GETTING THERE: United flies nonstop to San Francisco from both Dulles and BWI, Independence Air flies nonstop from Dulles to San Francisco, and JetBlue flies nonstop from Dulles to Oakland. Numerous carriers operate connecting flights. Round-trip fares from Washington typically start at about $350, but sale fares can drop as low as $200.
GETTING AROUND: Point Reyes Station is about a one-hour drive from the San Francisco area; Mendocino is just over three hours. While there is some limited public transportation, most travelers will want to rent a car.
WHERE TO STAY:
* In Point Reyes:
The Point Reyes Seashore Lodge (10021 Coastal Hwy., Olema, 415-663-9000, www.pointreyesseashore.com) is an updated, 21-room country-style lodge with romantic gardens and a path leading into Point Reyes Park. Doubles (many with fireplaces and whirlpool tubs) begin at $135 a night, including continental breakfast; the two private cottages on the grounds, each with hot tub, run $295.
Anns View on Tomales Bay (19980 Hwy. 1, Marshall, 415-663-9144, www.annsview.com) sits above the bay and has just two suites, both of which overlook the water. They go for $225 and $275.
Bar-Or Ranch (11925 Hwy. 1, Point Reyes Station, 415-663-9596, www.bar-or.com) is a working ranch, with horses and the feel of an Israeli kibbutz. Cottages range from $175 to $400 per night, including an organic continental breakfast. Ours, which sleeps four adults, cost $300 per night.
More than a dozen inns and about a dozen companies renting cottages are listed through Point Reyes Lodging, 800-539-1872, www.ptreyes.com.
* Around Mendocino:
Heritage House (5200 N. Hwy. 1, Little River, about five miles outside Mendocino, 800-235-5885, www.heritagehouseinn.com) sits on 37 acres of lovely gardens above the ocean. The main, vine-covered hotel with a gourmet restaurant was built in 1877 and is surrounded by cottages. A double room including breakfast begins at $125 off season (November through March) and $175 during peak season.
Dennen's Victorian Farmhouse (7001 N. Hwy.1, 800-264-4723, www.victorianfarmhouse.com) was built in 1877 and is surrounded by two acres of land with gardens. It's a short walk to Buckhorn Cove, a rocky beach filled with tide pools, and two miles from downtown Mendocino. Rates for a double, including breakfast served in your room, range from $135 to $235 a night.
Stanford Inn by the Sea & Spa (Highway 1 at Comptche-Ukiah Road, 800-331-8884, www.stanfordinn.com) is a luxurious romantic inn on 10 acres that happens to have llamas, a spa, an organic garden and great views of the Mendocino coast and Big River. Rooms start at $269 a night.
Vacation homes are rented at Mendocino Coast Reservations, 800-262-7801, www.mendocinovacations.com.
WHERE TO EAT:
* In Point Reyes:
The Station House Cafe (11180 Hwy. 1, Point Reyes Station, 415-663-1515), has a continental menu and a nice garden for outdoor dining. Dinner entrees, with numerous seafood choices, are mostly from $10 to $20. Vladimir's (12785 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., 415-669-1021) has a Czech and Eastern European menu, with a set price of $15 for lunch, $25 for dinner.
Manka's Inverness Lodge (30 Callendar Way, Inverness, 800-585-6343) is an Arts and Crafts-style hunting lodge built in 1910, and includes a highly regarded restaurant. Fixed-price dinners are $58; $88 on Saturday nights.
For organic, free-range continental fare, the Olema Inn (10000 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., Olema, 415-663-9559) has been serving travelers since 1876. Entrees begin at $22.
* Around Mendocino:
For a gourmet meal that comes with a glorious view, try Heritage House (5200 N. Hwy. 1, Little River, 800-235-5885). Entrees, including seafood and meat dishes, begin at $21. The Mendocino Market (45051 Ukiah St., Mendocino, 707-937-3474) has a few tables, or prepare a picnic from great sandwiches, pastas and salads. In Jenner, River's End (11048 Hwy. 1, 707-865-2484) includes great continental cuisine with fabulous views. Dinner entrees begin at $23.
WHAT TO DO:
* Horseback riding. Ride well-trained horses along the beach at Five Brooks Stable, 8001 Hwy. 1, Olema, in the Point Reyes area. Details: www.fivebrooks.com, 415-663-1570. Lessons are also available at Bar-Or Ranch (see above).
* Biking. Rent them at Cycle Point Reyes (415-663-9164, www.cyclepointreyes.com), or in Mendocino, at Stanford Inn by the Sea (see above).
* Kayaking. Rent at Blue Waters Kayaking in the Point Reyes area (19225 Hwy. 1, Marshall, 415-663-2252; 12938 Sir Francis Drake Blvd. at the Golden Hinde Inn & Marina, Inverness, 415-669-2600; www.bwkayak.com), or in Mendocino at Stanford Inn by the Sea (see above).
* Bird-watching. Anywhere, anytime, but consider watching birds among the flowers at the 47-acre Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens (18220 N. Hwy.1, Fort Bragg, 707-964-4352, www.gardenbythesea.org).
* Whale-watching. Gray whales migrate along the coast; the prime season runs from late December through early February as they travel south. They come back on the trip north from late February through April.
* Wine tours. Get a list of wineries and brew pubs from the Mendocino Winegrowers Alliance, (707-468-9886, www.mendowine.com).
* Train tours. Ride a steam or diesel train along the scenic Mendocino coast and through redwood forests on the Skunk Train, which has daily 31/2-hour runs, plus special events that include wine tours and brunches. Details: 866-457-5865, www.skunktrain.com.
* Cheese factory tours. To tour the Point Reyes Original Blue farm and cheese factory, call 800-591-6878. For a map and a list of numerous dairy operations open for tours: www.realcaliforniacheese.com.
INFORMATION: West Marin Chamber of Commerce, 415-663-9232, www.pointreyes.org. Point Reyes National Seashore, 415-464-5100, www.nps.gov/pore. Mendocino County Alliance, 866-466-3636, www.gomendo.com.
-- Cindy Loose