A morning mist hangs heavy over the ocean: a cozy, coastal blanket, seasonless and constant. The bright white Victorian angles of the Little River Inn contrast the rugged, regal seascape, and the manicured grounds between the two unite them in a symphonic asymmetry. This is what I see. My kids? A vast grassy wonderland of lavishing life on the literal edge – I can feel their tiktok wheels churning. Mendocino. She is magic, ageless, and I’ll say it. Adorable.
We were here on a family excursion in this pristine piece of coastline that proved to provide joy from the teen set on up (younger if you ask the other families). Getting here is no joke. After flying into SFO, we drove about 3.5 hours north, some of them harrowing, some stunning, all worth it. Mendocino is not to be stumbled upon. Remote, removed, Redwood lined like its personal expansive, ecological red carpet: it is every bit a destination.
We began with a delicious dinner by the sea, compliments of Executive Chef Marc Dym. Ours featured fresh rockfish and also some fried pickles. Got us nice and sated for a Saturday morning kayak down the Noyo River, complements of Liquid Fusion Kayaking. Not a lot of experiences combine the interplay of sea lions and harbor seals, little river otters, and an upper body workout. This is a gentle guided glide, 90 minutes spent kayaking down the Noyo. Cate is wonderful – she showed us around the river, knowledgeable as she is kind, (as is her husband Jeff, so I hear). The visuals, the air, the atmosphere all make up for the awkwardness one feels when one is not a natural in such scenarios. Or when one learns they are excellent at kayaking in a circle. Fortunately, endorphins don’t know the difference. And they stick around for the afterparty.
Which for us, happened on the railbikes, the ones that follow the world-famous Skunk train tracks. What a blissful rush this pedal trip is – forest bathing by bike, hands free Flintstoning your way through the Redwoods. Surrounded by stunning, statuesque trees, on electric bikes you pedal in virtual solitude over wooden trestle bridges, and after a sensory saturating journey, you pull into Glen Blair Junction for an hour break (50 minutes, actually). There, we hiked about a mile loop – wild iris and trillium and skyscraping arbors taken in, hop back on the bike and drink it all in on the way home. The entire trip takes about two hours. It is a spectacular intermingle of exercise and enchanted forest. An awesome way to afternoon.
Bodies a bit done, we return to our ocean view deluxe suite, the balcony makes it possible to continue taking in the out. The view is nonstop. This sweet little inn, fifth generation owned, has all the charms of a house built in 1853, because it was. Converted into an inn in 1939, hospitality inhabits all nooks, and a homespun ease makes relaxing an ever refreshing reality.
A BBQ on Van Damme Beach topped the night off. Our beings were physically spent – and if inhaling that salted sea air while charring (some of us like them extra toasted) marshmallows wasn’t the most excellent sign off, I don’t know what would be.
Except maybe the baby goats at Pennyroyal Farm. If these little nuggets weren’t the most precious punctuation of this trip – ridiculous levels of cute. And what they can do! Pennyroyal Farmstead cheese ups the artisanal ante – all milk comes from the farms own animals, who have been nurtured and raised from birth.
And if a cheese tasting speaks to you in a field of vines and foxgloves… or a wine (or grape juice, flights available for the under 21 set) tasting. A creamery tour, plus some one-on-one goat intros, take the Pennyroyal Farm Tour. The scenics are so lovely, the animal care an education, and the fruits of all their labor; delicious.
The beauty of this small town is a little too tremendous to digest all at once. Aged staircases built into the cliffs that cascade you right down to the beach. Where wild kale grows bountifully and berries are there on the vine, and wildflowers line the path. SeaGlass beach, which is literally all sea glass where we’re used to sand, is an ecological wonder, spectacular to experience. The endless trails that take you to impossibly breathtaking vistas, one after another, like it’s nothing. And you stop to breathe it in and it’s a little bit everything.
There is something so endearing about an 82-year-old honed hideaway that hosts your perch above the Pacific. It feels like the way Mendocino was meant to be experienced. So warm (the feelings, not the weather), so authentic, and a heightened hospitality that feels like a lost art. Inn owners Cally, Marc (Executive Chef), and their son Max Dym go well beyond measure to make your stay an enchanted one. When it stays with you, enjoy the nostalgia. If it’s anything like mine, it’ll hang around like that morning mist.
Little River Inn, 7901 N. Highway One, Little River, CA 95456, United States.
Tel: +1(707) 937-5942 / 1-888-INN-LOVE (Toll Free)
The closest airport is San Francisco International (SFO). Little River Inn is then about a 3½ hour drive north. Take the 101 to the 128 to the 1, just before Mendocino. The Inn is perched on the hillside above Van Damme State Beach and free self-parking is available.
Type of Hotel: 3-Star Resort Hotel
Number of Rooms: 65 room with complimentary Wi-Fi. The Inn is also pet-friendly.
Price Band: Medium
Insider Tip: Little River Inn owners Marc and Cally have an intimate knowledge of this sacred land. See them for all pro tips!
Reviewer’s Rating: 8/10
Jolie Loeb is a Luxury Lifestyle columnist based in Los Angeles.
Photographs by Jolie Loeb