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Pounding surf, rocky outcrops, and picturesque headlands frame this artsy, epicurean enclave

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With its dramatic ocean-bluff setting overlooking a steel-blue sea, the coastal hamlet of Mendocino is an obvious magnet for artists, romantics, and lovers of anything wild and untamed. The closest thing to a New England village in California, Mendocino invites you to stroll past tidy saltbox cottages and perfectly manicured Victorians wrapped in roses and picket fences, their wind chimes tinkling in the breeze.

This tucked-away seaside village wasn’t always so charmingly peaceful: during the height of the logging boom in the mid- to late-1800s, Mendocino was a thriving port filled with raucous hotels and saloons. When the timber industry declined in the 1930s, artisans and craftspeople moved in, and soon tourism became the main source of commerce.

Now, luxurious B&Bs like the 1882 MacCallum House and the hilltop Joshua Grindle Inn welcome you to curl up by the fire. The town’s walkable streets contain more than a dozen top-notch eateries. Café Beaujolais and Trillium Cafe serve local, line-caught seafood, organically grown produce, and free-range meat. Boutiques and galleries lure window-shoppers inside with one-of-a-kind artwork and gifts. Browse Sallie Mac for Parisian trinkets and artisan-made home goods, Gallery Book Shop for beachy reads, and Mendocino Gems for just the right bracelet or ring.

Getting outside in this breathtaking coastal scenery is a must. A string of state parks preserves redwood groves, pristine rivers, wildlife-rich wetlands, and bucolic coastal headlands. Wander through a pygmy forest of miniaturized pines and cypress trees at Van Damme State Park, kayak or paddle an outrigger canoe on Big River at Mendocino Headlands State Park, lounge on the sandy beach cove at Jug Handle State Natural Reserve, or photograph the historic concrete-arch bridge at Russian Gulch State Park. Head north a few miles to MacKerricher State Park and ride your bike along the Old Haul Road Coastal Trail, a former logging route used to transport lumber to the Fort Bragg mills. Spend the night at one of 140 campsites situated near the park’s varied coastal habitats, including tide pools, sand dunes, forest, and wetlands.

Wherever you go in Mendocino, you’re in fine company, surrounded by relentless waves, rocky sea stacks, flower-strewn bluff-tops, and sunsets that seem to go on forever.

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