The amazing thing about the West Coast is that it is still mostly wild, open, and astoundingly beautiful country, where you can drive for miles and miles and have the scenery all to yourself.
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. 250), 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 (6061 S. Hwy-1, 707/877-3285, closed Tues.-Wed.).
Elk also boasts a general store, some quirky cliffside cabins, and a steep trail leading down to the Pacific shore at Greenwood Cove. If you have the time and means for a splurge, the peaceful oceanfront Elk Cove Inn (6300 S. Hwy-1, 707/877-3321, $100 and up) is a delightful small B&B inn.