In 1850, Vermont-born woodsman Jerome Ford, newly relocated to San Francisco, was dispatched to salvage goods from the schooner Frolic, wrecked on the Mendocino coast. The Pomo Indians beat him to it—but Ford saw greater bounty in the area’s giant coastal redwoods. In its heyday, the logging industry he inspired cut more than a billion board-feet of lumber from Mendocino’s old-growth forests, helping build San Francisco in Gold Rush days and then rebuild the city after the 1906 earthquake. It was hazardous work. With poor roads and no rails, shipping was by sea, via “doghole schooners” often dashed by waves in the treacherous coves.
Traveling to Mendocino still takes some effort. Charles M. Schulz airport in Santa Rosa, some 25 miles south of the county line, is the closest commercial airfield. Amtrak has bus service into Ukiah, county seat and home of Mendocino’s largest group facility, the Ukiah Conference Center. Depending on your destination, it’s two to three hours chasing the Redwood Highway (101) and its scenic connector roads into Mendocino, and longer still via the legendary Pacific Coast Highway.
That’s the secret to Mendocino’s charm, though. It’s well discovered, yet retains the allure of an underexplored escape. However you go, invest in the ride—the rewards are bountiful.
“Mendocino attracts Bay Area business groups and conventioneers seeking a distraction-free retreat before or after the main event,” says Scott Schneider, president and CEO of Visit Mendocino County. “We also appeal to a wide range of other groups, from sales teams to weddings.”
There’s wireless connectivity, but if you are looking to set your iDevice aside for a spell (and who isn’t these days), then Mendocino is ideal for powering down and rebooting the soul. Taking the healing waters at the meetings-capable Vichy Springs Resort in Ukiah is one departure from reality, while the secluded Shambhala Ranch, specializing in groups and events, feels blissfully off the grid.
Hospitality is a Mendocino hallmark at properties such as the historic 65-room Little River Inn just south of Mendocino Village.
“Little River Inn boasts inspirational ocean views from both conference facilities and guest rooms,” says Cally Dym, fifth-generation innkeeper, whose chef husband Marc delivers the inn’s delicious fare. “After hosting guests for nearly a century, we are experts at handling meetings and events.”
Once a rough-and-tumble sawmill town, bluff-top Mendocino owes its effortless charm to the Bay Area artists and innkeepers who awakened the village from its post-logging dormancy in the late 1960s. Continuing this legacy is Damien Wood, former high-end hotel concierge, and his partner Andrew, whose trio of stylish B&Bs and accompanying cottages, including the classy new Blue Door Inn, are available collectively for group buyouts.
In nearby Fort Bragg, the 47-acre Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens offers several spectacular outdoor event spaces, including Cliff House and Ocean Bluff, both overlooking the Pacific.
Less traveled than Napa and Sonoma, Mendocino County is also a bountiful wine destination, with the oldest vines running north along the 101 corridor, from Hopland to Ukiah and beyond.
Celebrated for its Pinot Noirs, the bucolic Anderson Valley is ripe with vineyards and tasting rooms, such as Goldeneye and Roederer Estate. Winding through the valley, Route 128 is heavenly, including the spellbinding 11-mile redwood corridor to the coast. Along the way, the Anderson Valley Brewing Company in historic Boonville is a popular stop. Mendocino’s wine country extends north along the 101 corridor, from Hopland to Ukiah and beyond.
Like Ford seeking out the Frolic, visitors have treasures galore to discover throughout Mendocino.
“Free of distraction and full of options, Mendocino is where people spend quality time together and truly connect with each other,” Schneider says.