Updated: Aug 24
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, 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.
First things first. Getting here. I was driving from the North. 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. There are a couple in the area between Eureka CA and the right on Route 1.
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.
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 Mendicino 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.
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. My pictures do not do justice to the area.
Places to see and things to do
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.
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. 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.
Walk the coastal trail, it is beautiful and attached to Glass Beach, you even park in the same parking lot. The trail, if you walk far enough, crosses a bridge over Pudding Creek, 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.
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.
The Skunk as it's known locally has been operating since 1925, but the trains started here in 1885 for logging. 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.
Whale Watching Tours
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 even spotted Roosevelt Elk. (A.K.A. Fluffy Butt Beach Elk) They are everywhere down Route 1 and 101 in Oregon.
Side note Beachcomber Motel has a beachfront fire pit. Check it out.
My absolute favorite is Egghead's Restaurant, its Wizard of Oz themed. If you are a fan, this place is a must see. It 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.
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
If you are interested in flying out west to check out the Pacific Coast. You can reach out to me, and I will do the research, advise, and help you book. But if you want to do the research on flights yourself, click the link below, I've had a lot of luck with them lately. Crystal Travel.
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.
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