Mendocino County has scenery to spare.
Highways and routes run through stretches of redwoods, along coastal waters and by farmland. And thanks to its cool climate, the area’s wine-producing region, Anderson Valley, is so refined that its wineries easily hold their own against Sonoma’s offerings.
The best way to explore is by car. Mendocino County is a three-hour drive north of San Francisco, which is an ideal place to fly in to from the East Coast, and there are various stops where you can pull over and sip, savor or stay awhile once you get there. Here’s a starting itinerary for exploring this section of northern California.
If your first stop is wine, look no further than Navarro Vineyards (5601 Hwy. 128, 707-895-3686, navarrowine.com/main.php), which mostly sells right out of its tasting room. Down the road, Phillips Hill Winery (5101 Hwy. 128, 707-895-2209, phillipshill.com) is based in a former apple dryer barn and is noted for its fine pinot noirs. Get outdoors at Hendy Woods State Park (18599 Philo-Greenwood Rd., 707-895-3141), home to two groves of towering redwoods, five miles of trails and camping grounds. For a unique hands-on experience, Philo Apple Farm (18501 Greenwood Rd., 707-895-2333, philoapplefarm.com) offers the option to “stay and cook,” wherein guests can sleep on a working farm and help prepare the meals.
Boonville is known for its rare language, “boontling.” Otherwise, it offers charms similar to other parts of the area. Take a tour of Pennyroyal Farm (14930 Hwy. 128, 707-895-2410, pennyroyalfarm.com), offered twice daily, then sample its wine and cheeses, made at its on-site creamery. For more sustenance, pick up a sandwich from Boonville General Store (14077 Hwy. 128, 707-895-9477) or pastries from the Mosswood Market (14111 Highway 128, 707-895-3635). Find quaint and sturdy kitchen finds at the nearby Farmhouse Mercantile (14111 Hwy. 128, 707-895-3996, farmhouse128.com).
This picturesque village, surrounded by a state park, is an ideal place to spend the night. The walkable town is home to galleries and eateries like Frankie’s (44951 Ukiah St., 707-937-2436, frankiesmendocino.com), noted for its pizzas and ice cream, and GoodLife Cafe and Bakery (10483 Lansing St., 707-937-0836, goodlifecafemendo.com), with made-from-scratch breakfast goods. For lodging, The Stanford Inn by the Sea (44850 Comptche Ukiah Rd., 707-937-5615, stanfordinn.com) is a pet-friendly eco-resort with a wellness center and restaurant.
This coastal town contains its share of natural splendor. The Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens (admission $15, $12 seniors, $8 ages 6-14, free 5 and under; 18220 N. Hwy. 1, 707-964-4352 ext. 16, gardenbythesea.org) is known for its more than 190 cultivars of rhododendrons. It’s also directly in front of the Pacific Ocean, with a path leading to it. Get on the sand at Glass Beach (fortbragg.com), the site of former trash dumps that are now popular spots for admiring colorful sea glass.
This southern Mendocino County community is all about eco-friendliness; its Solar Living Institute (13771 S. Hwy. 101, 707-472-2460, solarliving.org) showcases examples of sustainable practices ranging from solar panels to organic gardening. For a taste of the area, head to Terra Savia (14160 Mountain House Rd., 707-744-1114, terrasavia.com), which pours estate-grown reds, whites, sparkling and rosés, plus harvests olive oil from its five Tuscan varietals.