Mendocino County

– Close Encounters with Rothschild Giraffes, Candelabra Trees and Edsels as Art –

Succumb to the selfie wonderland known as Mendocino County, where concrete fades to green and wide-eyed wilderness captures the imagination. From Rothschild Giraffes to the legendary Lost Coast, the Instagram options are endless along northern California’s stretch of Highway 1. Traverse inland and the Inspiration Highway (101) steps up with eye-popping oddities and a potent lineup of ready-to-shoot stops.

Mendocino County Mile Marker #11.6 – Bowling Ball Beach

As the tide pulls out, a surreal setting unfolds just north of Anchor Bay on scenic Highway 1. Rare and wonderful, Bowling Ball Beach has caused speculation for centuries given the mass of almost perfectly spherical stones. Hidden like the Terracotta Army, the geological phenomena known as “concretions” are rare and picture-ready, formed by a natural process of sedimentary rock binding to minerals and/or stone. These surreal stones, paired with a sizzling Mendocino sunset, finish the frame. Located at Schooner Gulch State Beach, visitors can access the site via a short hike across the bluffs and moderate scramble down a dirt path. Note: Low tide access only.

Mendocino County Mile Marker #15.1 – B. Bryan Preserve

A Rothschild Giraffe kiss is worth a thousand shots! Secluded in Point Arena along Mendocino County’s south coast, B. Bryan Preserve is the stop for an escape to the African veldt. On tap at this remote sanctuary are an assortment of rare and endangered African hoofstock including Grevy’s Zebra (the largest of the breed and known to be most untamable), Greater Kudu (considered to be the most handsome of the tragelaphine antelopes) and stately Rothschild Giraffes – the tallest land animal on earth. Visitors can join the twice-daily tours to feed the animals and cash in on a kiss; overnight lodging also available. ($35/adult; $20/children for 1.5 hour Land Rover tour).

Mendocino County Mile Marker #18 – Point Arena Lighthouse

Surfing for the ultimate whale-spotting perch? Just 145 stairs from the shore delivers Point Arena Lighthouse, the tallest lighthouse on the West Coast allowing visitors to the top. Four landings deliver 360-degree views of Mendocino’s rugged shoreline, combining science, history and natural beauty. Shouldered by the adjacent Point Arena-Stornetta Public Lands, this iconic figure was originally built in 1870 and today stands as a beacon of brilliance, especially with the dazzling sea-swept backdrops. Daily and full moon tours ($7.50/adults; $1.00/kids); six lodgings dot the 23-acre property including the romantic Lighthouse Keeper’s Apartment.

Mendocino County Mile Marker #70.3 – Inn at Newport Ranch Hot Tub

Located 10 miles north of Fort Bragg, the Inn at Newport Ranch can set one back with its gorgeous Architectural Digest-worthy guestrooms, but it’s the water tower hot tub that is truly over the top. Set on a 2,000-acre coastal cattle ranch with 20 miles of world-class hiking, horseback riding and ATV tours, the Inn fuses luxury lodgings with outstanding views of shrouded sea stacks, mystical miles of MacKerricher Beach and bluffs to the edge of infinity. Soak up the scene with a romantic post from the top of world, Mendo-style. Overnight accommodations required.

Mendocino County Mile Marker #90.88 – The Lost Coast

Raw, rugged and ready for its close up, the Lost Coast is the call for outback enthusiasts seeking a final frontier. Named “One of the top #10 American Adventures” by National Geographic Traveler, this 80-mile stretch of pristine green comprises King Range National Conservation Area, Sinkyone Wilderness State Park and a stretch of legendary surf breaks for those who can haul out a board. In 2016, a new system of hiking trails put visitors up close and personal with untouched vistas, ancient redwood groves and the mind-blowing mysteries of the candelabra tree forest. Another photo bomb attraction: the Roosevelt Elk. Weighing in at 750-1200 lbs., this behemoth makes for an excellent selfie backdrop as herds prefer to walk the sanctioned trails. Note: It’s zoom or doom as these are wild animals, indeed. Free.

Mendocino County Mile Marker #104 – Chandelier Drive-Thru Tree

Size matters. Soaring at 315 feet high, with a girth of 21 feet, this 2,000-year-old towering tree is a definite show stopper. Cut in the late 1930s as a tourist attraction, the Chandelier Tree seems to defy nature, allowing autos a smooth passage through its center, albeit tight at times. Ideal for Instagram Live, a $5.00 fee gains entry through this gentle giant; there are also wonderful hiking trails in nearby Standish-Hickey State Recreation Area.

Mendocino County Mile Marker #10.4 – Solar Living Institute/Memorial Car Grove

In the offbeat file, a scout about the Memorial Car Grove at the Solar Living Institute in Hopland is certain to spur a selfie. Tucked along the Inspiration Highway (101) at the gateway of Mendocino County, this oddity takes shape in the form of hulking gas guzzlers, including classic Edsels repurposed as art. These rusting relics from the 1950s and ’60s with grown trees sprouting from the interiors are a statement to our times. Get up close and personal with a grinning grille or hug that tree trying to pry a life out of a true junker. Free.

Mendocino County Mile Marker #21.6 – Pennyroyal Farm 

Set on 23 magical acres in wine-centric Anderson Valley, Boonville’s Pennyroyal Farm is the stop for a crisp sauvignon blanc backed with 143+ picture-ready dairy goat companions. This farmstead dairy and vineyard is as easy on the eyes as it is on the Smartphone with dramatic backdrops of vines dressed with sheep and a solar-powered barn stocked with frolicking goats and sheep. (Daily tours $15/adults; $10/children.)

Mendocino County Mile Marker #23.2 – City of 10,000 Buddhas

Peacocks, pagodas and “Vigor” and “Virtue” signposts — backed with the resonance of chanting monks – this is the stop for a strategic selfie capturing the calm of one of the nation’s largest Buddhist monasteries. Open to the public, this stunning City of 10,000 Buddhas offers daily prayer (12:30 p.m.) in the eye-popping Jeweled Hall, complete with 10,000 golden Buddhas lining the facility from floor to ceiling; free. Stay for a tasty lunch at Jyuan Kang Vegetarian Restaurant on-site.

Mendocino County Mile Marker #47 – Skunk Train

It’s a train thing and it doesn’t get any better than tucking deep into mystical redwoods aboard the legendary Skunk Train. Depart from Willits on the Northspur Flyer for a four-hour adventure ascending the 1,740 ft. summit then pushing through to the lush Noyo River Canyon aboard a vintage railcruiser (one of the original 132-year old Skunks) with an open-air coach. For the ultimate holiday selfie, climb aboard the Magical Christmas Train (December 2-23) for a 90-minute ride decked out the big guy in red. Prices vary.


Mendocino County welcomes nearly 1.8 million visitors annually who explore its 90 miles of prime Pacific coastline, 90+ wineries and 10 diverse AVAs (earning the highest percentage of organic and biodynamic vineyards in the United States), 24 state/national parklands and 450+ unique accommodations. Straddling scenic Highways 1 and 101, “The Redwood Corridor,” the County delivers an ideal vortex of waves, wines and redwoods laced with historic villages and outback adventures. Located 114 mi./184 km. north of San Francisco, the region’s gateway airports are San Francisco International (SFO), Oakland International (OAK), Sacramento International Airport (SMF), and Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport (STS). Visit Mendocino County is a non-profit destination marketing organization designed to enhance the economic vitality of the community by increasing tourism revenue. For more information, go to

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