So in my bid to find the family’s regular “go to beach” here in California, last week we made our third trip to Mendocino, a beautiful 19th century seaside town on a spectacular part of the Californian coast, around three hours north of San Francisco. It is where Murder, She Wrote, Forever Young and Summer of ’42 were all set if that means anything to you. East of Eden was also filmed there starring James Dean. I like to say it’s like Martha’s Vineyard meets Cornwall meets Waiheke Island without the island but that might just confuse you if you’ve never been to those places.
More importantly, it has a lot of things which tick our perfect holiday destination boxes – Kuaotunu in the Coromandel was our favorite holiday location in New Zealand, by the way. For instance, it has great beaches including Big River beach below Mendocino village, now a firm favorite with its lovely lagoon and surf beach. We also came across a beautiful beach with great rocks to climb on just outside Fort Bragg, north of Glass Beach in MacKerricher Park. Jug Handle State Park also has a couple of lovely unspoilt beaches, not to mention a hefty six mile walk to see a pygmy forest.
Something we always do when we visit Mendocino is go kayaking or out on the outrigger boats from Catch-a-Canoe on Big River – it’s wonderful being out on the water and fighting the elements of the tide on this river which feeds into the Mendocino Bay. It always works up an appetite. Speaking of food, our favorite cafes are now GoodLife Cafe in Mendocino and Headlands Coffeehouse in Fort Bragg, as well as an excellent pizza and ice cream place, (Frankie’s), a fabulous bookshop, (the Gallery Bookshop) and Mendocino Hotel which is good kid-friendly bar food. On top of this, there are great food markets both in Mendo and Fort Bragg – Harvest Foods and Safeway – plus a just-off-the-boat fish shop down at Fort Bragg’s Noyo Harbor which kept us well-fed. Oh and another thing we like to have if at all possible, in a pet holiday destination, is a lighthouse and Pt Cabrillo lighthouse did the trick very nicely, obligingly lighting up our dining room every evening when we were all in bed.
Meanwhile the sea view from our beach house living room was sublime. This part of the coast is a popular whale spotting area, so we were constantly on the look out for whales but our attempts were frustrated by the rocks dotted around the bay which were very good at replicating a passing whale, plus to be fair, it wasn’t really the right time of year, so we gave up in the end.
One real treat was a vegan breakfast for Mum and I at the Stanford Inn where they grow the majority of their ingredients. Great people watching too – if you want to know what yoga-loving techies do for a long weekend, this is the place to go. A fabulous lobby area is attractively laid out with tables of self -help and healthy eating books, hand-made woollens and the like. Might be fun to be a rebel and recline on a comfy chair in there with a Coke and a Mars bar, just to horrify people. When I launch my next successful start up and I’ve sold it to Google, that’s where I’ll go and de-stress and find myself again.
But I don’t know when we will make it back to Mendo next because the family are keen to try a few other places out before we make our ultimate decision by which time the kids will probably be ready to leave home. Next on the list will be Vancouver for a family reunion, then hopefully Lake Tahoe in the next six months and fingers crossed, New York City, for the 50th next year. And really Yosemite has to be high up on the family holiday list, so that’s next year gone.
But I’m sure I’ll find an excuse to get us all up there some time in 2016 or else I might go into a decline. Mendocino is my happy place.