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Mendocino in Mendocino County is a small but pretty California coastal town, popular with artists and with travelers. It has featured in many songs and movies, and the TV series Murder She Wrote.
It's also popular with songwriters. It inspired the title
track of the 1969 Sir Douglas Quintet album, Mendocino, and the Kate and Anna McGarrigle
song, Talk to Me of Mendocino, which was later beautifully covered by Linda
Ronstadt. Willie Nelson and Lee Ann Womack also wrote Mendocino County Line.
The town also gets a name-check in the Gordon Lightfoot song
Cabaret, and in The Trip to Pirate's Cove by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.
It's referenced in several other songs too, so you could even put together a
Mendocino playlist if you were planning to visit on your Pacific Coast Highway
If you do visit, you'll see why the town has inspired
artists and songwriters over the years, in a way that's remarkable for a place
where only about 1,000 people live.
The Sea Cliffs Around Mendocino
Murder, She Wrote
The town has also appeared in many movies, such as Forever
Young, Karate Kid III, The Russians Are Coming, and Summer of '42. It was most
notable, however, as the setting for several episodes of the TV series Murder,
She Wrote, even though the real setting was supposed to be on the east coast. It
also appeared in many other episodes of the show, which were filmed in the
The Bridge Taking the Pacific Coast Highway into Mendocino
Getting to Mendocino
Mendocino is about 150 miles north of San Francisco. If you
drive the inland route on Highway 101, it ought to take you about 3 hours in light
traffic, but you should allow 4-5 hours as the traffic is seldom light.
A far prettier option is to go west after the Golden Gate Bridge and take Highway 1 along the coast. This only adds about twenty miles to the journey but it will take you longer as you will want to keep stopping as you pass by the Point Reyes National Seashore and through tempting towns like Bodega Bay. This would be our choice but it will then take you all day to get there.
The Stanford Inn in Mendocino
Where to Stay in
We stayed at the wonderful Stanford Inn, just the other side
of the river from Mendocino, but if you want to be in the heart of the town,
search here. There are some lovely old houses that have been converted into
boutique B&Bs and chic hotels, such as MacCallum House.
You can expect to pay a little more for your accommodation
here as the place is very popular with people from San Francisco, and
accommodation is limited. Book early.
What to Do in
There are few attractions as such in Mendocino, the main
attraction is simply being there. It's a place to wander round and check out
all the cute shops and art galleries, and the quirky houses.
You can walk along
the clifftops and take in the impressive views and breathe in that refreshing
clean sea air. The headlands are also
popular for whale-watching as they give such excellent views over broad patches
of ocean. The cliff paths take you through Mendocino Headlands State Park.
A Well-Decorated House in Mendocino
The park headquarters are at Ford House, a historic house on
Mendocino's Main Street that was built in 1854. It's also a local museum, one
of the most interesting exhibits being a model of the town in 1890. The town was
founded in 1850 as a logging port, and prior to that there was a settlement of
the indigenous Pomo people nearby.
Point Cabrillo Lighthouse in Mendocino
About 4 miles north of town on Highway 1 is the Point Cabrillo Lighthouse, in the Point
Cabrillo Light Station State Historic Park. The lighthouse opened in 1909, as
there had been a number of shipwrecks off this coast.
It's open daily from 11am-4pm, and the grounds around are open from sunrise to sunset. You can even spend the night there and help support the lighthouse by renting the Head Lightkeeper's House, the Second Assistant Lightkeeper's House, or one of the two cottages in the grounds. See here for more details.
One interesting thing historically is that the town was
originally named after Henry Meiggs, who ran the lumber company. Somehow it's
hard to see that name inspiring songs like Talk to Me of Meiggsville. It was
later changed to the more melodious Mendocino after Cape Mendocino. This in
turn gets its name from Antonio de Mendoza, a Spanish politician.
The Main Street in Mendocino
Other California Coast pages
One of the best California coast guides is the California Coastal Access Guide, describing the coast’s beaches, National Parks, State Parks, with many maps.
La Jolla in southern California is north of San Diego off the Pacific Coast Highway and has museums, restaurants, hotels, beaches, and the Birch Aquarium.
Santa Monica in California is famous for its pier, and beaches, and is one of the best west coast vacation spots, with hotels, restaurants, surfing, museums.
Monterey in California is off the Pacific Coast Highway and home to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Cannery Row, Fisherman’s Wharf, and Monterey State Historic Park.
Bodega Bay is a small California coastal town on the borders of Marin County and Sonoma County, and the filming location for Alfred Hitchcock's the Birds.
This Visiting Hearst Castle page gives all the practicalities including location, types of tour, length of tours, how long to allow, and much more information.
Pacific Grove is a small city on the California coast, next to Monterey and close to Carmel, with attractions including its historic Victorian houses.
Carlsbad is a beach city north of San Diego in southern California famous for its flower fields, LEGOLAND resort and water park, surfing and SEA LIFE Aquarium.
San Luis Obispo in California is half-way between Los Angeles and San Francisco, on the Pacific Coast Highway and with lots of things to do and see.
Crescent City is on the Pacific Coast Highway in northern California and noted for its crescent-shaped beach, Ocean World sea park, and nearby redwoods and state parks.
Dana Point in California is the official start or end of the Pacific Coast Highway, and its attractions include whale watching, and Doheny State Beach.
Whale watching in California is one of the most popular things to do along the Pacific Coast Highway, in places like San Diego, San Francisco and many more.
For a Moss Beach hotel just off the Pacific Coast Highway, the Seal Cove Inn offers good accommodation north of Half Moon Bay, minutes from the ocean.
There are plenty of Santa Cruz downtown wine tastings including Beauregard Vineyards,Storrs Winery and Pelican Ranch Winery,all with tasting rooms.
Encinitas is a beach city in Southern California, famous for surfing, and regularly chosen as one of the best places to live in both California and the USA.
Malibu is a beach city north of Los Angeles famous for the celebrities who live there in expensive homes and the Pacific Coast Highway runs through it and there are beaches and hikes for all to enjoy.
Of all Eureka inns, The Carter House Inns are the most romantic and historic, with one of the best restaurants in Northern California.
Morro Bay is a delightful small town on the California coast roughly halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles and noted for the huge Morro Rock.
Newport Beach is a small city on the Pacific coast of southern California, right on the Pacific Coast Highway and noted for its beaches and surfing.
Pacific Coast Highway Travel recommends some of the top wildlife spots along the California coast.
The Point Reyes National Seashore is an hour’s drive northwest of San Francisco on the Pacific Coast Highway and is maintained by the National Park Service.
The Pelican Inn and Suites in Cambria on California's Central Coast has oceanfront views, swimming pool, gardens, and is right on the beach near Hearst Castle.
Standing on the Pacific Coast Highway in California, Santa Barbara is an attractive resort with a historic downtown, sandy beaches, a mission, and good museums.
The Casa Laguna Hotel and Spa in Laguna Beach is right on the Pacific Coast Highway and has luxury rooms, a swimming pool, and real gourmet breakfasts.
The Pacific Coast Highway goes right through Laguna Beach, a relaxed artsy beach resort whose attractions include shopping, galleries, dining, and beaches.
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