Northern California’s Mendocino County is a diverse and beautiful location that draws in visitors and permanent residents from all over North America. Just three hours north of San Francisco, the region is a haven for those who want to reconnect with nature amidst the Pacific coastline's picturesque rocky cliffs and sandy beaches. Staying in a cabin, A-frame or small home is the best way to get as close to the region's highlights as possible.
Historically, Mendocino was one of the first counties established in California and was the home of the Native American Yuki, Pomo, Cahto, and Wintun tribes. It’s not hard to imagine the original unspoiled beauty of this place as you catch glimpses of Gray Whales migrating down the coast or Osprey nesting up high.
This area is packed with popular destinations, like the iconic Redwood Forest (the famous 70-foot wide Chandelier Drive-Thru Sequoia tree is here), and Fort Bragg’s Glass Beach—a former landfill that was recovered and transformed into an iconic beach. Then there's the quiet and scenic seaside town of Albion and Highway 128’s Wine Road, a 75-mile drive that winds past numerous family-run wineries.
Planning a visit? Remember that the Northern Californian climate tends to be fairly cold and mild from winter to spring, so plan a trip during summer and fall for the best conditions. For the best intel on where to stay, keep reading.
Vibe: Drift(wood) Away
Walk across a wooden bridge to get to this hand-built, sun-filled beachside cabin. This minimal craftsman evokes the quintessential laid-back, natural vibe of the California coast. From the weathered board and batten siding to the airy paper lanterns, and its high-pitched ceiling with skylights notched out in the main room and loft, it’s a no-brainer for a relaxing getaway.
Vibe: Anchors Away A-Frame
Tucked away into the quiet woods of scenic Gualala in Mendocino County, this A-Frame is only a mile away from Anchor Bay Beach. Get the best of both worlds here with a stay in a mid-century style A-Frame cabin complete with woodstove fireplace and large front porch that’s a short distance from the beach.
Vibe: Redwood Retreat
Inside and out, this cabin brings some warm and cozy into an otherwise lofty and wide-open layout that even extends to the endless ocean views. We’ll forgive the bright red sofa cushions for its prime location in the redwood forest, complete with a dreamy deck with a hammock. It’s close to the beach, hiking trails and downtown Gualala.
Vibe: Broaden Your Horizon
Bring your pooch and your binoculars because a highlight of this dog-friendly beachfront home is that you can go whale watching from the couch. The decor might skew more, uh, traditional, and less minimalist beach house, but the secluded outdoor jacuzzi makes up for that minor letdown with unobstructed views of the Pacific.
Vibe: Mod Pod
Located in Mendocino County’s wine region, this sleek cabin was designed by Michelle Kaufmann, Google’s architect-in-residence, to look out over acres of vineyards and the surrounding landscape. Modern touches fill the home and give it a clean and airy vibe that, when set against the backdrop of gnarled vines, feels downright serene. A series of sliding glass doors leads you from multiple rooms and onto the deck to take in the scenery. A lap pool and hot tub are luxe additions, too.
Vibe: Tower for Two
Loaded with character and coastal charm, this hideout in the headlands of Mendocino perfectly blends earthy design with a minimalist aesthetic that let’s the area’s natural beauty do all the talking. That is, unless you can get over the oversized geometric windows and angular molding on the walls—or the ocean views from the bedroom. Spend some time finding your zen in the yard’s garden and pond.
Vibe: Castaway Cabin
When you’re not wine tasting nearby or beachcombing along the shoreline, retreat to this pared-back, rustic beach cabin on the hill. Set up high on a wide open ridgetop, this wood-clad retreat feels like a proper beach shack but with million-dollar views from nearly every room (or from its expansive deck.
Vibe: Back to Nature
If shacking up in a secluded redwood forest isn't enough to convince you on this modest cabin, chances are the private sauna will do the trick. The home has a small footprint with a minimalist design and plenty of windows to let the natural light filter in. But with close proximity and easy access to nearby hiking trails, you'll likely want to spend more time outside than in.
Vibe: Beach House Spirit
This oceanfront home is an ideal NorCal basecamp whether you’re staying in or exploring the area. Clad in wood paneling from top to bottom, this glass-fronted house has a spacious open-concept living area with an upper and lower deck. Walk down to the beach, downtown Westport, or check out what’s on offer in nearby Fort Bragg and Mendocino.
Vibe: Flotsam & Jetsam
Stay awhile at The Navarro House, which takes its name from its location where the Navarro River flows into the Pacific. Built by a master mason and fabricator, this rustic beach cabin hails from the 1970s, so it channels all the right kind of MCM design with a modern twist. And, it’s got views. Soak in the hot tub, hang around the outdoor fire ring, or watch for breaching whales, all from the comfort of the cabin.
Vibe: Woods and Waters
Open and airy with tons of rustic charm, the Redwood House has strong potential for camp nostalgia. It’s multicolor brick fireplace makes for a natural focal point in contrast with the floor-to-ceiling windows, vaulted ceiling, and loft bedroom. Set back in a grove of redwood trees, the wraparound porch has a hot tub and, naturally, views of the ocean.
Vibe: Not Bluffing
Take in the sweeping views of the Pacific from just about any room in this private cabin in Albion. Nevermind the carpeted spiral staircase and questionable pillows—focus on the split-level design with not one deck but two that overlook the scenic rocky bluffs dropping down into the ocean below.
Vibe: Reclaim & Rejuvinate
Nestled away in a forest of cypress trees in Mendocino, this bright cabin is made from reclaimed redwoods for a design that truly emulates the Northern California landscape. It's not far from downtown and close to some of the area’s popular beaches, so plunk yourself here for a long weekend to enjoy all this slice of paradise has to offer.