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Mendocino, Calif., Walking Tour

Tour Main Street in Mendocino for sweeping vistas, galleries, a seaside trail, and a touch of history.

Mendocino stroll, illus. by Michael Klein
Photo caption
Mendocino sits on the bluffs, where Big River meets the Pacific Ocean.

Sweeping vistas, icons of boom-and-bust history, and a half day's worth of gallery hopping and browsing, plus trails to seaside bluffs, a gentle beach, and shady woods—not too bad for a lane just five blocks long.

But that's Main Street in Mendocino, Calif. Start at the handsome Presbyterian church with its landmark steeple, built of redwood in 1868, when the village's timber industry was churning full bore to supply a burgeoning San Francisco. As you cross the street, admire the 1866 Masonic Hall topped by Father Time and the Maiden, a somber statue carved from a single redwood trunk.

Farther down Main, choose among enticements in some two dozen plank-sided storefronts: fine photos and paintings at the Artists' Co-op, homespun stitchery at Ocean Quilts, and charming books for children at the Gallery Bookshop. Or amble along to view (but not enter) a private garden with 50 kinds of flowers and a jumble of wondrous sculptures including mannequin legs in running shoes.

Be sure to hit the Kelley House, built in 1861 and now a museum with photographs showing the village as it has evolved through the decades. When you need to sit for a spell, stop to sip wine at the wood-paneled bar in the Mendocino Hotel and gaze up at its domed stained-glass ceiling. Or rub elbows with the locals at Dick's Place, a popular pub decked out with vintage pictures and the town's one neon sign—a martini glass.

Hungry? The Bay View Café lives up to its name and serves tasty fresh fish sandwiches. After eating, stroll along the rocky headlands or follow the stairs from near the church down to the beach. Ramble into the redwoods on the newly opened trail along Big River, a tidal estuary rich in wildlife.

WHERE IT IS Three hours north of San Francisco on Highway 1.

WHO WILL LIKE IT Handcraft hunters, art and nature lovers.

WHEN TO GO Starting in April, the Kelley House Museum offers one-to-two-hour walking tours Friday through Monday. Information: (707) 937-5791.

Illustration by Michael Klein

This article was first published in May 2005. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.