Mendocino Beaches

Exploring the Best Scenic
Northern California Beaches

Mendocino beaches are rugged, dramatic and beautiful. There are numerous rocky headlands and hidden coves along this section of the Northern California coastline, with miles of hiking trails to explore. 

Go horseback riding on the beach, kayaking among sea caves, or diving in kelp forests. Fishing is popular here, and Mendocino is a prime location for abalone and rockfish hunting.

Photo courtesy of Tricia Wang | Flickr.com
Mendocino beaches and cove


If you prefer to just watch the wildlife, the many headlands and cliffs offer a great view of the gray whale migration in winter and spring.

And other types of wildlife are abundant, including seals and sea lions, birds, deer, elk, and more. There are a variety of habitats to explore, from coastal grasslands and dunes to redwood forest and marshy wetlands.

Mendocino beaches are typically found at the mouths of streams and rivers, and access is often difficult. But there are also a few long stretches of gentle sandy beach, and there are coves and beaches where access is easy.

The ocean here is bitterly cold (in the 50's) and the surf treacherous, so ocean swimming is not a great idea. But you won't miss it; there's so much else to do. And the weather is generally pleasantly cool in the summer (in the 60's and 70's).


Sinkyone Wilderness State Park


Photo courtesy of mooing brontosaurus | Flickr.com
Sinkyone Wilderness State Park


Sinkyone Wilderness State Park is part of the famed California Lost Coast, a unique coastal wilderness area known for its rugged terrain, black sand beaches, abundant wildlife and stunning scenery.


Westport Union Landing State Beach

Westport Union Landing State Beach is a scenic Mendocino beach park with primitive bluff-top camping, small sandy beaches, fishing, abalone diving and picnicking. Located north of Fort Bragg near the tiny burg of Westport, California.


MacKerricher State Park

MacKerricher State Park is a wild and beautiful spot with some of the sandiest Mendocino beaches, two freshwater lakes, and pristine sand dunes. Camping, fishing, wildlife viewing and horseback riding are just a few of the things you can do here. Located just north of Fort Bragg.


Glass Beach

Glass Beach wasn't always so pretty. Until 1967, this little Fort Bragg beach was used as a public dump. It's now been cleaned up, but the glass from the dump continues to wash ashore, tumbled and polished by the sea. It's a great place to collect beach glass and explore tidepools.

To get there, take the short dirt trail from the parking area at the end of Elm St.


Mendocino Botanical Gardens

Mendocino Botanical Gardens (officially, Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens) is one of the most unusual Northern California attractions. The gardens are a combination of beautiful displays of flowering plants, peaceful groves of pine and alder, and dramatic rocky coastline.


Jug Handle State Reserve


Photo courtesy of mk30 | Flickr.com
Mendocino beaches


Jug Handle State Reserve features the Ecological Terrace, a series of terraces that display ecological succession from prairie to forest, culminating in a pygmy forest of tiny stunted trees. A self-guided nature trail takes you through the terraces. Another trail branches off to a sandy Mendocino beach adjacent to Jug Handle Creek.


Caspar Headlands State Beach

Caspar Headlands State Beach is a largely undeveloped stretch of sandy beach adjacent to the headlands and the small village of Caspar.

This Mendocino beach is a place for fishing, diving, kayaking, surfing and watching the annual grey whale migration. There's not much in the way of facilities at the state beach, but the adjacent family-owned Caspar Beach RV Park and Campground offers full facilities for tent and RV camping.

Located about 4 miles north of the village of Mendocino, California.


Point Cabrillo Light Station
State Historic Park


Photo courtesy of John Krzesinski | Flickr.com
Point Cabrillo Light Station, Mendocino coast


Point Cabrillo Light Station is situated on nearly 297 acres of dramatic headlands, a good spot for whale watching, hiking, and exploring a bit of Mendocino history. Besides the historic buildings, there are nature trails winding along the coastal bluffs and grasslands.

The lighthouse was built in 1909, and has been beautifully restored. The park also features 11 other structures, including 3 lightkeepers' homes. The restored head lightkeepers house now operates as a bed and breakfast, Lighthouse Inn at Point Cabrillo, with 6 rooms furnished in 19th century period furniture.

The Point Cabrillo Lightkeepers Association offers interpretive walks and special events, including a whale watching festival in March. The lighthouse, gift shop, and museum are open year round. The park is located 4 miles north of Mendocino, California.

You can download a brochure with a park map from California State Parks: Point Cabrillo Light Station State Historic Park


Russian Gulch State Park


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Russian Gulch State Park, Mendocino beaches


Russian Gulch State Park is a lovely spot for hiking, camping, swimming, fishing, and more. It offers some truly unique features, and a vibrant spring wildflower display. This Mendocino beach park features a sandy beach, a fern canyon and waterfall, an underwater park and a redwood forest.


Mendocino Headlands State Park


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Mendocino beach, Mendocino Headlands State Park


Mendocino Headlands State Park is an integral part of the village of Mendocino, providing stunning vistas as you walk along the trails situated on the bluffs. Kayaking, canoeing, surfing, picnicking and fishing are popular. Or just enjoy the quiet of a secluded Mendocino beach.


Van Damme State Park

Van Damme State Park is popular with abalone divers, kayakers, campers, hikers, and bicyclists. This Mendocino beach park offers a protected sandy beach with outdoor showers and restrooms. Explore a pygmy forest, or hike the paved trails through a fern canyon.


Navarro River Redwoods State Park

Navarro River Redwoods State Park is a narrow 11 mile strip of redwood forest that follows the Navarro River (and State Route 128) to the sea. It's a good spot for picnicking, camping, and swimming. During late winter and spring, fishing, kayaking, and canoeing are popular.

There are two campgrounds here. Paul M. Dimmick Campground is located in the redwood forest about 6 miles from the coast, making it considerably warmer. There are 23 campsites as well as picnic facilities. Navarro Beach Campground, located at the mouth of the Navarro River, offers Mendocino beach camping at 10 primitive campsites, with no running water. Campsites are first come first served.


Greenwood State Beach

Greenwood State Beach offers visitors a chance to slow down in the small community of Elk. There are hiking trails on the bluffs overlooking a typical Mendocino beach scene, with a small sandy beach, and dramatic sea stacks and rock outcrops offshore.


Manchester State Park

This wild, windswept Mendocino beach park includes 3 miles of sandy beach stretching down to Point Arena. There are 760 acres of sand dunes, grasslands, wildflowers, and quite a bit of driftwood. Two streams, Brush Creek and Alder Creek, offer excellent fishing for steelhead and salmon. This is a good place for hiking, camping, and enjoying the solitude of a long, wild beach.

The campground is set among the trees, which helps break the wind. RVs up to 30 feet and trailers to 20 feet are allowed. Facilities include picnic tables, fire pits, chemical toilets, running water, and an RV dump station. There are also 10 walk-in environmental campsites. Camping is first come first served.

Right next door to the park entrance on Kinney Road is the Manchester Beach KOA, for those who prefer more amenities. 


Point Arena Lighthouse


Photo courtesy of zemisto | Flickr.com
Point Arena Lighthouse, Mendocino beaches


Point Arena Lighthouse towers 115 feet high at the end of a rocky peninsula. Newly renovated, the lighthouse is open to the public. You can climb to the top of the tower and enjoy the magnificent views.

There are guided tours of the light station and and self guided tours of the grounds offered daily. It's also a great spot to watch the migrating gray whales during whale watching season, from December through April. There's a visitor center and gift shop.

The accommodations at Point Arena Lighthouse include 4 keepers' homes, and 1 keeper's room.

You may want to mute your computer before checking out the web site for Point Arena Lighthouse. You'll be greeted with a fog horn. 


Bowling Ball Beach and
Schooner Gulch State Beach

Bowling Ball Beach has to be the most unusual Mendocino beach. It's known for the round boulders (known as concretions) that are uncovered at low tide.

The beach is accessible from Schooner Gulf State Beach, which features trails along the bluff where you can get a great view. There's also a small sandy beach, tide pools, and driftwood.


More Northern California Beaches Information

Northern California and Mendocino Beaches Visitor Resources | Northern California Beaches | Map of Northern California Beaches | Del Norte County Beaches | Humboldt County Beaches | Sonoma County Beaches