If your trips to beautiful but couple-catering Mendocino ended the minute you plugged in your first baby monitor, we’ve got good news: the adjacent town of Little River wants you — and your family — back. The family-owned Little River Inn offers the same luxury, charm and rugged sea-sprayed splendor as your favorite Mendo B&B but with a welcoming family vibe and kid-friendly digs. Add SF-worthy food and drink and some choice outings for little ones, and it’s a turnkey tike getaway.
The Little River Inn has been in the same family since the site’s striking Victorian home was built in 1853 by the current innkeeper’s great-great grandfather, a local lumber mill owner. He nabbed the best spot along the coast, perched high on a bluff overlooking the Pacific, resting against a forested backdrop and enveloped by gardens.
It’s easy to gaze at the inspiring ocean view from one of the property’s spacious rooms, but what about watching after your little ones? Fifth-generation innkeeper Cally Dym and her husband Marc — the executive chef at the Inn’s restaurant — are parents to a three year old so they know what it’s like to travel with tots. That translates to pee-wee perks like a stack of board games to rival FAO Schwarz, an in-room DVD player with a library of family movies, coloring books and kids menu at the Inn’s restaurant, and a 3-page list of toddler activities in the area.
A rare treat is leaving the city behind but not the quality of its food or drink. The Inn’s garden-immersed dining room and warm pub-like bar serve refined and comforting dishes that will please any foodie. The salty-sweet sea air will prime you for the Inn’s famed Dungeness Crab Cakes and savory Seafood Bouillabaisse. Or settle in with a deeply-satisfying Roundman Burger named for the smokehouse that produces the bacon topping as opposed to implying anything personal. Just save room for the bubbling Olallieberry Cobbler served with a dripping scoop of vanilla ice cream. It’s been on the menu since the Inn first opened! In the morning, promise to go paleo the day after and enjoy a stack of Ole’s Swedish Hotcakes with lip-smacking jam. Nudge the chef for a bunny-shaped version to please the little one in the booster seat.
Adults get treats too. The restaurant stocks an impressive list of high-end local wines, beers and spirits. Craft beer lovers will flip when they learn the Inn is one of the few spots to get cult-fave Pliny the Elder on tap. And it’s the only place you can sip a Saison 75, the special farmhouse ale brewed with Anderson Valley Brewing to commemorate the Inn’s 75th anniversary.
Fish gotta swim, kids gotta squirm: Don’t feel like dealing with a restaurant setting? The Inn can deliver all meals to your room which is equipped with dining table and mini fridge. And directly across Highway 1 is a small grocery and deli with convenient snacks and supplies should you need them.
From the property, you can take a scenic, 10-minute trail that skirts the bluff and leads you through ferns, past banana slugs and down to pebble-filled Van Damme State Beach (8001 N. Highway 1, Little River, Ca, 95456). Skip rocks in the namesake Little River that flows nearby or explore the tide pools located at the southern edge. More ambitious families will love the flat, creekside stroll along the lush, green Fern Canyon Trail which picks up behind the park’s campsites.
Less than 3 miles up the road is the quaint seaside Village of Mendocino whose wood-plank Main Street sidewalk boasts a few choice spots for kids. Northern Californian small towns do independent bookstores better than most and Gallery Bookshop (Kasten Street, Mendocino, Ca, 95460) is a gem. Tucked in the back of the shop is Bookwinkle’s, a separate room with a huge selection of unique children’s books. Out of This World (45100 Main Street, Mendocino, Ca 95460) hides a toy shop filled with engaging science-based toys, games and gadgets behind it’s binocular & telescope filled facade. It may be the first time you disregard your child’s plea for a toy because you’re too busy playing with one yourself.
Directly across the street is Mendocino Headlands State Park, a stunning series of seafront bluffs that overlook pristine coves. Let your little one scamper through open fields and discover hidden beaches…just mind those edges which are strict hand-holding zones.
Good to Know:
The Little River Inn has 66 rooms with varied configurations and settings (including some pet-friendly rooms). Call beforehand to help select what will work best for you. Also: there’s no cell reception at the Inn but there is free wi-fi.
Little River Inn
7751 California 1
Little River, Ca 95456
Have you been up to Mendocino with your kids? Tell us your favorite activities and pit stops in the comment section below.
All photos and copy by Garrick Ramirez