166 miles N of San Francisco

Mendocino is the premier destination on California's Northern Coast. Despite (or because of) its relative isolation, it emerged as one of Northern California's major centers for the arts in the 1950s. It's easy to see why artists were -- and still are -- attracted to this idyllic community, a cluster of New England-style captains' homes and stores on headlands overlooking the ocean.

At the height of the logging boom, Mendocino was an important and active port. Its population was about 3,500 residents, who constructed eight hotels, 17 saloons, and more than a dozen bordellos. Today it has only about 1,000 residents, and most reside on the north end of town. On summer weekends, the population seems more like 10,000, as hordes of tourists drive up from the Bay Area. Despite the crowds, however, Mendocino manages to retain its charm.