Those same colors crop up beyond Fort Bragg, at Pacific Star Winery. There you can enjoy $7 tastings of the winery's signature blends at picnic tables set on a dramatic promontory. The reds are earthy, the whites are floral, and you can sip them both while drinking in the sight of gray whales, migrating south toward warmer climes.
While the North Coast is generally temperate, sometimes the mercury does drop. That's when it's time to take refuge around a fire. You'll find one flickering on the outdoor patio at Sea Pal Cove in Fort Bragg, an ocean-side stop for golden-battered fish-and-chips and chowder served in sourdough bread bowls.
Back in the village, flames also warm the lobby of the Mendocino Hotel and Garden Suites, which dates to the late 1800s and still welcomes visitors with its creaky-floored Victorian charm. (Rooms start around $130, but plenty of discounts and specials are available.) There's a wireless connection here, but do you really want one? That mad world will still be there when you get home.
Free Whale Guides
During the whale-watching season (November through April), docents at Mendocino Headlands State Park freely share their knowledge about the migrating beasts and suggest good times and places for you to spot them.