Any day at the ocean is a good day, but the coastal town of Fort Bragg, California, has so much to offer that you could easily fill up your day plans. If you’re looking for adventures for your next family vacation to Fort Bragg, look no further! Here are our Top 10 favorite things to do in Fort Bragg, California:
1. Explore Glass Beach
Glass Beach is the only beach I’ve ever visited where you will see more people hunched over, looking at the sand than you will admiring the waves. That’s because the sand is littered with sea glass, a kaleidoscope of bright greens, milky whites, amber browns and the very rare and special sapphire blues. Decades ago, people would dump their trash over the cliff here, and the shape of the bay funneled all those apothecary and beverage bottles and right back up to the shore. Because the bits have been tumbled in the surf, they’re rounded and smooth, and make for a very unique beach. Read more about Glass Beach here.
2. Go Horseback Riding
You’ll have a great time here if you’ve never been horseback riding, or if you’re a seasoned rider. At Ricochet Ridge Ranch, you have several options for your adventure. If you’re just starting out and riding on the beach is on your bucket list, they’ll make sure you’re comfortable with your trusty steed and take you on a mellow ride, listening to the surf. If you’re already comfortable with your hours in the saddle and you want one of those rides where you canter through the waves, scattering seagulls in your wake, they do that, too! You can ride for an hour or all day, through the redwoods or on the beach. There’s something about the view from between a horse’s ears that really changes your perspective on your surroundings!
3. Kayak Into Sea Caves
Not only can you kayak in the open ocean here, but you can explore SEA CAVES. Sea caves! Can you feel the excitement?! At Kayak Mendocino, you can rent a kayak and take a tour of this amazing area, paddling into these breaks in the sandstone to check out the star fish, oysters and sometimes even seals. If you’re not a pro at kayaking, it’s okay. Craig is very knowledgeable and patient, and will have you steering through the kelp in no time while he fills you in on the animals here and the local history. It’s an exhilarating excursion that will leave you feeling quite accomplished at the end!
4. Whale Watch from the Shore (or a boat!)
Gray whales and humpback whales pass by Fort Bragg twice in the year, in the winter and spring. They pass by fairly close to shore, so even if you’re not keen on a whale watching trip by boat, you can sometimes spy them from shore. If you’re exceedingly lucky, you might spot not only a blow hole spouting, but a fluke slap or the very rare lunge feeding. When these 40,000 pound mammals breach in view, expect to hear all sorts of exclamations and shouts. If you plan for visit for spring, you can even attend the Fort Bragg Whale Festival. Some of the best spots to plan a picnic and get out your binoculars are the Botanical Gardens (head out on the coastal trail and find the benches lining the cliffs), MacKerricher and Point Cabrillo Lighthouse.
5. Count Star Fish in the Tide Pools at MacKerricher State Park
MacKerricher is a truly spectacular state park with a weathered wooden boardwalk, hypnotic waves of golden wheat and flowers, and the best part, tide pools. Check the low tide hours online or at your hotel, and head on out for a day exploring these pools teeming with crabs, anemone and star fish. There is also a really neat whale skeleton when you check in at the ranger station. If camping is more your style, there are several sites here, including a few more secluded walk-in camping sites.
6. Ride the Skunk Train
The Skunk Train is a piece of California history, as it travels on some of the original tracks placed in 1885. The train has a few routes and some seasonal surprises for visitors. You can take a short 1-hour trip through the redwoods, a longer 4-hour jaunt to Willits and back, or you can start in Willits and travel through a giant forest while you gawk from the open-air train car. In October, there is a train trip to a pumpkin patch, and in December, you can have a Christmas ride with hot cocoa and Santa.
7. Stop and Smell the Roses at the Mendocino Botanical Gardens
If you’re in the mood for a peaceful stroll through fragrant blooms, giant dahlias and whimsical statues, this is the place for you. You can join a docent tour or explore on your own along the various paths in the Mendocino Botanical Gardens. Some paths lead over a burbling creek, some to a vegetable garden with Alice in Wonderland sculptures, and some lead to bluffs overlooking the sea. There are also arbors and platforms for yoga or a spot of tea. It’s a lovely place where kids can run wild, and there are benches tucked in among the blooms throughout for the traveler who wants to stop and smell the roses.
8. Eat Your Way Through Town
So. Much. Good. Food. Seriously. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the mood for fresh cioppino, decadent pastas, vegan omelets or a juicy steak, you will find it in Fort Bragg. Many places look like a hole in the wall, and let me tell you, those are the best! We hit D’Aurelio’s every time we stop in Fort Bragg. There are literally six booths and a handful of tables, and they have a line out the door from opening to closing. Eggheads has also been a favorite of ours for many a year, with their Wizard of Oz decorations and their fresh crab Benedict. There are also several breweries and steak houses, and of course the Mendocino Chocolate Company with hand made truffles and turtles, and salt water taffy. You’ll need to run a few miles along the beach trails after all this delicious food!
9. Take Pictures Under the Old Trestle Bridges (then make sandcastles!)
Fort Bragg has retained much of its history, from the beautiful Victorian homes and museums to the century-old train tracks. A beautiful place for pictures is the trestle bridge at Pudding Creek, which leads from Highway 1 (across from the Best Western) to the ocean. It’s a lovely beach with the perfect sand for castles or hunting for seashells. Not much kelp washes up here, and the sand is golden.
10. Hunt for Waterfalls at Russian Gulch
You can easily spend the day (or two) at Russian Gulch. The Fern Canyon hike is absolutely beautiful, and leads to a waterfall that pours out of the frond-lined canyon. Here you can also find a spouting horn (or punch bowl depending on what you call it), and this stunning iconic bridge. You can also camp at Russian Gulch, where you can fish, hike, ride your bike and explore the coast.
There is so much to see and do in Fort Bragg, California. It’s a great place for a family beach getaway, and a short drive from many other sights, including Point Cabrillo Lighthouse, Point Arena and B. Bryan Preserve, where you can kiss a giraffe!
Safe travels, my fellow gypsies!