Sunset view from the hot tube at the Agate Cove Inn, Mendocino

Sunset view from the hot tube at the Agate Cove Inn, Mendocino

I don’t claim to be an expert but more than a few people asked about our recent vacation to Northern California so before I forget, here’s my travelogue of where to go and what to see:

1. Fly to San Francisco — seems obvious enough, right? If you’ve never been to SF, this would be a great place to overnight the first night, especially if you’re traveling a long way. I’m not a big SF fan. Sorry but the street people in SF are, in my mind, way more aggressive than the ones in NYC and that’s saying something. I particularly dislike the downtown area around Market Street; the marina side near the Golden Gate Bridge is much nicer. Stay there. If you’re not into big cities, keep driving.

2. Visit Point Reyes National Seashore — Whether you do it at the beginning of the trip or at the end, you must stop in this land of natural beauty. I loved it and there’s a fabulous protected beach, plenty of hiking trails and even some elk. The town of Point Reyes Station — where the Cowgirl Creamery cheeses began — is very cool and has some nice restaurants. The area’s hotels seem kind of funky to me. I stayed in the Tomales Bay Resort and liked it but don’t expect a real resort. Loved the restaurant Saltwater nearby.

Pick up a sand dollar or two along Limantour Beach in Point Reyes

Pick up a sand dollar or two along Limantour Beach in Point Reyes

3. Stop in Healdsburg — I’ve always been more of a fan of Sonoma than Napa and, if you’re heading north along 101, Healdsburg is on the way. Cute little town, some excellent restaurants and a place called The Shed that is like the Ikea of food. It’s a bit precious but you want to know the name of each of your lentils, right? We stayed in a cottage in a vineyard; the place is called Zinscape. Very beautiful landscape and 15 minutes outside Healdsburg. I ate at Bistro Ralph’s where the chicken paillard is to die for and it also helps if you run into a nice man willing to share his expensive and hard to find bottle of wine with you.

4.  Mendocino — The drive on 128 West from Cloverdale to Mendocino is breathtaking both for its beauty and its sharp curves. Be prepared. Don’t do this drive in a rush. Take your time and take it in. You’ll go through some beautiful wine country and cool, dark forests. As for Mendocino, I liked it but it was way smaller than I thought. That’s not a bad thing. It’s laid back, has some nice places to stay with views of the very dramatic coastline aver seals, and you’ll have some delicious food, and take some amazing hikes. There’s nothing not to like but, to me, it’s a two, maybe three night stay. Watch those gas prices at the Chevron station on Main Street. No posted signs and I was charged $6.25 a gallon. We stayed at the Agate Cove Inn. It’s good, not great.

Mendocino River morning hike

Mendocino River morning hike

5. Drive north along the coast — The road is winding but the views spectacular. First stop, the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens. Lovely gardens and you can walk down to the water. But the highlight for me was the cafe — very healthy salads, the kind you expect in California. Definitely worth stopping here. Along the way, you’ll want to take a little detour off the 101 North to drive through — da, da, da, da — The Avenue of the Giants. Them giants be redwoods and they’re as grand as you might imagine. There’s a Roosevelt loop one-mile hike that’s perfect for city-slickers like myself.

In the Mendocino Botanical Gardens

In the Mendocino Botanical Gardens

6. See Trinidad — Head for the tiny town of Trinidad, population 300, where you can walk down to the beach and watch those ubiquitous seals. The stop is no more than two hours. I would not stay here overnight but go a bit north and stay at either The Lost Whale or Turtle Rocks B and B; both are very nice. The view from our room at Turtle Rocks was killer and the breakfasts were great. Loved the Larrupin’ restaurant for a fancy meal but The Lighthouse in Trinidad is great for a burger or a salad — homemade fast food and it’s very good.

spotted while walking along the beach in Trinidad

spotted while walking along the beach in Trinidad

7. Elk Country — That’s right, elk country! And if you’re lucky, you can just pull off the road and they’ll be right there. We were not lucky and so drove into Fern Canyon where the elk were hanging out next to the parking lot. I can’t say enough about the scenery in Fern Canyon (I’m running out of adjectives) but consider that Jurassic Park — The Lost World was shot here. Looks just as prehistoric as the location scouts thought. Wondrous!

 

in lieu of elk shot, a nice sign

in lieu of elk shot, a nice sign

8. Keep driving and stay at The Historic Requa Inn — My wife would have given anything — including me — to stay here one night but it was booked up. We visited and it was every bit as historic looking as she thought. It also has a very nice restaurant on the premises and overlooks a river. Nearby, you can hike, canoe, kayak, take a jet boat ride and even visit a Native American museum. You are way off the grid now friends and your smartphone may not work. Enjoy!!!

That’s as far north as we got. We definitely felt like we were away from it all….if you head up there or have been there, let me know your suggestions. Thanks….

  1. barb says:

    Thank you for posting. Was so anxious to hear details of the trip, and the pics are great! Hope to hear more details when we all get together. Thinking of my own vacay now!

  2. Paul LaRosa says:

    thanks. it’s good and healthy to get away…..

  3. Kappy says:

    Good timing, Paul. My girlfriend and I are heading to SF in mid-August, driving up to Sonoma, then Mendocino. Some great trip tips. Thanks pal.

  4. Paul says:

    Sure, lemme know if you have any questions

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