Fort Bragg is a sweet little city located on the northern California coastline in Mendocino County. The backdrop of the Pacific Ocean provides for stunning views, beautiful hikes and everything you could want in a nice weekend getaway.
Ideally, the best time of the year to visit is between June and September, when the weather is nice and you can enjoy several miles of pristine beaches. However, this is also the busiest time of the year when most visitors travel to the city and the prices of lodging increases. This thriving coastal town has all the necessities from restaurants and gas stations to banks, grocery stores and more.
I traveled up to Fort Bragg in February with the intentions of enjoying a weekend away from life in my hometown of Sacramento. I left around 4pm Friday evening and the trip took just under 5 hours. It was definitely a welcome sight when crossing the Noyo Bridge into Fort Bragg. The weather was chilly and required a jacket. However, when out hiking on the beaches during the day, I was able to wear shorts and a t-shirt without being cold.
I stayed at the North Cliff Hotel, which was right across the bridge on the south side of town. The balcony of my hotel room provided views of the ocean and of Noyo Harbor. The ocean air was both refreshing and relaxing. Sounds of the waves were soothing at night and my room provided all the comforts I could want or need.
Saturday morning I woke up ready to hit the coastline. I wanted to check out Glass Beach and a few other spots heading further into MacKerricher State Park. This park runs about 10 miles along the coastline and begins just on the outskirts of the north side of Fort Bragg.
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I stopped at Dennys located at 901 N Main St. before heading out to Glass Beach. I thought Dennys was a clean place with decent service. The food was par for the course. Unfortunately, I almost lost my appetite when a large man sitting at the counter was showing his “plumber’s crack”.
Glass Beach was less than a mile away, so there wasn’t any problems getting out of Dennys and over to my first spot of the day. There’s parking along Old Haul Rd. which is right near the entrance for Glass Beach trail. Glass Beach is a mixture of sand and glass that has been weathered, smoothened and shaped over several decades. For many, the glass is like finding little jewels as they come in all sorts of shapes, sizes and colors.
After a few hours of digging in the sand at Glass Beach, I decided to head north along the coastline up to Pudding Creek. It wasn’t even a mile between Glass Beach and the Pudding Creek Trestle but I stopped to spend time at the Trestle and take in the history behind this structure.
By now, it was early afternoon and I wanted to head over to the Mendocino Botanical Gardens. So, I didn’t venture further into MacKerricher State Park. However, this is on my to do list for the next time I head up to Fort Bragg. The park has a vast amount of vegetation, wildlife, camping and hiking spots. If you decide to venture further into the park, then check out some of the hotspots like: Cleone Lake, Ten Mile Beach and Laguna Point.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not the biggest fan when it comes to botanical gardens. I enjoy seeing various flowers and plants out in nature but not in a confined environment. Additionally, I typically find myself sneezing at a lot of the various plant life. However, I heard the Mendocino Botanical Gardens was a must see place. So, I went out there with the hopes of taking some nice pictures and using this free admission pass that I got from the hotel I was staying at.
The Gardens looked small from the outside. I immediately began to think that this place was going to be a letdown. The front door was rather large for the building, almost like entering into a new kingdom. The gift shop was filled with items that you could by for souvenirs. It was also filled with friendly people, including the cashier. I enjoy talking with locals wherever I go. They add to the experience and provide invaluable information about the location. I asked her about some good places to eat and she recommended a few, from a fancy restaurant to a burger joint. In fact, the burger joint received a lot of praise from the locals. So, I made my mind up at that moment, I was going to hit up the burger joint for dinner.
After a nice chat with the cashier lady, I went out into the gardens. It was a bit small at first. And I wasn’t too thrilled with the plant life. But eventually, I made it to the gate that took me to an entirely unexpected world of wonders. I had a map of the trails and was eager to see what led down to the ocean. However, I didn’t know that the hike along the way would be so fascinating. The views of the ocean and cliffs were amazing. These views were worth the price of admission alone.
After finishing up my tour of the Botanical Gardens, I ventured off to Jenny’s Giant Burger to see what all the hype was about. Plus, I’m a burger and fries kind of guy. The place lived up to the hype and I stuffed my face with a giant burger and fries. Once I was able to roll myself out of the burger shack, I returned to the hotel room to get some warmer clothes and off to Point Cabrillo Lighthouse hoping to catch a beautiful sunset.
Light The Way
Point Cabrillo Lighthouse is located about 5 miles south of Fort Bragg. I’ve always been a fan of lighthouses ever since I was a kid. So, I was eager to get here. The drive was smooth and there’s a visitor’s area with a parking lot to pull into. The hike from the visitor’s area to the lighthouse is about 1.5 miles round trip. It’s also a bit deceptive as there are a few hills that make it a bit more challenging than just strolling on down a flat pathway.
By time I got there on Saturday evening, the lighthouse was already closed. However, it still provided for some nice pictures and added to the overall beauty of the sunsets. Behind the lighthouse, there’s wide open areas to watch the sun set over the ocean.
After watching the sunset, I was ready to head back to the hotel and check out all the pictures I had taken. Plus, I was going to head out of town by lunchtime on Sunday, so I wanted to get some rest. Additionally, I wanted to head back to Glass Beach one more time before leaving town.
Sunday morning, I checked out of my room by 11am and went over to Glass Beach. The weather was nice for a February morning and there wasn’t as many people at the beach as there was on Saturday. After an hour or so at the beach, I decided to get Round Table pizza for the 5 hour drive home. I called and placed my order while I was at the beach and it was hot and ready by time I got there.
Cruising out of town and back over the Noyo Bridge, I said goodbye to Fort Bragg but I knew I would be back again. This town is a sweet spot along the coast and I highly recommend it for anyone looking to explore the northern California coastline.