Fort Bragg CA is set along Mendocino County’s scenic coast and offers its visitors a wealth of ways to stay busy. It is located only a few miles north of the town of Mendocino, another popular coastal destination. Savoring the spectacular coastal views, hiking among redwood trees in the Jackson State Forest, hanging out at Glass Beach, and taking either a guided or self-guided walking tour in the downtown area are just some of the many options for things to do. Whale watching and taking a ride on the "Skunk Train" are just two more things that can be added to the agenda during a visit to Fort Bragg, and free time can also be well spent on trips to the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens and the nearby Point Cabrillo Lighthouse.
Approximately 6,500 hundred people call Fort Bragg CA home, so by no means is it a big city. Linking it to larger San Francisco to the south is the famed Pacific Coast Highway, or California State Route 1. The distance between the two cities is approximately 150 miles, so they are destinations that can easily be paired together on a Northern California escape. Of course, with so much to do in and around the more immediate Fort Bragg area, you might not have time for side trips down to San Fran. The outdoor enthusiast should certainly find no lack of activity options during a Fort Bragg visit. The city offers wonderful city parks, and there are numerous state parks in the region. Shoppers can also find bliss in Fort Bragg, thanks to the downtown shops, and if you’re a cinema buff, you’ll likely appreciate the fact that Fort Bragg has appeared in numerous movies. These movies include such examples as East of Eden, Summer of ‘42, Racing with the Moon, and The Majestic.
Noyo Harbor Image: Jim Heaphy (wikipedia)
Set near the mouth of the Noyo River on the southern side of Fort Bragg is Noyo Harbor. A scenic, working harbor, it is separated into two main areas. There is the Inner Noyo Harbor, which serves as a general marina, and the Outer Noyo Harbor, which caters more to the fishing industry. Between the two areas, visitors can arrange fishing excursions and whale watching charters. It is also possible to rent a kayak and book guided trips up the Noyo River that focus on birdwatching and other wildlife viewing. If nothing else, Fort Bragg CA visitors can venture over to the city’s harbor to revel in its movie history. Among the movies that have used the harbor for some of their scenes include The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming, Humanoids from the Deep, Overboard, and Dying Young.
Skunk Train Image: prayitno (flickr)
Hitching a ride on the "Skunk Train" is among the most popular things to do in Fort Bragg. The Skunk Train is a local name for the California Western Railroad, for which Fort Bragg serves as the western terminus. The rather odd name originated back in the 1920's and is in reference to the gas-powered rail cars that were introduced in 1925. Local folks used to remark on how you could smell the little, gas-powered trains before you could see them. Eventually, steam-powered trains replaced the gas-powered ones and the Skunk Train made a move to introduce passenger service. The route that the Skunk Train covers is that between Fort Bragg and the inland city of Willits. Along the way, the train passes over numerous bridges and trestles. It also runs along clusters of redwood trees and passes through two mountain tunnels. Many passengers opt to get off at Northspur to have lunch before making the trip back to Fort Bragg, though you can continue all the way to Willits if you please.
Fort Bragg Beaches
Fort Bragg Beaches Image: Jef Poskanzer (wikipedia)
The California beaches are numerous and diverse. Among the most unique is Fort Bragg’s Glass Beach. Actually a collection of three beaches, Glass Beach gets its name from the small, smooth, and colorful glass pieces that are found among the rocks and sand. Glass beach certainly isn’t the only beach of interest in the Fort Bragg area, however. The city actually has twelve miles of coastal terrain, the likes of which is characterized by beaches, rugged coastlines, coves, caves, and plenty of breathtaking views. Ten Mile Beach and Jug Handle Beach are two examples of other Fort Bragg beaches. At Ten Mile Beach, you can observe wildlife and admire one of the longest dune systems on the California Coast. Jug Handle Beach is best known for its beauty and its rather tranquil setting. Other Mendocino County communities have wonderful beaches of their own, so Fort Bragg visitors who are beach enthusiasts are encouraged to branch out. To the near south of town lies the community of Mendocino, for example, and it surely has its fair share of delightful beaches.
Whale Watching Image: Holiday Inn
Whale watching, much like visiting Glass Beach, is something that many Fort Bragg visitors look to do. The best whale watching experiences are to be had in the winter and spring, and the types of whales that you can expect to see off the Fort Bragg coast are mostly Gray whales. As mentioned, Noyo Harbor is a good place to arrange whale watching excursions. It is also possible to whale watch from the Fort Bragg shores. MacKerricher State Park is among the best spots to view whales passing just offshore. Not to be left out of the Fort Bragg whale watching discussion is the city’s annual Whale Festival. It is held in mid-March, and among other things, it offers opportunities to sample brews from regional microbreweries.
Fort Bragg offers more accommodation choices than any other destination along the Mendocino Coast. Several of the local lodging establishments come in the form of oceanfront motels, with a good example being the Beachcomber Motel. For those who prefer the bed and breakfast experience, there are options there as well. Among the numerous Fort Bragg B&Bs are such recommendable establishments as the Atrium B&B, the Cleone Gardens Inn, and the Weller House Inn. A number of chain-brand hotels and motels call Fort Bragg home, and there are pet-friendly accommodations as well. The camping crowd can turn their attention to the camping and RV sites that are available at MacKerricher State Park. Checking out the area vacation rentals is just one more idea.