While the coastal scenery is stupendous all the way along the Mendocino coast, one place worth keeping an eye out for on the drive along Hwy-1 is the tiny roadside community of Elk (pop. 208), 15 miles south of Mendocino. Elk is a wonderful little wide spot in the road, with what must be one of the oldest and most characterful service stations in California—the Elk Garage, in business since 1901—alongside a great little veggie-friendly breakfast-and-lunch road-food stop: Queenie’s Roadhouse Café (707/877-3285, Thurs.-Mon.).
If you have the time and means for a splurge, the peaceful oceanfront Elk Cove Inn & Spa (707/877-3321, $145 and up) is a delightful small B&B inn. Elk also boasts a general store and a steep trail leading down to the Pacific shore at Greenwood Cove.