our Northern California road trip

Nicholson House in Mendocino, (c) 2020 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

It had been six months since my last trip, when a group of Brownell Travel colleagues and I visited Meadowood Napa County (read about it here), and I was truly ready to get out of town! Last Sunday, Claire and I hit the road for a short trip to Mendocino, about a 3 hour drive up the coast from San Francisco.

Mendocino is a cute artists village that I've previously visited. Filled with historic homes from a different era, it's a pleasure to walk its streets, visit the shops, and enjoy the fine dining. Covid-19, however, has taken a dramatic toll on Mendocino tourism. The streets were deserted. You could park virtually anywhere in town. The shops closed at 5 p.m., and we had just a short wait when we ordered a takeout dinner from Cafe Beaujolais. With plenty of tables behind the restaurant, widely spaced in its private garden, we enjoyed our socially-distanced meal. The food was casual, wholesome, and good, and we'd definitely go back. While in town that night, we made a reservation for the next evening at Trillium Cafe, a more upscale restaurant with outside table service and quite good comfort food.

What to do in Mendocino? If you have more than retail therapy on your mind, I can highly recommend spending time at Russian Gulch State Park. We had looked forward to hiking the Fern Canyon Trail to a 36 foot waterfall, but the trail was closed for improvements. We hiked instead on the more ambitious North Trail winding its way through a beautiful forest lined with towering redwood trees. We cut the hike short, a good decision as it left us time to explore the portion of the park on the left side of Highway 1 where we ate our picnic lunch on a table with a beautiful view of the Pacific Ocean, then took an easy hike along the shoreline.

The place to stay in Mendocino — Stanford Inn by the Sea. I highly recommend booking a suite for the added space; we stayed in the Bishop Pine Suite. The inn's restaurant — The Ravens — features gourmet vegan cuisine, a place to dine even if staying elsewhere. However, a recent fire put the kitchen out of operation. Complimentary breakfasts are still provided guests through in-room dining with the chef working out of a temporary kitchen trailer. However, breakfast in takeout containers cannot possibly duplicate the presentation you'll enjoy once the full kitchen is back in operation.

Next ... two days in the Fort Bragg area, a small town with 7,500 residents. Visitors to Fort Bragg can spend the day on the beach, exploring shops and restaurants, or taking a ride on the Skunk Train. We've always enjoyed Cafe One, a diner right on Highway 1 serving a menu of organic, non-GMO food. We had a simple lunch of soup and sandwiches and ordered takeout for dinner that night.

The best luxury accommodations in the Mendocino/Fort Bragg area are to be found at The Inn at Newport Ranch, a high four-star resort about 20 minutes north of Fort Bragg. We spent two evenings in The Captain's Quarters, the nicest of the three guestrooms in the Main Inn. The photo below will give a sense of the room's commanding view. The room provides a King bed, small workdesk, sitting area with table, and large bathroom with dual vanities and rainshower. We were not able to have a site inspection, but we did peek into the Grove Suite after its guest had checked out. Much more expansive in space, I would definitely recommend booking a suite at the Inn at Newport Ranch. Guest amenities include daily breakfast and complimentary pre-dinner drinks every evening. We enjoyed two breakfasts, one lunch, and one dinner during our stay. And if you're a fan of jetted hot tubs, the Main House has a great one on a deck overlooking the ocean.
Captains Quarters guest room

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copyright (c) 2020 by Ourisman Travel LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell, a Virtuoso® Member. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

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