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A&A Travel Review of Gualala | Coastal Northern California

Updated: Jun 24, 2020

End of Week #56

Gualala River Redwood Park, Gualala CA

Miles traveled since last week's post = 0

Total miles traveled to date = 7,955 with trailer

We have successfully completed our first official week of "real work" and the campground has been open for almost a week now too. We have been bustling around, busier than ever, filling up all of the spots we have to offer and welcoming families into the Redwoods. Many have been here before and have not been able to contain their excitement to return again, and some families have even been coming here for over 30-40 years! We welcome in large groups, those traveling the coast looking for a place to stay, and those that are looking to get out of the heat, or out of their homes after being confined for so long. A&A are learning the ropes quickly around here and fully immersing ourselves in life on the coast and in running a popular travel destination campground in the Redwoods.

For this week's post I want to take you on a journey in reviewing our coastal community of Gualala and the surrounding areas of Mendocino and Sonoma county. It is an outstanding place in the Pacific Northwest that has so much to offer and explore. Things are opening up, restaurants are filling up, and we are coming back to life here in northern California!

Travel Review of Gualala | Coastal Northern California

Mendocino County

Highway 1 - Is a major north–south state highway that runs along most of the Pacific coastline of the U.S. state of California. At a total of just over 656 miles, it is the longest state route in California. It is also the highway that has made me car sick for basically the first time in my life, as the major twists and turns make my head spin and give me extreme nausea.

South Coast


Our "home" for the summer; a small coastal community of about 2,000 people, and situated about 4 hours north of San Francisco. Some people pronounce this with a 'G' and some pronounce it with a 'W'... essentially just depending on if you are a local and if you are confident in your pronounciation or not. The name Gualala, means 'where the water flows down', which makes sense with the Gualala river running through town and budding up with the ocean where whales are frequently spotted stopping for their own sort of lunch. This is a very unique coastal community with amazing views like you've never seen before in California and we feel lucky and special to get to spend an extended amount of time here. If it wasn't for our workamping job this might be a town we never would have found and a part of northern California we would never have experienced.

Here are some awesome places to check out while in Gualala.

Restaurants & businesses

  • Cove Azul - A cute, small bar and restaurant 'downtown' that offers a seafood focused menu. We have now ate here two times, both indoor dining as the covid restrictions have started to lift. The prices are reasonable and they have windows and a small patio facing the ocean, while being perched on a hill, which offers nice views of the town and the coast. So far this appears to be one of the only places that has a bar, so this will probably be our most common town hangout all summer.

  • Trinks Cafe - Another place added to my quest to find a donut on the coast. While I did not find any donuts here either, I did have a cheesecake scone, which wasn't really like a scone in my opinion, but it was good nonetheless. Their menu seems a bit pricey compared to a lot of other places in town, so we probably won't frequent here as much.

  • Saint Orres - A Russian style restaurant and building on the hill in north Gualala, and apparently known for their basil martinis. We have been advised that it is a good place to drink, although the drinks may be spendy, but it is not the best place to eat. I have no doubt that we will be checking this place out soon and drawing our own conclusions.

  • Gualala Seafood Shack - Another place we keep trying to eat at but they apparently are closed certain days of the week and close early other days. We keep missing their schedule but have been told we have to get the fish and chips here, as the serving is generous and delicious.

  • Gualala Pizza and Bakery - A strange combination of basically all my favorite foods, but they oddly never seem to be offering them all at the same time. They too have strange hours that have been hard to keep up with, but we have tried a variety of their food items. I also went here to search for a donut, but ended up with an almond pastry of some sort. We ordered a very large pizza here one night, and it was definitely better than the frozen Costco pizzas we have been getting. Recently we went here for burritos the size of your face, which I would get again, and they also have a pretty good taco bowl salad!

  • Grocery stores, post office, hardware stores - All located in town, with limited items and services. There is one pretty organic friendly grocery store called the Surf Market, but items in there are so ridiculously priced we still don't shop there. They do apparently have good sandwiches to go from their deli though, so some day we will check those out. The Surf Market also does barbecue cookouts on weekends, with ribs and chicken and everytime we drive past the smell drives Adam wild.

There is also a Cannabis shop in a town, a mystical woo-woo store that I can't wait to check out, vacation rentals, and a few other places to eat too.


  • Cooks Beach - The only local beach in the town of Gualala, a bit smaller than some of the other nearby ones, but a great place to get out of the trees and hang out at the ocean. This was the first beach we got to explore while we have been staying here, as it was one of the first ones to open back up after covid restrictions started to lift.

  • Gualala River Redwood Park, Gualala River, Canoeing, Kayaking - The only campground in town, and the place we call home, situated right on the Gualala River. The river runs into the ocean, which is just a mile away from the GRRP campground. This is a wonderful place to canoe, kayak, jump into the river, hike the river, and indulge in all your favorite outdoor activities, while still enjoying the canopy of redwood trees, and the coast.

  • Gualala Arts Center - Our next door neighbors, and one of the few places we have yet to explore. The arts center has been mostly closed since we have arrived and they are not currently offering their typical events, but one day soon I know we will go see what they are all about.

Point Arena

The next town directly north of Gualala is a another small coastal community called Point Arena. It is a another vibrant coastal community with a small town charm, and doesn't really appear to be that much different in size from Gualala. The population here is a lot less than Gualala but they do have a school, a casino and other points of interest not found in our other little coastal town just 12 miles south of here.

Here are some great places to check out in Point Arena.

  • Schooner Gulch State Beach - Also known as 'Bowling Ball Beach' area, and an expansive beach area with coastal trails to explore.

  • Point Arena Lighthouse & Museum - The Point Arena=Stornetta Lands of the California Coastal National Monument provide miles of hiking along the coastal bluffs. The Point Arena Lighthouse provides spectacular views of the coastal landscape.

  • Casino - Tucked back away from the coast, it appears to be a red barn in the middle of nowhere, but it is a local casino! Currently not open due to covid, but potentially opening up by the end of summer. This iconic 115 foot tall lighthouse is the tallest on the Pacific coast, and they just recently reopened their doors for weekend visits.

  • B. Bryan Preserve - We did not know this was here until yesterday when we randomly came across some zebra chilling in the grass and soon found out it was an animal conservation park!

North Coast

  • Navarro Beach - A beautiful area where another river meets the ocean, in a huge valley and area marked with tsunami warnings. We stopped here on our way to Fort Bragg and it was extremely windy the day we went there, so we hope to come back again sometime later in the summer. The beach is quite expensive to explore, and soak up the sun.

  • Van Dam State Park/Beach - My absolute favorite beach to date, with a special cove area where the water was calm and turquoise and the beach was white and pretty. We can't wait to go back here and spend a whole entire day here relaxing oceanside. In fact, we were supposed to go this week on our day off but the temperatures keep changing and dropping, and when it's only a high of 60 degrees it can be pretty cold to lay on the coast. This place was just stunning and almost made me forget I was in northern California.


Another "larger" city along highway 1, just south of Fort Bragg, known for its cliffside trails and beaches at Mendocino Headlands State Park - which we have yet to visit. However we have driven through this area on our way north to Fort Bragg. Mendocino is one of a handful of 'larger' coastal towns, compared to the small towns such as Gualala and Point Arena.

Fort Bragg

Fort Bragg was founded in 1857, prior to the American Civil War