If you're asking yourself, where is Fort Bragg? – it's a charming coastal town in California, rich with history and natural beauty. Whether you're a resident or a traveler looking for what to do in Fort Bragg, this guide offers various affordable activities. Discover what to do in Fort Bragg, California, without breaking the bank, tailored especially for readers of The Frugal Expat.
1. North Coast Brewing Company
If you want things to do in Fort Bragg to relax and enjoy quality beer, then The North Coast Brewing Company's Taproom is the spot. Their historic bar in the pub has been beautifully refinished, giving it a fresh yet classic feel. They have stepped up their game in the kitchen, too with a range of tasty and healthy food options that perfectly complement their award-winning beers. Their full menu covers everything – from appetizers to salads and even nightly specials.
A bonus? They host live music on most Friday and Saturday nights, adding to the vibrant atmosphere.
2. Pacific Star Winery
Traveling on a budget doesn't mean missing out on quality experiences. At Pacific Star Winery, you can savor the taste of 5 distinct wines for just $15, and that's why its on our list of things to do in Fort Bragg.
The winery, a combination of redwood and stone, offers more than just wines; it’s an experience. Situated against a cliff, a natural rock formation shields it from the waves, providing a serene backdrop for your tasting.
Inside, the barrels, sourced from different regions – French, Hungarian, or American oak – highlight their commitment to diverse and quality winemaking. And here's where the magic happens: the location. The waves underneath play a role in naturally filtering the wine, while the salty sea air helps create a unique richness in their wines.
Budget tip: If you want to understand the best pairings or more about their wines, just ring them up. They’re happy to guide you, ensuring you get the best value for your money.
3. Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens
California boasts numerous picturesque botanical spaces, yet Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens holds a unique allure. Its diverse landscape offers more than just a stunning variety of plants—it's a journey through coastal cliffs, dense woodlands, and lush wetlands.
No matter when you decide to drop by, there's always a vibrant display waiting for you. Especially noteworthy are the dazzling dahlias that adorn the gardens from late summer to early fall, captivating visitors with their vibrant hues.
As you wander, admire the historic roses during the warm months and the brilliant rhododendrons when spring graces the garden. If you are after things to do in Fort Bragg this weekend, put the gardens at the top of your list.
4. Visit Glass Beach
Glass Beach in Fort Bragg is an iconic attraction, not for its sandy stretches but for its unique, colorful glass pebbles. It is also one of the best things to do in Fort Bragg with dogs. Nestled in MacKerricher State Park, it spans over 15 acres and has an intriguing past. Once called “The Dumps,” residents used this area as a landfill, discarding glass objects, among other waste, until 1967. Although larger debris was later cleared, myriad glass pieces remained.
Over decades, nature's persistent waves and wind transformed this glass into vibrant, polished stones that melded with the beach's natural grains. Today, these coves brim with sea glass, a testament to nature's rejuvenation ability. However, if you're wondering, “Can you take glass from Glass Beach Fort Bragg?” the answer is no. As part of a state park, collecting or removing sea glass is prohibited by law. Visitors are urged to admire but leave the beauty undisturbed.
5. Explore Mackerricher State Park
You'll discover MacKerricher State Park, a diverse natural haven just a short distance north of Fort Bragg. It showcases a rich tapestry of environments, from sandy beaches and coastal bluffs to dense forests and wetlands. Wander the shoreline to find intricate tide pools or spot seals lounging on distant rocks. Cleone Lake, once a tidal lagoon, is now a hotspot for bird enthusiasts, with over 90 avian species calling it home or a stopover. The prominent feature of the park is the striking Laguna Point rocky shores.
Only about 3 miles outside of Fort Bragg, the park offers a blend of dunes, lagoons, and rugged headlands. Its boundaries stretch from Fort Bragg to the Ten Mile River, largely connected by the Haul Road. It's one of the best things to do in Fort Bragg for walkers, runners, horse riders, and cyclists. Additionally, there's an accessible nature trail designed for all. For extended stays, the park offers camping facilities and RV accommodations.
6. Bike or Hike The Fort Bragg Coastal Trail
Discover Fort Bragg's Seaside Pathway, a smooth 8-foot wide path that traces the town's coastline to the North and South. Perfect for both walking and cycling, this path is suitable for families. Begin your journey at the parking area situated at Elm Street's western end, near Glass Beach. Journey through stretches of coastal bluffs, rejuvenated after years of concealment behind the old mill site's barriers. You can access the pathway from sunrise to sunset. This is definitely one of the things to do around fort bragg for lovers of the outdoors.
7. Triangle Tattoo & Museum
Triangle Tattoo & Museum in Fort Bragg, established in 1986 by Mr. G and Madame Chinchilla, stands out as one of the few museums globally spotlighting tattoo artifacts. Those interested in the vibrant history of tattoo culture will find this place invaluable. Notable exhibits include the “women’s wall” and ancient Japanese tattoo tools. Visitors will gain insights into global tattoo artistry, its evolution, and the tools integral to the craft. Open daily from noon to 6 p.m., the museum welcomes guests with free admission. Those intrigued can even book a tattoo appointment with the renowned artists. Perfect for both enthusiasts and the curious.
8. Visit Pudding Creek Beach
For followers of The Frugal Expat, Pudding Creek Beach is a must-visit, free gem in MacKerricher State Park. Here, you can relish the serenity of a beach surrounded by grand rock walls without denting your budget. The historical wooden train trestle, now repurposed as a recreational bridge, adds a touch of nostalgia. As you stroll, discover multiple footpaths that lead to picture-perfect viewpoints. Notably, a vast tidal pool to the north is perfect for exploration. And if you fancy a longer walk, nearby trails connect to other beaches, including the renowned Glass Beach we mentioned above. It's an ideal spot for frugal travelers looking to enjoy natural beauty without the price tag.
9. Walk Around Downtown Fort Bragg
Downtown Fort Bragg is an excellent spot for everyone. If you like art, check out the colorful wall paintings around town. One of the special paintings shows a lighthouse called “The Lighthouse.” There are also art shops like Northcoast Artists Gallery and Glass Fire Art to look around in. If you want to buy something as a gift to take home, then plenty of tourist shops sell things like pottery, necklaces, clothes, and gifts. There is a central business area for those interested in old stories. If you are lucky enough, there might be a guided tour that you can join.
10. Visit Guest House Museum
The Guest House Museum is an important spot in Fort Bragg. It's a big old house built in 1892 from redwood trees. It was made by a wealthy man named Charles Russell Johnson for special guests and himself. The house was special because it was the first in the area with electricity and running water. It even has beautiful colored glass windows near the stairs. Today, it's a place where you can learn about Fort Bragg's history and see old things from the town. Friendly people inside will tell you stories about the past. Outside, there's a big piece of a really old tree. The museum is near the famous Skunk Train on 343 North Main Street. It's usually open on Saturdays from 10 am to 4 pm. It's free to go in, but they accept donations.
11. Kayak The Noyo River
Want to try kayaking? The Noyo River is a great spot. It's less famous than Mendocino's Big River but is calm and pretty. You can put your kayak in the water at two spots in the South Harbor. If you don't have a kayak, you can rent one all year from Subsurface Progression or in the summer from Noyo Fishing Center. The best way to see the Noyo River is with a guided tour.
12. Walk Around Noyo Harbor
Noyo Harbor in Fort Bragg is one of the last working harbors on the US West Coast. It's perfect for a walk where you can watch fishing boats go out and come back with fresh fish. The harbor is busy with the sounds of bells and whistles, and you'll see boats, ropes, and all the activity of a natural seaport. There are also many good seafood restaurants in the Noyo Harbor District. Noyo Fish Company has seafood ready to cook or eat. Sea Pal Cove is famous for its hamburgers and fish and chips. Dolphin Isle is good for breakfast and sandwiches, and Silver’s at the Wharf and Princess Seafood Restaurant are great for lunch and dinner, with lovely views and music.
13. Ride The Skunk Train
The Skunk Train is a special journey through the redwoods that's been around since 1885. You'll ride through big old trees, go over bridges, and pass through cool tunnels to reach the Noyo River Canyon. The views are beautiful and look the same as over 100 years ago. Wondering about the name “Skunk Train”? The train had a strong smell in the past because of its fumes. People said it was like a skunk because you could smell it before seeing it. But don't worry, it's just a fun name now! The real name is California Western Railroad. It's a great way to see nature and learn some history.
14. Walk The Pomo Bluffs Park Trail
Pomo Bluffs Park in Fort Bragg sits on a high cliff near the Noyo River. From February to April, it's a great place to see gray whales as they move to colder waters up north. There's a smooth path for walking and cycling along the cliff and some smaller dirt paths that lead to points over the rough sea. Watch the waves hit the rocks and see Noyo Bay on the park's north side. You can also spot Noyo Harbor Beach from the cliff. There are seats along the path where you can sit and enjoy the lovely view. Remember, there's no beach here, and the edges are high, so don’t go too close to the edge while walking.
15. Visit The Model Railroad
Discover the area's logging past with a visit to the Model Railroad. This captivating display boasts over 1,300 feet of track, representing six real-life miles. Witness miniature versions of logging camps, bridges, a pier, a town, and more. A treat for both kids and adults!
This family-friendly attraction offers a detailed peek into the logging history through its intricate model setup. Find this fascinating railroad just beside the Skunk Train Depot in Fort Bragg. And the best part? Entry is complimentary with a Skunk Train ticket.
16. Eat With The Locals
David's Deli – Currently topping the list on Trip Advisor, this local deli near the harbor is a favorite hangout spot in Mendocino. Not only does it boast a diverse menu, but you can also expect generous portions. Nestled in the boatyard shopping center, it's a top pick for breakfast or lunch.
Eggheads Restaurant – Many say, “It's not a trip to Fort Bragg without breakfast at Eggheads!” Dive into a unique experience with its Wizard of Oz theme throughout, making every meal magical.
The Wharf – This spot serves local cuisine ranging from American to seafood. What stands out is the scenic harbor view, especially if you're seated next to the window. Perfect for watching boats glide by while you dine.
Fort Bragg is an excellent spot on the California coast with lots to do. Lovely beaches, old trains, good shops, and tasty eating places exist. It's an excellent place with loads of history and things to see. Plus, it's not expensive. If you haven't been to Fort Bragg yet, you should check it out.
I’m Steve. I’m an English Teacher, traveler, and an avid outdoorsman. If you’d like to comment, ask a question, or simply say hi, leave me a message here, on Twitter (@thefrugalexpat1). Many of my posts have been written to help those in their journey to financial independence. I am on my journey, and as I learn more I hope to share more. And as always, thanks for reading The Frugal Expat.