Mendocino is a small coastal town in Northern California known for its rocky coastline, wineries, and Redwoods. Unlike Big Sur, Sonoma, and Napa, Mendocino remains one of Northern California’s most hidden gems. A small population, variety of state parks, and fresh local foods makes Mendocino one of the best places to elope in California. Whether you’re looking for elopement locations, lodging recommendations, or elopement packages, you’re in the right place. This is the ultimate Mendocino elopement guide, filled with everything you need to know about planning your very own elopement along this slice of the Northern California coast.
How Do I Get To Mendocino?
Mendocino is a fairly remote town, so it’s going to require a bit of driving to reach. Below are the closest airports to town.
- Charles M. Schulz-Conoma County Airport – 2 hours. They offer nonstop flights from most large cities on the West Coast, though their prices are a bit more expensive due to fewer flight options.
- San Francisco International Airport – 3 hours. Most recommended airport to fly into due to low prices and proximity to town.
- Sacramento International Airport – 3.5 hours. Second most recommend airport to fly into if you’re not a big fan of huge airports.
5 Best Places to Elope in Mendocino
Choosing your perfect ceremony location can be an exciting, yet daunting process. To help you narrow down your search, these are the 5 best places to elope in Mendocino.
Mendocino Headlands State Park
Mendocino Headlands State Park is the most popular place to elope in Mendocino. The park has miles of walking trails along its 347 acres of undeveloped seaside bluffs, hidden beaches, and even a 7,400-acre wildlife corridor. Many of the ceremony locations in Mendocino Headlands State Park are very accessible and located just outside of the downtown area. You can’t go wrong with this location for your elopement.
Russian Gulch State Park
Russian Gulch State Park is another popular spot for elopements in Mendocino. This beautiful area is home to various waterfalls, fern-covered trails, and wildflower meadows. The park extends out to coast, making it the perfect location for couples wishing to see multiple different landscapes throughout the day.
Mendocino Woodlands State Park
You don’t need to travel far to be surrounded by giant Redwoods on your wedding day. In fact, you can find over 700 acres of them in Mendocino Woodlands State Park. This park sees less visitors than the two mentioned above, but has some of the best views around. There are over 25 miles of hiking trails, many of which are off the beaten path and secluded, perfect for intimate elopements.
Point Cabrillo Light Station State Historic Park
Point Cabrillo Light Station State Historic Park is famous for its lighthouse, Point Cabrillo, which was built between 1908 and 1909. The lighthouse sits on over 270 acres of land that include hiking trails and a variety of wildlife. This is also one of the best dog-friendly spots in Mendocino, making it the best elopement location for couples with furry friends.
Pomo Bluffs Park
Pomo Bluffs Park is one of my personal favorite locations on this list. While it’s technically located in Fort Bragg, the park is just 15 minutes from downtown Mendocino. The landscape here is vast and similar to that of Big Sur and even Ireland in some spots. This is one of the most accessible and dog-friendly locations you can find, making it a great spot for elopements with friends and family. Images by: Inspired Imperfection.
When Is the Best Time of Year to Elope in Mendocino?
From June to August, Mendocino is lively with crowds from the Bay Area, Sacramento, and other neighboring towns. Many of the parks are busy with people enjoying the sun and coastal breeze. While summer is by no means a bad time to elope in Mendocino, it’s not the most ideal. Summer weather brings higher prices, larger crowds, and more traffic. While there are definitely areas of Mendocino you can escape to in order to avoid all the people, I recommend waiting until the fall season for your elopement.
Fall is a gorgeous time of year to visit Mendocino. While the mornings and nights are chilly, the lack of tourists make up for it. If you visit during peak fall time, be sure to drive through the towering tunnel of trees along the Navarro River in Anderson Valley. The fall colors are incredible. You truly can’t go wrong eloping in Mendocino during the fall.
Winter is one of the most underrated seasons for elopements in general, but in Mendocino, it’s extremely underrated. The winter season is whale watching season in Northern California, which means in Mendocino, you’ll be able to see gray whales migrating. Yes, the temperatures are colder this time of year, but I promise the chilly temperatures are worth the magic.
Spring is one of the most beautiful times of year to visit Mendocino. Along the coast, wildflowers are in full bloom, whales can still be seen, and the sun is beginning to show. The temperatures around this time are pleasant, and the summer crowds have yet to make their way up north. This is one of my favorite seasons in Mendocino.
How Do I Get a Marriage License for My Mendocino Elopement?
You can get a marriage license in any county in California. However, if you’re hoping to get one specifically in Mendocino, the process is very easy.
All you need to do is call the County Clerk’s office at (707)-234-6819 to schedule a marriage license appointment. You will both need to show up with your IDs and $85 for the license. You can complete the application there or fill it out ahead of time.
If you need more information, check out the official website here.
Do I Need an Officiant and Witness to Elope in Mendocino?
Yes, you will need two witnesses and an officiant to elope in Mendocino.
Pro tip: I’m ordained and officiate ceremonies for free for my couples! Friends and family members can also become ordained to officiate ceremonies for free online.
Do I Need a Permit to Elope in Mendocino?
Because Mendocino is made up primarily of state parks, you will more than likely need a special use permit in order to have a ceremony. That being said, this is dependent on the park you choose, number of guests you’re bringing, etc. I help all my couples obtain permits if needed.
Best Places to Stay in Mendocino
Mendocino has some of the most charming places to stay for couples. Below are some of my personal favorites.
- Handcrafted Hideaway – A small and romantic cabin tucked deep in the woods of Mendocino.
- Stunning A-Frame Cabin – An a-frame cabin surrounded by Redwoods with a hot tub and cozy interior.
- Water Tower Retreat – A tiny home nestled among Redwoods with boho design.
- Yellow Oceanfront Getaway – Oceanfront cottage on the bluff-top with private tide pools and a wrap around deck.
- Sea Star Cottage – A charming cottage near the ocean with a lush garden and classic vibe.
- Nicholson House – A 5-star hotel near the headlands originally built in the 1800s.
- Brewery Gulch Inn – An eco-salvaged Redwood hotel with a lean and contemporary arts and crafts style.
- Sea Rock Inn – A charming cottage-style hotel with stunning ocean views.
- Heritage House Resort and Spa – A luxurious and romantic 37-acre sanctuary with rustic charm.
- Mendocino Hotel – A charming boutique hotel right along the beach.
Best Things to Do for Your Mendocino Elopement
One of the reasons I specialize and adore shooting elopements is because of the freedom and flexibility it gives each couple on their wedding day. Many couples choose to incorporate and document some sort of activity or excursion on their elopement day, so they can look back and truly remember their wedding day forever. Here are some suggestions to help get you started.
- Go on a whale-watching tour during the winter months
- Enjoy a luxury picnic on the bluffs of Mendocino
- Have a fresh local lunch at Trillium Cafe
- Walk the streets of downtown Mendocino, stopping in local shops to purchase souvenirs
- Go canoeing or kayaking along the water
- Visit the botanical gardens
- Attend one of the many festivals Mendocino puts on each season
- Ride a railbike or take a train ride through the Redwoods in Fort Bragg
- Explore the local lighthouses
- Check out the local museums and art galleries
Mendocino Elopement Packages
I’m Brianna, a Northern California-based elopement photographer who helps couples all around the world plan epic elopement days in beautiful places. Aside from pictures, I also help my couples plan their weddings, by providing custom location lists, vendor recommendations, timelines, permit and marriage license assistance, and so much more. Take a peek at what’s included in my elopement packages below.
- 4 hours – 2 days of elopement coverage anywhere in California
- A personalized elopement planning experience with unlimited assistance
- Personalized elopement location recommendations
- Vendor, lodging, and activity recommendations
- Assistance and information to help you with permits, licenses, etc.
- 90+ page elopement planning guide filled with tips and tricks
- Customized elopement timelines
- Optional complimentary officiant services
- Online gallery with full resolution images and printing rights
- 24-48 hour sneak peeks to share with the world
- Travel fees to anywhere in California are already included
- Starting at $6,500
Need more elopement inspiration? Check out my Redwood National Park Elopement Guide, Northern California Elopement Guide, and The 12 Best Places to Elope in the Pacific Northwest!
Don’t forget your FREE elopement guide!
An all-in-one planning guide for all things elopements! Whether you’re hoping to hike through the mountains of Washington or sip a margarita on the beaches of California, this comprehensive elopement guide has everything you need to know about how to plan the perfect elopement.
You? You’re the kind of person that gets a lil’ teary eyed looking at an epic view…
That moment when you turn to the person you’re with and ask, “Are you seeing this?” I live for it. Places with trees and mountains and soft breezes that make you say, “I can’t believe this place exists,” I spend pretty much all of my free time searching for and exploring them.
These places have always felt like home to me. And if you’re the kind of person who also feels more at home surrounded by trees than by people? Then we’ll get along really well. The Pacific Northwest is full of secret spots that are too special to share with just anyone. But it would make me happy to share them with you on your wedding day.
(I promise you won’t regret it.)
P.S. I’m Brianna. My mission is to create custom, one-of-a-kind elopement experiences in the Pacific Northwest that allow couples to fully immerse themselves in the highest levels of excitement and wonder on a day designed exclusively for them.