Mendocino

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.

View of Mendocino in CaliforniaMendocino

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 road trip.

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 MendocinoThe 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 area.

The Bridge Leading into MendocinoThe 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 MendocinoThe Stanford Inn in Mendocino

Where to Stay in Mendocino

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 Mendocino

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 MendocinoA Well-Decorated House in Mendocino

Ford House

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 MendocinoPoint Cabrillo Lighthouse in Mendocino

Point Cabrillo Lighthouse

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.

Naming Mendocino

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 MendocinoThe Main Street in Mendocino

Other California Coast pages

  • Pacific Grove is a small city on the California coast, next to Monterey and close to Carmel, with attractions including its historic Victorian houses.

    Pacific Grove

    Pacific Grove is a small city on the California coast, next to Monterey and close to Carmel, with attractions including its historic Victorian houses.

  • 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.

    Crescent City

    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.

  • Santa Monica Pier is just off the Pacific Coast Highway in Santa Monica near Los Angeles, with an amusement park, an aquarium and many other attractions.

    Santa Monica Pier

    Santa Monica Pier is just off the Pacific Coast Highway in Santa Monica near Los Angeles, with an amusement park, an aquarium and many other attractions.

  • Lonely Planet's Coastal California guidebook is the ideal travel guide for driving or cycling the Pacific Coast Highway from the Oregon border to Mexico.

    Coastal California Guidebook

    Lonely Planet's Coastal California guidebook is the ideal travel guide for driving or cycling the Pacific Coast Highway from the Oregon border to Mexico.

  •  Of all Eureka inns, The Carter House Inns are the most romantic and historic, with one of the best restaurants in Northern California.

    Eureka Inns

    Of all Eureka inns, The Carter House Inns are the most romantic and historic, with one of the best restaurants in Northern California.

  • 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.

    Whale Watching in California

    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.

  • Drive the Pacific Coast Highway and you have to cross Bixby Bridge in California, ten miles north of Big Sur and 30 minutes south of Monterey.

    Bixby Bridge

    Drive the Pacific Coast Highway and you have to cross Bixby Bridge in California, ten miles north of Big Sur and 30 minutes south of Monterey.

  • Pismo Beach is a small beach town on California's Central Coast, a resort famous for surfing and clams.

    Pismo Beach

    Pismo Beach is a small beach town on California's Central Coast, a resort famous for surfing and clams.

  • The Lighthouse Inn at Point Cabrillo is a romantic, historic guesthouse on the Mendocino California coast, on the Pacific Coast Highway.

    Lighthouse Inn at Point Cabrillo

    The Lighthouse Inn at Point Cabrillo is a romantic, historic guesthouse on the Mendocino California coast, on the Pacific Coast Highway.

  • 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.

    Carlsbad

    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.

  • 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.

    Bodega Bay

    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.

  • San Simeon is a tiny town of a few hundred people close to Hearst Castle on the California coast midway between San Francisco and Los Angeles.

    San Simeon

    San Simeon is a tiny town of a few hundred people close to Hearst Castle on the California coast midway between San Francisco and Los Angeles.

  • The Pacific Coast Highway goes right through Laguna Beach, a relaxed artsy beach resort whose attractions include shopping, galleries, dining, and beaches.

    Laguna Beach

    The Pacific Coast Highway goes right through Laguna Beach, a relaxed artsy beach resort whose attractions include shopping, galleries, dining, and beaches.

  • 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.

    Visiting Hearst Castle

    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.

  • 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.

    Dana Point

    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.

  • The Stanford Inn by the Sea in Mendocino on the California coast is an eco-resort with yoga classes and the award-winning Ravens Restaurant.

    Stanford Inn by the Sea Mendocino

    The Stanford Inn by the Sea in Mendocino on the California coast is an eco-resort with yoga classes and the award-winning Ravens Restaurant.

  • 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.

    Santa Barbara

    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.

  • 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.

    Santa Monica, California

    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.

  • 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.

    Point Reyes National Seashore

    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.

  • Unique Inns on the Pacific Coast Highway include some of the best independently-owned boutique hotels, spas, and lodges in California, Oregon and Washington.

    Unique Inns on the Pacific Coast Highway

    Unique Inns on the Pacific Coast Highway include some of the best independently-owned boutique hotels, spas, and lodges in California, Oregon and Washington.

  • San Clemente in California is a small city on the Pacific Coast Highway midway between San Diego and Los Angeles, noted for its beaches and surfing.

    San Clemente California

    San Clemente in California is a small city on the Pacific Coast Highway midway between San Diego and Los Angeles, noted for its beaches and surfing.

  • 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.

    California Coast Guide

    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.

  • 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.

    San Luis Obispo

    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.

  • 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.

    Malibu

    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.

  • 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.

    Encinitas

    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.



Recent Articles

  1. Touring Alcatraz

    Jan 30, 23 04:51 PM

    alcatraz-island-pixabay.jpg
    Touring Alcatraz, the former island prison, is one of the best things to do in San Francisco and attracts over 1.5 million visitors a year.

    Read More

  2. Pacific Coast Highway Reopens Wednesday Morning After Flooding

    Jan 26, 23 12:20 PM

    The Tuesday closure was caused by flooding and prompted safety officials to shut down both sides of the highway in Huntington Beach.

    Read More

  3. San Diego Zoo

    Jan 23, 23 06:19 PM

    san-diego-zoo-pixabay-gorilla.jpg
    San Diego Zoo is in Balboa Park, San Diego, California has been called the best zoo in the world and is the most visited zoo in the United States.

    Read More