Mendocino, California, makes a great kid-themed getaway. Tide pool beaches. Whale watching adventures. Family-friendly restaurants.
This itinerary could be tackled in 48 hours or over a week. From Gualala to Fort Bragg, it is 58 miles. If you did the whole coast in one go (which you would most likely not do with the littles), the drive takes 1.5 hours.
The banana belt of Gualala (pronounced Gwa-la-la) is adored for the wild beaches and laid back vibe.
Point Arena’s appeal extends beyond the one-street commercial strip. Reserve in advance to tour the B. Bryan Preserve, an animal sanctuary housing African antelopes, zebras and giraffes. If your kid is a budding scientist, they rent out cottages on the property.
Farther north, families with children over six can reserve in advance with Ross Ranch to ride horses along Manchester State Beach. After your two hour ride, motor north to the village of Elk to explore the seaweed along Greenwood State Beach.
Though often considered a romantic destination, Mendocino appeals to families with its walker-friendly downtown. Explore the shops, meander out to Mendocino Headlands State Park, or rent bikes to tool around town.
Just outside of town, the Stanford Inn by the Sea makes a great retreat for the whole clan.
Annually over twenty thousand grey whales migrate past Fort Bragg. Sign up for a whale watching trip out of Noyo Harbor.
If you prefer to stay on land, take the kids on an adventure walk through the archeological sites of Point Cabrillo Lighthouse and Preserve to spot whales in the distance.
Not whale season? Challenge your grumpy teen to a race up the Jug Handle Ecological Staircase to another pygmy forest, and if you need a break from her angst, the farmhouse dubs as a hostel.
Alternatively, the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens has long been considered one of California’s most enchanting green spaces. Perched atop the Pacific Ocean, if you can bring the kiddos here in spring, it may inspire them to become future gardeners.
You’ll want an entire day to ride the Skunk Train through the redwoods, a worthy excursion for younger children who can’t hike far.
Afterwards take the kiddos for tacos at Mayan Fusion.
Get them in bed early, so you and your honey can have some alone time sipping vino under the stars.