This magnificent stretch of coastline is known for its rugged beauty and quiet wilderness, from Gualala in the south to Point Arena, Manchester, Irish Beach, and Elk to the north. On a drive along our coast, one is occasionally rewarded with a dramatic vista of coastal wilderness. Some homes are situated to immerse you in a private retreat of visions of the sea or encapsulate your tiny being in the sanctuary of a redwood cathedral forest.
In the mid-1800’s, the area was indeed a true wilderness. Timber became the main catalyst to spur economic expansion and development in the area, followed by dairy farms near Point Arena and Manchester. Timber demand remained relatively strong through the 1920’s then began a long, slow decline eventually becoming a shadow of its heyday. The last lumber mill closed in Gualala in 1970.
Point Arena, more than any other coastal town, became inexorably linked to the sea. It became well known to sailors for its protected cove and wharf for small vessels as well as being a graveyard for ships, with a history of over 40 hitting the rocks and foundering. To navigate safely around the point, the Point Arena lighthouse was first constructed in 1870 and rebuilt after the 1906 earthquake. The lighthouse is currently open to the public and yes….you can take the circular staircase up 115 feet to the top if you wish. There is an admission fee of $5/adult and $1/child.
Today, southern Mendocino County is home to multi-generational families as well as newly arrived, independent-spirited folk. Most relish the mild maritime climate, clean air, slow paced rural life, and being surrounded by nature whether it be flora, fauna, terra firma, or oceanic. Tourism, construction, the service industries, dairy farming, and limited commercial fishing as well as logging tend to be the main economic forces today.
The cultural scene consists of hometown picnics, fairs and festivals, art exhibitions, concerts and theatrical performances. Art in the Redwoods (held each August in Gualala) is an extravaganza providing a platform for area and out-of-area artists to display their work for show and sale.
Concerts are held regularly and range from country blues to classical performers from the San Francisco Symphony. Live theater has been a main event, with several venues throughout the year.