Mendocino, Calif.: A North Coast Getaway

A trip up California's Highway 1 leads to the charming village of Mendocino, set on bluffs overlooking the blue Pacific.

Big River in Mendocino, image

Big River, 42 miles long, empties into the Pacific Ocean just south of Mendocino.

mother and child at counter in GoodLife Cafe & Bakery, image

Patrons bring their love of perfect pastries and strong coffee to the GoodLife Cafe & Bakery.

Mendocino Headlands and the Pacific Ocean, image

Mendocino Headlands State Park lets you explore the beautiful and craggy coast on a bluff-top trail.

exhibits in the Historic Ford House in Mendocino, image

The Historic Ford House invites you to step inside and travel back to another time.

a wall of colorful socks at Legs in Mendocino, image

All Legs is a colorful shop that socks it to you.

IF YOU'RE GOING...

Take advantage of the area’s local amenities and services:

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Classic Victorians and saltbox houses snuggle up in this bluff-top village west of Highway 1. Home to one-of-a-kind shops and cozy restaurants, it’s a perfect jumping-off point for the region’s rugged coast. Area code is 707.

On the town’s main drag, GoodLife Cafe & Bakery serves as a social hub. Gab with locals over cups of strong coffee from the North Coast’s Thanksgiving Coffee Company and choose from a varied array of breakfast pastries including the savory, spiraling kale Parmesan bun. 10483 Lansing St., 937-0836, goodlifecafemendo.com.

Just south of town, Catch a Canoe & Bicycles, Too! rents small boats to paddlers looking to ply the teal and ultramarine waters of Big River. Its marshy banks are dotted with moss-draped evergreens, great blue herons, and the occasional sunbathing seal. 44850 Comptche-Ukiah Rd., 937-0273, catchacanoe.com.

The Ford House Museum and Visitor Center, a trim white building, provides a concise and compelling glimpse into history. Springboards that ax men stood on while felling redwoods, figure among the artifacts and photos that illuminate the area’s timber boom, Gold Rush days, and maritime trade. 45035 Main St., 937-5397, mendoparks.org.

Family-friendly dining draws crowds to Frankie’s Pizza and Ice Cream, but the real star is candy-cap mushroom ice cream, made with dried and powdered, locally foraged fungi that have a maple-syrup sweetness. Other flavors include a decadent blackberry chocolate chunk and zingy ginger. 44951 Ukiah St., 947-2436, frankiesmendocino.com.

Walkers on the cliff-top trail in Mendocino Headlands State Park next to town can easily spend an entire afternoon gawking at bobbing kelp, hulking sea arches, frothy blowholes, and berms of massive driftwood trunks. 937-5804, www.parks.ca.gov.

In a blue bungalow, All Legs boasts innumerable ways to fancy up tired feet, including Navajo-inspired kneesocks, polka-dot baby booties, and organic bamboo house slippers. 10481 Lansing St., 937-5347, shop4socksatall-legs.com.

Warm fall evenings are the perfect time for Thai fire-pot soup on Mendocino Café’s ocean-view deck. Misty nights call for creamy chowder heaped with Pacific clams and flecked with dill in the homey dining room. 10451 Lansing St., 937-6141, mendocinocafe.com.

Photography by Kristen Kleinow (Ford House, GoodLife); courtesy of Drwilsonjjj/Wikimedia Commons (headlands); courtesy of Jef Poskanzer/Wikimedia (Big River); courtesy All Legs (socks)

This article was first published in July 2014. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.

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