Little River Inn in Mendocino

This is the first in a series of sponsored posts about our trip to Mendocino county.

Little River Inn

I’m snug in a bed on the second floor of the Mallory House at Little River Inn just outside of the coastal town of Mendocino, CA. Looking across a dark meadow to the sea I drift to sleep listening to the rising and falling rush of the surf.

No it’s not a dream, but it feels like one, and looks like one too.

Even if you’ve never been to California, you’ve probably seen Mendocino with its impossibly quaint Victorian houses and steepled churches teetering on cliffs high above the ocean’s edge. It’s a town that looks more like an antique print of a New England fishing village than a famously mellow California artists’ community. Which may seem like a dichotomy of cultures, but it’s really not. You see, for many generations the area was considered the “lost coast” of California because it was accessible only by long and winding roads or the sea. The advantage of this sort of remoteness meant that the area could grow in a way that suited the fierce independence of the locals.

Which helps explain why Little River Inn is what modern day coastal Mendocino is all about. It offers a simple style of luxury that’s not at all pretentious. The “accommodations are elegant yet charming, luxurious but still cozy.” A combination that further highlights the unique, quirky charms of this part of California.

In fact we were greeted with a humble, but humorous note laid out on the bed that said:

“Need an extra pillow? No problem.
Need a llama? A little more difficult, but doable.”

I chuckled, but I also got the impression that the folks at Little River Inn were as serious about the service they provide as they were humorous.


Perched on the Pacific Ocean, Little River Inn is a classic coastal resort situated where Little River meets the Mendocino coast to form a sandy beach. It’s a beautiful little curve in California’s fabled coastline, perfectly aligned so that all the guest rooms at Little River Inn feature stunning ocean views.

Like most of Mendocino, Little River Inn has a storied pedigree. It’s one of the oldest lodgings on this dramatic stretch of the Northern California coastline. The Inn and the nearby village of gingerbread Victorians and Cape Cod-style homes were mostly built in the 1800s by the loggers and fishermen from Maine who settled the area. As there were no other neighbors to teach them what the “California style” was, they built their homes in the style that they were used to. That style has remained mostly intact thanks to the area’s remoteness.

Little River Inn itself was built in 1857 as a family residence by Silas Coombs. It has remained in the family ever since. The current innkeeper’s grandfather, Ole, turned that original building into an inn more than 80 years ago. It’s been added onto though the generations. Though it still sits on 225 wooded acres, the original dwelling is now accompanied by 65 ocean view rooms, a dining room and bar, the coast’s only golf course, a day spa, as well as a couple of off-site cottages like the one we stayed in at the clifftop, oceanfront Mallory House. Which (if I haven’t mentioned it) opens onto a stop-in-your-tracks view of the ocean and offshore rocks.

Little River Inn

All of this makes Little River Inn the premier destination on this part of what locals call “The Coast”.

The amenities at Little River Inn are world-class, but we came for the dazzling views, the soothing sounds, and the natural wonders that are all around this sophisticated hotel. Which for us included a five-mile mushroom viewing hike though the Jug Handle State Natural Reserve. It’s an ecologically unique area. The hike includes a graceful ascent though three distinct plateaus: cliff-top meadow, coastal forest and giant redwoods. It culminates in one of the world’s only pygmy forests, a place where the compacted soil and lack of nutrients have created a natural oddity of dwarf trees. Some of these manzanitas, pine trees, and redwoods are hundreds of years old– though no taller than me.

For us, Little River Inn was our luxury reward after a sometimes harrowing drive on Highway 1 from the Golden Gate Bridge, along Tomales Bay, through roadside miles (and miles) of crashing surf. It can be a bit of a “white-knuckle” adventure. We hugged the wild, rugged shoreline in our little Prius as we snaked our way past gargantuan redwoods, surf-pounded cliffs and hidden valleys. All set to a soundtrack of oohhs and aahhs that could not be held back. Sure, it takes some nerve to brave the guardrail-free switchbacks, but the astounding scenery of worn cliffs, foaming ocean and empty beaches make the hairpin turns well worth the effort. You’ll love the time you spend at Little River Inn. GREG


I received accommodations and other expenses in order to bring the Mendocino Coast & Anderson Valley Wine to this blog. All opinions are my own.