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Fort Bragg is also the home of the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, 18220 N. Hwy. 1 (tel. 707/964-4352; www.gardenbythesea.org), about 7 miles north of Mendocino. This cliff-top public garden, set among the pines along the coast, nurtures rhododendrons, fuchsias, azaleas, and a multitude of flowering shrubs. The area has bridges, streams, canyons, dells, picnic areas, and trails for easy walking. Admission is $10 for adults, $7.50 for seniors ages 60 and over, $2 for youth 13 to 17, $2 for children 6 to 12, and free for children 5 and under. (Children 17 and under must be accompanied by an adult.) The gardens are open daily March through October from 9am to 5pm, November through February from 9am to 4pm.

The North Coast Brewing Company, 455 N. Main St. (tel. 707/964-2739; www.northcoastbrewing.com), is also worth investigating. Free tours are offered every Saturday at noon and reservations aren't required -- just show up. Across the street, the Brewing Company's pub is open for lunch and dinner.

A Train Ride Through the Redwoods

Built as a logging railroad in 1885, the North Coast's vintage Skunk Train line was originally used for moving massive redwood logs from the rugged back country to the Mendocino Coast sawmills. Today it's one of the North Coast's largest tourist attractions, taking visitors on a scenic route through the redwood forest, crossing 31 bridges and trestles, cutting through two deep tunnels, and chugging past giant trees that are more than 1,000 years old, before reaching a secluded, forested glen accessible only by train.

The trains run daily from the Fort Bragg Depot at the foot of Laurel Avenue from March 1 to November 31, and on Saturdays December through February. Schedules vary, particularly during holidays; call for details. In summer, it's a good idea to make reservations. Tickets cost from $47 to $75 for adults and $22 to $40 children ages 3 to 11, depending on the day, time, and train. The 4 1/2-hour Sunset Dinner Barbecue ride includes an elaborate barbecue dinner with huge baskets and trays of homemade bread, barbecue chicken and ribs, baked beans, garden salads, and a "surprise" dessert. For more information, call tel. 866/457-5865 or 707/459-1060, or see www.skunktrain.com.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.