Exploring the North Coast – A Mendocino County Weekend Itinerary

About two and a half hours North of San Francisco you will find Mendocino County. This North Coast area is home to breathtaking cliff sides, beautiful redwood forests, luxurious inns, delicious food and an exquisite wine tasting region. Whether you are looking for a weekend relaxing taking in the views, exploring the outdoors or fitting in a little bit of both, the Mendocino Coast can provide an ideal weekend getaway for just about anyone. Take a look at my Mendocino County weekend itinerary to get you started.

Since it is not a short drive, and the drives, whichever one you take, are breathtaking in themselves I recommend making this trip a long weekend, even if it’s just two and half days. If you can make it to your hotel by sunset on Friday you’re in great shape. You can take in the view and still get a relaxing evening in.

To get you started on planning your Mendocino County getaway I’ve got an activity packed itinerary. You can add more to this, or do just a few items and spend more time just relaxing.

Note: Some tours, stays and meals were provided at no cost to the author. As always, all opinions remain my own. You’ll find affiliate links in this post which allow me to continue to improve Traveling Nine to Fiver. I hope this article is useful for you. 

Day 1 – Friday – The start

Start With The Drive

There are some destinations where getting there is half the fun, and that is entirely true with Mendocino. Since I’ll take you back down through wine country on your way home, change up the pace and drive into Mendocino up the coast. Only second to the Big Sur drive of the Pacific Coast Highway, and barely, is the drive North of San Francisco to Mendocino. It will take you a little longer but it is a jaw-dropping beauty whether it is clear or foggy. This piece of the coast is unique from that south of it and not to be missed.The best things to do on a Mendocino County weekend itinerary. From where to stay, eat, explore, activities, wineries and more.

Take off work early and get the drive in before the sunsets. In the winter, that can be a little harder but for most of the year if you can get in by 6:30 you’ll be doing great. Also, giving you a chance to enjoy your Inn that evening.

Relax At the Inn

After a beautiful but long drive, you’ll be ready to cozy up in a cozy room for a little before dinner. The Little River Inn is the perfect spot to check out from the rest of the world. All their rooms are facing the ocean and have a beautiful deck to relax on.The best things to do on a Mendocino County weekend itinerary. From where to stay, eat, explore, activities, wineries and more.

Their suites are worth an upgrade if you can since you can get a fireplace and jacuzzi tub as well, but even staying in one of their standard rooms is a relaxing escape in luxury.

Check in, grab a bottle of wine from the front desk and take in the sunset from your deck to kick off your evening right. Find more on why I loved relaxing at the Little River InnThe best things to do on a Mendocino County weekend itinerary. From where to stay, eat, explore, activities, wineries and more.

Enjoy Your Meal

When you’ve gotten relaxed enough head down to the Ole’ Whale Watch Bar just next to the hotel lobby. You’ll find guests and locals filling up the space. For a more casual meal sit in the bar while watching the view or the game while you grab a drink and something to eat. You can head to the restaurant for a more formal setting as well.

For dessert, run across the Pacific Coast Highway to Wild Fish, you can make a reservation and have an elegant meal from the get-go, or just pop in later for dessert. Their pot de creme with Mexican spiced chocolate is one of the best desserts I’ve enjoyed in a long time.The best things to do on a Mendocino County weekend itinerary. From where to stay, eat, explore, activities, wineries and more.

Day 2 – Saturday – A Little Bit of All the Coast

A Morning In Fort Bragg

Start your day a little further up North in Fort Bragg. Grab yourself a “wicked” breakfast at Eggheads. A diner with a Wizard of Oz theme and delicious benedicts and more.

Then make your way over to the Glass Beach. This unique California treasure is something you can’t miss while in the area. It might just look like another beautiful beach from up top, but when you walk down you’ll see the intricate details of what looked like sand but is actually sea glass. Sit down and put you hands in it to get a real feel for the glass.The best things to do on a Mendocino County weekend itinerary. From where to stay, eat, explore, activities, wineries and more.

After relaxing on the beach take in one more thing Fort Bragg has to offer, it’s local beer. Stop into the North Coast Brewing Co. to try a variety of their unique beers. Just be careful since a few of them have much higher alcohol content than you’d expect. That Old Rasputin sure is tasty but it can catch up on you quickly.

An Afternoon Exploring Point Arena

For the afternoon, turn South and head down to Point Arena. Start with lunch at Rollerville Cafe. Right on PCH their burgers, fish & chips and chowder all hit the spot.

Once you’ve filled up there are a variety of options you have from exploring the area. If you’ve had a chance to plan ahead, book a tour with Our Unbeaten Path Tours. Your guide, Margaret, can lead you through a variety of parts of the region but my walk with her through the Stronetta Lands was educational, fun and beautifully unique. You get a chance to walk off the beaten path and take in the nature and history of the area.The best things to do on a Mendocino County weekend itinerary. From where to stay, eat, explore, activities, wineries and more.

After your tour with Margaret, or even on your own, you can head up to the Point Arena Lighthouse. This is the tallest Lighthouse on the West Coast you can walk up and it is well worth it for that view. It’s 145 steps but as you head up the view gets better and better. Another opportunity to learn more about the area while enjoying breathtaking views.

One more unique thing to explore in the Point Arena area is the B. Bryan Preserve. Here you have a chance to see up close animals you might only find on a safari. From Giraffes to Zebras and Antelopes, you get a chance to see these animals in very large enclosures and a more native environment that zoos. With the Giraffes, you even have a chance to get up close and personal and give them a kiss.The best things to do on a Mendocino County weekend itinerary. From where to stay, eat, explore, activities, wineries and more.

Evening in Mendocino

After your adventure in Point Arena, head back up to Mendocino and take a little time wandering the area. From bookstores to boutiques you’ll find cute places to stop and explore. For dinner, pop over into Patterson’s Pub. It might be a casual spot but you’ll be surprised by their elevation of the normal pub menu.

If you’re a fan start your dinner with some oysters, they are from just off the coast and are only served at the best quality. I had a couple of the grilled option covered in garlic and butter. Then enjoy the meatloaf, Sheppard’s pie, po’boy or fish & chips. As people around me ordered a little bit of everything each person was raving about their meal.

Stay here and get another round, or head back to the Little River Inn for a relaxing evening.

Day 3 – Sunday – Enjoying the Windy RoAd Home

Walk The Scenic Route

If you’re looking for a chance to get outside, the Little River Inn property has a trail that heads right down to the Van Damme State Park. You can take this short walk down to the beach or you can turn right into the park and walk through the campground to the Fern Canyon Trail. This walk will give you a whole new perspective on the area as you walk past redwoods, ferns, eucalyptus, cypress and more along the little river. It does take about 20 minutes to get to the trailhead, but if you’re short on time even walking through the campground is worth it.The best things to do on a Mendocino County weekend itinerary. From where to stay, eat, explore, activities, wineries and more.

Breakfast At The Inn

Since you’ve worked up an appetite, head over to the restaurant at the Inn for a delicious breakfast. The Little River Inn’s Restaurant is a beautiful room sunken into the ground a tad, with luscious gardens growing around it. The Little River Inn is known for its Swedish pancakes, so make sure to get an order for the table to try. Their Benedicts, omelets and more are delicious. At Sunday Brunch, I enjoyed their omelet with herb cream cheese and bay shrimp immensely.The best things to do on a Mendocino County weekend itinerary. From where to stay, eat, explore, activities, wineries and more.

Wine Tasting in Anderson Valley

After you’ve enjoyed a relaxing morning on the coast, make sure to add the valley to your Mendocino County weekend itinerary on your way home. Wind through the redwood forest and make your way to Anderson Valley. Here you’ll find the towns of Philo and Boonville, along with some top notch wineries.

Start with Lula Cellars, right after you come out of the redwoods, for a relaxed feel. Meet Dan in the tasting room, Jeff their winemaker and Honey their yellow lab and enjoy delicious wine where all the grapes are grown in Mendocino County. From the dry Geuwtzemenier to the Pinot Noirs you’ll find something made for every palette. Even grab a glass and sit out by their watering hole overlooking the vineyards and relax.The best things to do on a Mendocino County weekend itinerary. From where to stay, eat, explore, activities, wineries and more.

For a luxurious stop, hit up Goldeneye Wines. A brand of Duckhorn where you can partake in a sit-down tasting out on their beautiful back patio. They specialize in Pinot Noirs from the valley giving you a taste of the grapes right outside the windows. Also, if you’re hungry order their cheese plate, it really is to die for.

The best things to do on a Mendocino County weekend itinerary. From where to stay, eat, explore, activities, wineries and more.

If you need a couple more stops for sparkling Roederer Estates gives you a chance to taste some of California’s bests and Navarro Vineyards is another favorite. If beer is more your thing stop over at the Anderson Valley Brewery, a Northern California staple.

One Last Bite Before Heading Home

Before you leave Mendocino County, add one more thing to your trip with a good bite in Boonville. If you’re looking to enjoy a traditional wine country deli stop by the Boonville General Store where you can get delicious sandwiches to go, side salads, tasty local cheese, wines and everything else you need for a picnic.

If you’re looking to sit down and relax head next door to Lauren’s where you can color while waiting for a delicious meal. From hardy salads to tuna melts you’ll enjoy some elevated homestyle cooking. The perfect end to you Mendocino County weekend itinerary.

The Perfect Mendocino County Weekend Itinerary

Overall, you can spend your weekend in Mendocino doing every one of these things and even more. Or you can spend it relaxing at the hotel and taking in the view. Either option and anywhere in between is how the coast should be enjoyed. Take in the sights, get out in nature, relax and enjoy some good food and wine.

If you’re road tripping along the Pacific Coast Highway, make sure to check out my full series from San Diego all the way up the coast and tips for planning your drive.

What peaks your interest the most out of this Mendocino County weekend itinerary? Have you visited before? If so what’s your favorite part? Leave a comment below. The best things to do on a Mendocino County weekend itinerary. From where to stay, eat, explore, activities, wineries and more.

About Megan

Megan MacNee is the founder of Traveling Nine to Fiver. From nine to five she works in the political world in California, but on evening and weekends spends time exploring the West Coast and more. All while encouraging others to join in on the adventures.
  • I always love reading travel itineraries – always great to have a plan for what to do and see. Love the giraffe pic!

  • Elaine J Masters

    Looks like you had a great time. Next chance you get to Fort Bragg I recommend taking the Skunk Railroad trip into the forest. It gives you a great idea of the history of the area with logging and development.

  • Laura Lynch

    I really can’t get enough of that part of California. The drive is incredible. There’s nothing like that view. We’ll be going to Carmel in a few weeks – further south, but it’s still incredible.

  • Bernard Tan

    I love the breakfast at the inn, when i first saw the picture, i thought it was a big painting! I love the view! it makes you feel so close to mother nature.

  • That breakfast looks stunning. Looks like a fantastic short break and a great drive too!

  • FootstepsOnTheGlobe

    Fab itinerary for Mendocino County. I’m planning to go to San Fran at the end of the year so I’d love to check it out! I think my favourite (a part from the clearly yummy food!) would be glass beach, how cool! It must have been lovely to step out of the city for a few days, especially with those views 🙂

  • Valerie Dailey

    I would love to see Glass Beach! I don’t know much about Mendocino county, but it looks gorgeous and like there’s a lot to do! The wine tasting sounds especially enjoyable 😉

  • Jenna

    Looks like a gorgeous area to explore! I love that inn you stayed at–the deck looks wonderful! I’ve always wanted to check out Glass Beach and that giraffe is so cute! The wineries would be fun to explore, too! Sounds like such a fun weekend!

  • Buddy The Traveling Monkey

    The scenery truly is breathtaking! I love your photos. And glass beach is somewhere I’ve been wanting to visit for awhile, so I’m glad that is part of your itinerary! Thanks for the other recommendations as well 🙂

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  • 2 hours from SF? Now that’s convenient! A friend of mine lives in SF and is always looking for spontaneous things to do. I don’t have plans in visiting the US yet but I will definitely pass this link to her!

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