watching, and enjoying the varied offerings at the North Coast Brewery and Tap Room. There are several restaurants to choose from, both in Noyo Harbor and in town.
Return to Oakland via Highway 20, which connects Fort Bragg with Highway 101. The route is 33 miles long and allows for an immersion in the redwood forest through Jackson State Demonstration Forest. Highway 20 intersects US 101 at Willits, a country town known for its rodeo and the Mendocino County Museum.
Turn south on Highway 101 and head toward Cloverdale where your coastal journey began. This route takes you through the picturesque city of Ukiah which also has abundant lodging and restaurant options. Four of the town’s restaurants have sidewalk pet friendly seating options; Saucy, Chop Chop and Schatt’s.
Between Willits and Ukiah, make a reservation to tour Ridgewood Ranch, the home of the famous race horse Seabisquit. In Talmidge, just east of Ukiah, you’ll discover the Temple of 10,000 Buddhas, a Buddhist monastery and school, as well as a vegetarian restaurant.
Along the way, you will travel through Mendocino County’s inland wine region, the Redwood Corridor. BARRA of Mendocino and Parducci Cellars are the wineries you’ll encounter as you head south on US 101. South of Ukiah, Rivino, Nelson Family Vineyards and Saracina are some of the tasting rooms you’ll enjoy along the way to Hopland.
Next stop on your journey is Hopland, a small but very hip town. It boasts a number of tasting rooms including Graziano, McFadden, SIP, McNab, and Brutocao. Beer lovers will find some cold brews at the Piazza de Campovida. And for a satisfying meal, The Golden Pig or the Taverna at the Piazza de Campovida are excellent choices. Lodging options are the Piazza de Campovida in town, and Campovida just five minutes from town. For those wanting to experience the countryside, check out the UC Hopland Research & Extension Center, a 5300-acre multi-disciplinary research and education facility located just 15 minutes from town. The center frequently offers unique nature classes and activities so be sure to visit their website. Olive oil lovers should visit Terra Savia before leaving town, just off Hwy 101. They press their certified organic olives into brilliantly pungent blends!
Continue south on Highway 101 from Hopland, retracing your steps to Oakland. Your entire urban/rural journey can easily be accomplished in a week. It is the best way to experience world class urban environments and unique rural landscapes without driving extreme distances. Of course, the more time you have to spend, the more wonders you can cross off your bucket list.