Mendocino Coast - California

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The Mendocino Coast

Stretching south of the town of Mendocino, the Mendocino South Coast offers long wild beaches, rivers winding to the sea. Think forests, and wonderful vistas. Manchester State Beach lies between the sleepy village of Manchester and Elk, an old mill town with several significant Victorian buildings. This is prime inn country.

Albion, the village at the mouth of the Albion River, was founded in 1853 around another lumber mill.

Elk -- originally called Greenwood -- sits 15 miles south of the town of Mendocino, with miles of pristine ocean beach.

The village of Little River is a mid-19th century vacation town with several fine parks and unique inns. Little River's cove is a good spot for diving and abalone gathering.

The town of Gualala -- pronounced Wah-lah-lah, a Spanish version of the Pomo Indian word Walali "meeting of the waters" -- is north of the county line on the north shore of the Gualala River. It was a redwood lumber town until the 1960s. The art center stages its annual Art in the Redwoods and Summer Fair -- held in mid-August. Trails lead to the riverside beaches, popular with steelhead anglers.

Van Damme State Park is a wonderful natural area, with its 1,825 acres set on both sides of the river -- around Fern Canyon. The canyon trail is a popular walk, a five-mile round trip which crosses the river eight times leading to several walk-in natural campsites and a pygmy cypress forest.

Some of the finest small inns in the country have sprung up in this natural setting. No modern towns impede the appreciation of the natural beauty of the Mendocino coast and the little towns there are charmingly picturesque and entirely in keeping with the rest of the landscape.

The south section is dominated by the rivers that flow to the sea: Gualala, Garcia, Navarro, Albion and Big. Each of these rivers has recreation facilities at its mouth and for several miles inland. Some of the best lodging in the northwest can be found in this region.

Where to Stay -- Hotel Guide

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In Elk

Elk Cove Inn
Located 15 miles south of Mendocino, on a bluff overlooking a mile of pristine ocean beach, the inn offers six rooms in an 1883 Victorian mansion, plus four cottage units on the bluff, and four new luxurious oceanfront spa suites. The inn has a bar, serving beer (including local microbrews), wine, and cocktails, including 25 martinis.

Harbor House is one of the heritage buildings, built in 1916 as a guest lodge for the Goodyear Redwood Lumber Co. There are ten standard rooms plus four cottages, with dinner and breakfast served.

Sandpiper House Inn was also built in 1916 on a superb oceanfront site. Breakfast, afternoon tea and evening cheer are served.

Greenwood Pier Inn has great service and excellent food. The Inn has 11 rooms in cottages.

In Albion

Albion River Inn has a magnificent location on a bluff overlooking the sea, with lodge rooms and cottages. Their dining room is renowned and reservations are advised. Fensalden Inn on Navarro Ridge Rd. is another atmospheric B & B with ocean views and fireplaces.

In Little River

The traditional place to stay is the Little River Inn, almost 150 years old, with a fine dining room and cozy accommodations in the lodge, annex and cottages. Rates are higher than other lodges in the area but this is a deluxe facility with an xcellent dining room.

The SeaFoam Lodge is a long-time Little River resort. It's very pet friendly and traveling owners of dogs will enjoy the spacious grounds and so will their pets. A light continental breakfast is delivered to the rooms. The muffins are highly praised by former visitors. This inn is considerably less expensive than the Little River Inn.

In Gualala

The Gualala Hotel is an old landmark on Highway 1 with 18 rooms, antique beds and an Italian restaurant with bar and wine shop on the main floor.

The Gualala Country Inn has ocean views, fireplaces and whirlpools.

At Point Arena

The Point Arena Lighthouse marks the most westerly point in the lower 48 states. The town of Point Arena is quiet and often shrouded in fog. It was a lumbering and fishing town which now focuses on welcoming tourists. Lodging in Pt. Arena includes Coast Guard House (an historic life-saving station converted into a B&B home, with six rooms and rental homes on the site of the Point Arena Lighthouse.


Manchester State Beach has 650 acres of dunes, meadows and trails. There's a KOA south of the park (707-882-2375).

Gualala River Park is an private RV park and campground, with hookups, showers, propane and laundry, south of town and east for 1 mile.

For information on the major Mendocino county towns, go to Mendocino, Fort Bragg, and Willits.

© 1997/2005 - Fraser Bridges

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