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
Wow, looks magnificent, what a setting! Thanks for yet another great review. Have never been to Mendocino, will put it on my list.
It’s a place I have longed wanted to visit…it’s on my bucket list. Your review just moved it up to the top. Loved your descriptions of the mornings…..heavenly.
This sounds like a great trip! I’m going to have to add this adventure to my bucket list!
Great article, I will definitely put Mendocino on my bucket list.
Loved visiting Mendocino County and staying at the Little River Inn with Cally and the food by Marc! Skunk Train was amazing and so was the whole coastal area. I would visit again! 10/10
I love goats and cheese and ice cream….. so I’m there!
Thanks again for painting such a beautiful picture!
Sounds like the most beautiful and fun family getaway! I’m so happy that you made it out there, you’ve been wanting to go since I’ve known you. I hope to be able to get out there sometime.
“And you stop to breathe it in and it’s a little bit everything.”
And once again, you’ve captured in an sentence, exactly the thing we long for in a vacation: that moment of full-bodied, presence of self-in-the-world as calm air, when we take a breath in and merge completely with the beauty that surround us. Thank you for creating the answer to that longing in words, right here.
Next, I must find my way to Mendocino.
Mendocino sounds like a place that I want to hide for a month or two. As set here and close my eyes, I can feel myself there in the mist of calm and peacefulness because at the point that feels like exactly what is I have dreaming of. When I travel north, I will put it on my list.
I love the Mendocino coast! You listed many reasons why I’d need to go back. The rail bike looks so cool!
Thank you for reminding me that this part of the coast isn’t just drive through country, on our way to or from big cities. This state is so spectacular when you explore every little part…
Gorgeous! I love your descriptions of this idyllic town. Sign me up for the Little River Inn. It looks like a dream.
I have never been there. It sounds wonderful!
LOVE the interplay of sportsing and vacationing! Looks really enjoyable, and I can practically smell that cool fresh air from here! Thanks for the heads up!
This sounds like a fantasy honeymoon. It looks like a world apart and the natural as well as engulfing human welcome is everything we search for. It’s like it’s own little pot of gold you can discover beneath your own very exclusive rainbow.
I’ve always enjoyed driving along Highway 1, especially the scenery and the many opportunities to stop and explore. I remember driving through Mendocino but have never stopped long enough to fully appreciate it. Mendocino has moved to the top of the list, with a special visit to Little River Inn.
Looks like an incredible getaway! The rail bike looks so so fun!
IT IS SO FUN!!! Now I look at railroads with such a different eye. . I want to put railbikes on all of them!
Mendocino has indeed been on our California bucket list for years and now I know why! We felt like we were in a different world, almost like the stunning drive through the redwood forests was like a gateway into remote, but comfortable and timeless destination. The landscape was stunning, the people kind, the accommodations and food at the highest end of “chill vacation” — who could ask for more? The $8/gallon gas was a brutal reminder of the real world out there, but beyond that, the Mendocino coast, Little River Inn, and the experiences around them all are worth coming back to again. Soon, I hope.
An expansive staircase up a cliff or hill or sand wall is one of the favorite things on the planet. I’m there!
What a gem! I’m adding this to my list for sure! Looks like a great time for a family getaway.
I’ve heard of this place! Now that it has your stamp of approval, it’s definitely on my list!
Ahhh, yes. Little River Inn. A memorable stop on our road trip to Oregon. We loved grabbing pizza for the kids in town and then enjoying a cocktail for ourselves at the Inn. Beautiful and welcomingly slow part of the coast. I can’t wait to go again!
You’ve been!! And we grabbed the same pizza – Franki’s, right? I feel so connected to you. . .
This sounds amazing! And so close … perfect for our next long-weekend getaway.
Jolie, you have perfected the ability to “show, not tell” when you write. Felt like I was there. Sounds so charming. But the “Flinstoning” was by far the best part! Thank you for yet another fabulous peek into another perhaps lesser known destination!
Wow – what a wonderful getaway! I hope to visit there as well. The big question would be to go with friends or family – LOL 🙂 Thanks for the beautiful photos and description.
That place looks divine! Love it!
Charging my teleportation machine ASAP. How romantic and wholesome and close to nature – my kinda place!
Beautiful. I felt relaxed just by reading your article. wonderful choice.
Railbikes, goats, and a juice flight? Sign me up!
I want to go!!! Have never been there and have always to……thanks for the push!
You reviews are the best!!!