Clara Bosonetto is a retired travel consultant.
Weekend in Mendocino County, Calif., one of three ways: on a budget, spending a bit more, or when the getaway calls for a splurge. The county straddles scenic Highways 1 and 101 with 90 miles of prime Pacific coastline, more than 90 wineries and 23 state and national parklands.
Ride along 40 miles of railroad tracks (from Fort Bragg or Willits) through redwood forests, mountain meadows and over 30 trestle bridges on the Skunk Train, in operation for 129 years; $59 adults. www.skunktrain.com.
The 19th Annual Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival, May 20-22, celebrates the grape with barbecues, winery tastings and open houses throughout the rugged valley, $105-$125. www.avwines.com.
Trip planning: www.visitmendocino.com.
Getting there: The county is located 114 miles north of San Francisco. Daily nonstop flights from Atlanta offered on Delta and United; $364-$389, based on 21-day advance purchase notice.
Stay: Elk Cove Inn & Spa offers luxurious, oceanview accommodations and a European-style day spa on a breathtaking route of California's Highway 1. The first-floor Swallows Nest, $125-$155. Take in ocean views from the rooftop deck. Rates include a gourmet champagne breakfast and afternoon cocktails and wine. 6300 S. Calif. 1, Elk, Calif. 707-877-3321, www.elkcoveinn.com.
Eat: Queenie's Roadhouse Cafe serves breakfast (famous huevos rancheros) until 3 p.m., sandwiches and burgers from 11 a.m. and beer, wine and mimosas (closed Tuesdays, Wednesdays). Menu items to $13. 6061 S. Calif. 1, Elk, Calif. 707-877-3285, queeniesroadhousecafe.com.
Experience: Russian Gulch State Park with over 7,000 feet of ocean frontage is known for Devil's Punch Bowl (a collapsed sea cave) and a 36-foot-high waterfall accessible along a wooded walking trail (5.5 miles round-trip). This is a famous spot for tidepooling and rock fishing; $8 car entry. 12301 N. Calif. 1, Mendocino, Calif. 707-937-5804, www.parks.ca.gov.
Stay: The owners of the nostalgic Andiron Seaside Inn & Cabins share their love of everything vintage in each of the property's cabins. Amenities include a hot tub, fire pit, barbecues, croquet, badminton, an archery range, and weekend happy hours. The largest William and Mildred cabin features a large living/dining area with a sofa bed, a kitchenette, a Posturepedic bed, two bathrooms (one with a fancy tub), two fireplaces (electric) and a private deck, from $249-$299. Other cabin rates from $109. The inn is located along a rural stretch south of Mendocino, but minutes from restaurants, breweries, wineries and beaches. 6051 N. Calif. 1, Little River, Calif. 707-937-1543, theandiron.com.
Eat: The oceanfront Ledford House highlights Cal-Med cuisine and regional wines with live jazz nightly. Entrees, $14-$32; $30 for a three-course Bistro Special. 3000 N. Calif. 1, Albion, Calif. 707-937-0282, www.ledfordhouse.com.
Experience: Take the three-hour Stornetta Lands walking tour (about 6 miles) of an area just north of Bowling Ball Beach and Point Arena. The area was recently designated as a California Coastal National Monument. This protected environment of wetlands, meadows, dunes, wildlife habitats and cypress groves is a showcase for flora, fauna, geology and oceanography. $75 per person. 707-888-6121, www.unbeatenpathtours.com.
Stay: Each of the five romantic guest rooms at the Sandpiper House are individually decorated with antiques, comfy chairs, fresh flowers, feather pillows, and fine linens. All have fireplaces and four have ocean views, up to $295 through April. A two-night minimum stay is required on weekends. Rates include a two-course gourmet breakfast and evening wine and hors d'oeuvres. The inn is surrounded by native trees and a creek and is steps down to a driftwood-strewn beach. 5520 S. Calif. 1, Elk, Calif. 707-877-3587, www.sandpiperhouse.com.
Eat: The fish is wild and local and the produce, oils, spices and herbs are organic at Wild Fish. Crab, cod, sole and sword and sablefish, $32-$38. Take in the views of the sunset over Little River Cove. 7750 N. Calif. 1, Little River, Calif. www.wild-fish.com.
Experience: The lush Anderson Valley lies 9 miles east of the Pacific (Highway 128 Wine Road) with 2,500 acres of vineyard and more than two dozen tasting venues. A guided and chauffeured daylong tour takes in the prettiest stretches of the California coastline and goes into a redwood forest before entering the valley. Sample from some of the best and lesser known vintners and enjoy an al fresco gourmet lunch; $175 per person. 45020 Albion St., Mendocino, Calif. 707-937-6700, www.maccallumhouse.com/wine-tours.
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Credit: Ben Hendren for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Credit: John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com