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Best things to see and do in Fort Bragg California!

Updated: Mar 1

Fort Bragg California is one of my favorite places on the Pacific Coast.  (I have so many favorites out there).  But this stop on my pacific coast tour was like a breath of fresh air. Finally, some relaxation with beautiful beaches. In the days leading up to Fort Bragg CA, the weather was bad on the road trip. 3 days of rain, heavy rain, and wind gusts so strong they would knock you down while trying to walk in a restaurant. (Southern Oregon).  I needed some good weather to calm my nerves on these crazy roads known as Route 1 and 101.  When I pulled into Fort Bragg the rain went away, and it was totally magical. This city has a small-town beach feel, and the city of Mendocino feels like a very tiny beach town too, with great antiques, local artists, and shopping that is located just minutes away.

The Drive to Fort Bragg.

Driving threw a redwood
Driving threw a redwood

First things first. Getting here.  I was driving from the North, part of a costal tour that started in Washington State many days before. The day before I spent the night in Eureka California and visited the Humboldt Redwoods State Park. (on Route 101) If you are coming this way, you will turn right on Route 1 near Leggett California, this will take you to the coast. At the intersection, look for a road sign to take a stop and drive through a giant redwood tree, it is a neat experience. I highly recommend driving and exploring some of the redwood forests on your way to Fort Bragg. Northern California is nothing like the rest of the state. It's magical.

Route 1 is a wicked road.  Just like many roads on the pacific coast.  Several 10 mile per hour curves, and up and down mountains or hills. Once you are on the other side though, you are back to driving beside the ocean again, and it's not nearly as curvy. It is a scary but beautiful drive. 

If coming from the south, and you are doing coastal (the 1) from San Francisco, this is also a wicked road at times. You will need to be mindful of weather and road conditions because there are times, they shut this section of the road down due to bad weather or road collapses.  (Not unusual for the coastal highway), From Bodega Bay north to near Mendocino is the area I am referring to.  Side note, fans of Alfred Hitchcock movies......... The Birds was filmed over a 3-year period in Bodega Bay.

From the road, driving to Fort Bragg
From the road, driving to Fort Bragg

Easiest route from San Francisco to Fort Bragg is Route 101, then Route 128 near Cloverdale, then jump on Route 1 North. This route still has some curves so always be aware when driving. It only takes about 3.5 hours.

Now that the rough stuff is out of the way.  The drive is so worth it. Whichever drive you take, be sure to check the roads and weather during your drive. A severe storm could cause road closures or even cause rockslides that could damage the road and prevent you from arriving to your vacation destination easily. So always double check road conditions. My pictures do not do justice to show how beautiful Mendocino County is and how much of a great place this area is to stay for a few days and explore the ocean and more.

Places to see and things to do in Fort Bragg.

Sunset at Glass Beach
Sunset at Glass Beach
  • Glass Beach/Fort Bragg Coastal Trail

A very popular beach area, and usually crowded, but you can still find glass on the beach.   There is a ban to prevent you from taking any glass home, especially at the state parks. The reason why, if everyone takes some home, there will not be any glass here in the future for people to see. When I was here, I found lots of tiny pieces on the beach, but it was far from what it used to be. Based on pictures I have seen and from what the locals say, there was a lot more glass on the beach back in the day. The trail down to the beach can be tricky, be very careful.  Rocky, sandy, and uneven I managed it fine, but still I had my concerns. My favorite thing was to walk the uneven rocks at low tide and look at the tide pools. I love getting the chance to see the marine life that could be living in those tidal pools until the high tide of the Pacific Ocean comes back in.

Pieces of glass I picked up to get a picture.
Pieces of glass I picked up to get a picture.

The history of glass beach is odd if you think about it.  Back in 1906 this area was a dump, it moved up the coast a couple times when the dump got full, but still on the beach.  No worries of environmental concerns way back when. Finally in 1967 it was stopped, and officials started a clean-up on the beach. . The waves from the ocean would crash into the beach and take trash out to sea and tumble it on all those beautiful rocks called sea glass. One of the main items tumbled by those waves were glass bottles.  The waves would break those bottles and churn them into little pieces of smooth glass bits and deposit them back on the beach.  Since 1967 dumping trash was prohibited. It is awful to think about, that's how we got Glass Beach, but still, it is very nice to see now.  This is one of the most unique beaches in California.

View from above Glass Beach
View from above Glass Beach

Walk the coastal trail, it is a beautiful trail attached to Glass Beach, where you get to see all the beauty that the coastal bluffs provide. You even park in the same parking lot, and it is just a short walk away.  The trail, if you walk far enough, crosses a bridge over Pudding Creek Beach, and goes on, the length of the whole town. While there, look out into the water at the rocks. I bet you will see sea lions. I spotted them, I just don't have great pictures of them to show off. But they love to sleep and sunbathe on the rocks, you will also see them swimming too. Also, you need to stay for sunset, it is amazing. One of the best things about being on the Pacific Coast is the sunsets, you will not be disappointed. My suggestion is to take a leisurely stroll in the evening. That way you can sit and watch the beautiful sunset at the end of the day.

  • MacKerricher State Park, located 3 miles north of Fort Bragg and stretches down the coast, south. Beaches, Rocky Cliffs, whale watching in winter and seals can be spotted on the large rocks in the ocean. One thing to note is they have a beach wheelchair available for people with disabilities. Check out the website to reserve it. They have horseback tours, Pacific Coast Education Center, and free guided whale watching walks on the weekends during the winter through March. On the paths and trails at the state park and coastal trail you will see lots of squirrels. They are cute and not scared of people. But if they think you have food, they will follow you.

Looking in the tidal pools
Looking in the tidal pools.

The Skunk as it's known locally has been operating since 1925, but the railroad started here in 1885 for the logging industry. The Skunk takes you up into the mountains, through the Redwoods and Nolo River. Make reservations on their website, and train tickets start at $49.00.  They even have railbike tours, but they are pricey.  If you want some time away from the beach this is one of the best places to spend part of the day. Kids love the train and consider it one of the fun things to do when visiting Fort Bragg.

  • Whale Watching Adventures

These can be booked December through April. Check out Noyo Harbor Tours, Telstar Charters and All Aboard Adventures.  All are great tours for this area.  If you want to see whales it is a good idea to call and make a reservation early, as they can sell out quickly.

Coastal Trail
Coastal Trail.
  • Watersports

Liquid Fusion Kayaks, take lessons on kayaking. They do not rent kayaks, but they give lessons on them, so go learn how to do it.

Kayak Noyo rents for kayaking on the Noyo River that is nearby.  Also, The Noyo Headlands park is very close by.

  • Shopping

The Boatyard Mall/ Harvest Market has several shops and a couple places to eat. (David's, and Vinny's),

Depot Mall and Museum has a train named Daisy in the food court, several shops are located inside, and the building is on the national register of historic places from 1920.

  • Gardens

Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, just south of Fort Bragg. (BTW Mendocino is cute, artsy town to walk around and check out) Spend part of a day down here. The Gardens are 47 acres, free parking and admission is $20 for all day, but you must pay in advance online picking time and date of your arrival. The garden has many different environments. From beachy to forest and many in between. There are paved trails you walk on to go through the environments. When you enter, grab a map that will help you out. There is a gift shop and small restaurant on site.

spring flowers
Spring flowers

Side note. While driving the northern coast here in California and even up in Oregon, the flowers are just beautiful. Must be from all the rain. I have never seen so many Calla Lilies in my life, and I was here in April. This was so strange for me to see Calla Lilies in April, Mine does not bloom till June.

This area is located close to many wineries and a tasting room. Of course, this is Mendocino County where you will find plenty of wineries, but the neighboring Sonoma County has many more. So, if you are a wine connoisseur visit some and do a wine tasting.


Fluffy Butt Beach Elk (Roosevelt Elk)
Fluffy Butt Beach Elk (Roosevelt Elk)

There are at least 20 different places to stay here in Fort Bragg, and several are not expensive. I stayed at the Beach House Inn for $105 bucks before taxes. It's not on the beach, but a balcony overlooks Pudding Creek Watershed. I highly recommend this place. Watching the birds on Pudding Creek was great and I even spotted Roosevelt Elk. (A.K.A. Fluffy Butt Beach Elk) They are everywhere down Route 1 and 101 in Oregon, so be on the lookout.

Side note Beachcomber Motel has a beachfront fire pit. Check it out.


Food Favorites

My absolute favorite is Egghead's Restaurant, its Wizard of Oz themed. If you are a fan, this place is a must see. It is only open from 7am to till 2pm so it is mainly a breakfast place. The food is absolutely delicious. But be prepared, it is well loved by locals and tourists, so you will have a wait to get seated.  Get a Toto's French Toast, or the Crab Benedict. This place is a great way to start your day.

Other places for some good grub are........

D'Aurelios Italian- Its a little price and fancy, but so good

Bernillo's PIzza -good pizza

Noyo Fish Company -Great Seafood

Angelina's Grill and Bar Great Beef Stroganoff

The Wharf -Great Seafood

Walking to Glass Beach on Coastal Trail
Walking to Glass Beach on Coastal Trail

I hope you have enjoyed this blog, and it helps you on your exploration of the Pacific Coast. And on your trip, say hi to the Fluffy Butt Beach Elk from me. lol. It is great to see the local wildlife when visiting Fort Bragg California. This place holds a special place in my heart. One of the best beaches on the California coast with amazing ocean bluffs and an interesting drive from which ever direction you arrive from. You definitely will fall in love this wonderful beach community.

Hilton Honors

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N Whitt
N Whitt
15 de abr. de 2023
Avaliado com 5 de 5 estrelas.

Great tips!

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