A little day trip south

We've been planning an excursion down the Mendocino coast...

Point Arena Lighthouse on a cloudy day

Last week we shared with you all one of the most relaxing days we've had in a long time. Close friends, cozy fires, good books, and tasty food – that's what good vacations are made of. Since our friends drove away back down Highway 1 to continue their journey though, we've been feeling the itch to go on a little trip ourselves. So we've schemed up a little sightseeing excursion of our own heading south down the Mendocino coast. Nothing crazy, just enough to fit comfortably in a day…

First order of business will, of course, be a hearty breakfast crafted by Chef Victor at the inn to keep us going strong. Then off we go! Not too far though – the tiny hamlet of Elk is only 25-30 minutes down the coast, and we can't pass by without getting out and taking the path across the bluffs and down to Greenwood State Beach. Picturesque and secluded, this beach almost always makes us feel as though it has been waiting there just for us, our own special haven from the world. We'll walk along its cliff-hemmed shoreline and perhaps find the right driftwood log from which to ponder this charming cove's particular beauty. Then, always in the mood for a picnic, we'll grab some of the best sandwiches around from the Elk Store before we hit the road.

Roadside view

Our next official stop will be the Point Arena Lighthouse, but there are so many pullouts along the way with stunning views that we'll probably stop for pictures many times before finally pulling up to our destination another 20 miles or so down the highway. Stately and a tad bit stark against the heaving cliffs that it towers over, Point Arena's lighthouse can be visited year round for a small admission and tour fee that is well worth the price, even if all you really care about is the view from the top! After climbing all 145 steps up the tower, we'll be ready to spread out our picnic blanket on the grass outside and quietly enjoy the breathtaking view of lighthouse, crashing ocean waves, and rocky cliffs as we happily munch on what we picked up at the Elk Store.

Only a mile and a half back down the road, we'll stop again at the Point Arena-Stornetta Public Lands for one of our favorite short walks on the Mendocino coast. We love the tide pools and soft, grassy meadows of this truly lovely portion of the California Coastal National Monument. As we meander about, we'll discover some fun new stream, cypress grove, or vista. We just have to make sure we watch out for the cow pies left by the quietly content herd that watches us from a distance!

By this time we'll be ready for a tasty snack, so we'll drive into the town of Point Arena and search out the bright blue storefront for Franny's Cup and Saucer. This delightful little bakery is run by a creative mother-daughter duo whose passion for quality pastries, goodies, and quirky knick-knacks shines bright. We'll grab the best and tastiest treat on offer for the day, as well as a steaming Espresso… or maybe just a couple of their addictively spicy Mexican mochas… and drive out to the pier in Arena Cove to watch the local surfers that regularly brave the freezing waters and looming rocks in pursuit of the perfect wave. If Franny's happens to be closed, we'll switch things up and revel in the truly small town feel of Cove Coffee, an über laid back mom and pop spot on the pier that provides awesome coffee and fresh food.

After we have savored the last drops of our toasty warm beverages and slowly turned away from the harbor, we might stop by Manchester Beach for a leisurely stroll along the sand. Or perhaps we'll simply head back to the inn for a quiet evening… mmm… sitting by the fire and watching the sunset over Smuggler's Cove sounds like just the perfect end to our little day of adventuring…

Walking on Manchester Beach

Written by Laura Hockett