10 miles N of Mendocino; 176 miles N of San Francisco

As the Mendocino coast's commercial center -- hence the site of most of the area's fast-food restaurants and supermarkets -- Fort Bragg is far more down- to-earth than Mendocino. Inexpensive motels and cheap eats used to be its only attractions, but over the past few years, gentrification has spread throughout the town, as the logging and fishing industries have steadily declined. With no room left to open new shops in Mendocino, many gallery, boutique, and restaurant owners have moved up the road. The result is a huge increase in Fort Bragg's tourist trade, particularly during the Whale Festival in March and Paul Bunyan Days over Labor Day weekend.

To explore the town properly, get a free walking-tour map from the Fort Bragg/Mendocino Coast Chamber of Commerce, 217 N. Main St. (P.O. Box 1141), Fort Bragg, CA 95437 (tel. 707/961-6300; www.mendocinocoast.com). The friendly staff can answer most questions about Mendocino, Fort Bragg, and the surrounding region.