Highway 1 meanders north from Gualala, giving way after about an hour to Mendocino, whose Victorian architecture and moody gray skies threaten to out–New England New England. No surprise, then, that the town doubled as the fictional Cabot Cove, Maine, on TV's Murder, She Wrote, which starred Angela Lansbury as — what else? — a writer.
Visitors to Cabot Cove had a funny habit of being murdered upon arrival, so it's fitting that the Hill House Inn, one of the locations used in the show, is unnervingly situated across the street from a cemetery. Hard-core Jessica Fletcher fans can check into the inn's Jessica Suite, where Lansbury once laid her head, or the Angela Suite at the nearby Blair House, Jessica's home on the show.
With sidewalks that get rolled up around nine o'clock, Mendocino offers few distractions for the literarily inclined: a smattering of restaurants, a pair of spirited pubs. The biggest attraction is the awesome Mendocino Headlands, perched on the bluffs over a furiously churning sea; it's as if you're watching the inner turmoil of generations of authors writ large on the landscape itself. As tremendous waves crash around the jagged, untamed rocks below, the coastline delivers more drama and Sturm und Drang than any fiction Jessica Fletcher could cook up.