How to Plan the Most Scenic Drive From San Francisco to Mendocino

Are you yearning for a road trip along one of the most iconic highways in the world? If so, you’ve landed in the right placeBelowwe’ll show you how to satisfy your wanderlust and plan a scenic drive from San Francisco to Mendocino. This fun and rather short road trip can do wonders for your mood as you discover beautiful, remote areas nestled between the Pacific Ocean and redwood forests. So, are you ready to beginRead on, take notesand start packing the car! 

To get familiar with your destination, be sure to check out our free Vacation Guide. Mendocino is a beautiful coastal town in Northern California that‘s perfect for a weekend getaway from the city. Use our guide to explore local restaurants, events, shops, museums, outdoor activities, and more! 

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Enjoy a Scenic Drive From San Francisco to Mendocino 

What You Need to Know 

Mendocino is one of the most sought-after destinations for city dwellers looking to get away from the hustle and bustle. Indeed, our town is only three hours and 15 minutes from downtown San Francisco, which makes it a convenient place to escape and reconnect with nature. Although this is not a long road trip, you will want to be prepared for the drive along Highway 1. Here are some items we recommend bringing for extra comfort: 

  • Reusable water bottles 
  • Phone chargers (and a great playlist!) 
  • Road maps 
  • Snacks 
  • Sunglasses 
  • Sunscreen 
  • A beach towel or two should you decide to stop 

Where to Eat 

One thing you won’t want to neglect during the drive is your appetite! Stopping for a quick bite is important, and it can be difficult to try and look up places while you’re on the road with an unreliable internet connection. We suggest planning aheadbefore you start your car. Here are two of our favorite places to eat along the way: 

Of course, there are many Mendocino restaurants to enjoy once you get here! And whatever you decide to indulge in, be sure to bring cash for a smoother experienceYou’ll also need it to pay for parking at many locations along Highway 1. 

Where to Stop 

Point Reyes Shipwreck 

Turn left onto Sir Francis Drake Blvd at Point Reyes Station, and follow the road until you see the Point Reyes Shipwreck. This is the site of a vessel moored on an inlet, and it remains one of the most popular places to stop on the route from San Fran to Mendocino. If you wish, continue driving down the road to view the stunning Tomales Point Trailhead. This scenic destination provides panoramic vistas of the rocky coastline, just 46 miles from San Francisco. 

Beaches Along Highway 1 

As you drive from San Francisco to Mendocino via Highway 1, you’ll find a stunning shoreline and a collection of beautiful beaches. Here are a few of our favorites: 

  • Muir Beach | 18 miles from SF 
  • Bodega Bay | 66 miles from SF 
  • North Salmon Creek Beach | 69 miles from SF 
  • Schoolhouse Beach | 70 miles from SF 
  • Bowling Ball Beach | 139 miles from SF 

Each of these hidden coves offers a front-row seat in the sand for you to gaze at the crashing waves and delight in the cool breezes coming off the Pacific. 

Roadside Overlooks 

The overlooks on this route also provide breathtaking views of California’s Golden Coast. These are some of the best places to photograph the landscape and take pictures of family and friends with an incredible backdrop. 

  • Duncan’s Landing Overlook | 72 miles from San Francisco 
  • Sonoma Coast Overlook | 82 miles from San Francisco 

Local TipWhile you’re capturing the scenerytake a moment to stretch your legs and breathe in the salty ocean air. This is a wonderful way to break up your drive.  

Fort Ross Compound 

If you’re a history buff who is interested in learning more about California’s past, you’ll want to stop at the Fort Ross Compound. Once a Russian settlement, this site now features a wooden fort and rustic chapel amidst towering treesIt’s located in Jenner, CA, just 89 miles into your journey. 

Salt Point State Park 

Live sponges, hidden beaches, layers of eroded rock, and fields of flowers await you in this state park, just 99 miles from San Fran. Pull over to experience the beauty of Salt Point, one of Mother Nature’s great masterpieces. 

Point Arena Lighthouse and Museum 

Another iconic destination along the Pacific Coast Highway is the Point Arena Lighthouse. This charming lighthouse is a must-visit during your trip. For a small fee, you can make the short climb to the top of the structure to enjoy unparalleled views of the sea. The lighthouse is about 145 miles into your adventure. 

Welcome to Mendocino! 

room at sea rock innNow that you know how to plan a memorable road trip from San Francisco to Mendocino, it’s time to find a place to stay. You’ll definitely want to relax after all that driving! Sea Rock Inn is one of the best B&Bs in Northern California and offers a gorgeous selection of luxurious accommodations, each of with comfortable furnishings and sweeping views of the Pacific OceanHere, you can leave your busy routine behind and reconnect with yourself. When you wake up each dayyou’ll sea mystical fog rolling off the water as you make your way to our waterfront breakfast roomIt’s the best way to start your morning! 

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