As magical places go, the Mendocino Coast is way, way up there on the top of the list. The combination of bright, grassy greens, dramatic rolling drop-offs, crashing blue-grey ocean waters and majestic, towering redwoods dotting the landscape make this super-chill destination spot one of my all-time favorites. And let’s face it – we all need a super-chill spot to escape to now and then, right? Especially after this past winter? Is it just me?
Well, anyway. I recently did exactly that – escape to Mendocino – and this visit was no exception in the wondrous beauty and relaxation department, especially given our sweet digs at the Little River Inn, a charming-as-all-get-out, family-owned Inn. It was built in 1857 and subtly expanded over the years to become the idyllic, sunset-perfect spot it is today.
Just a few minutes south of Mendocino proper, the Little River Inn, which is nestled on a hill overlooking the ocean in – you guessed it – Little River, was the perfect place to cozy up by the in-room fireplace when it was raining, or do some serious rocking chair reading when it was sunny…and you know we had all of the weather during our brief stay because it was the Mendocino Coast, after all. So, win-win!
After a leisurely, winding drive up Highway 1 we checked in and proceeded to ooh and ahh over our room for a good fifteen minutes. The view, which showed off the ocean, a mossy cypress tree, and the gardens below, instantly made my shoulders relax and heart grow a size or two, and I decided I was never leaving. In fact I keep moving from one room to the other as guests check out, hoping management never catches me….
I’m kidding, of course! (But seriously, please send my clothes and extra moisturizer)
The room itself was spacious and comfortable, with a king-sized bed, ample seating, and the aforementioned fireplace; and the bathroom included a huge jacuzzi tub, and was bigger than the kitchen we use to cook turkeys in in our actual real-life home. I daresay this bathroom was bigger than many San Francisco apartments in their entirety. To admit that we were thrilled with our accommodations would be an understatement.
While the Little River Inn also has a restaurant and bar, we wanted to stretch our legs a bit for dinner, and so we walked the approximately one minute across the street to Wild Fish, which had come highly recommended. Did I notice at first that it was directly across the street from where we were staying? No, I did not.
Earlier, on our balcony, I’d been commenting on how cute the post office across the street was, with its little bistro lights along the side of the building. My sweetheart and very smart travel companion Paul suggested that it might be a restaurant or little cafe, but no, I insisted that I’d seen a sign which clearly said ‘Post Office’ when we were driving by, so therefore it must be just a post office. Ahem.
We had a delicious dinner in their dimly lit, intimate little restaurant, and as we walked back to our room across the street, Paulie did not gloat even a little bit. And, that is why I love him.
Although the Little River Inn’s beautiful dining room is flanked on one side by a wall of windows overlooking an incredibly dreamy garden (which we discovered on a previous visit to the area when we stopped in for brunch), we opted to be very fancy people by enjoying a lazy room service breakfast the following morning (aka I didn’t have to get out of my jammies). We then braved the lashing rain outside to walk over to the Little River Inn Salon and Spa, where we turned our weary bodies over to massage therapists Mick and Sue – and whoa, did we need it. It’s been a hectic few months, you guys, so this was a captial-T Treat for us. I know you can relate – raise your hand if you need a massage! Okay that was a trick: we all need massages!
My writer’s neck and shoulders and Paul’s entire contractor’s body spent an hour in blissful good-pain, each coming out the other side as basically completely new people; relaxed people. Even better, the ladies at the spa gave me a proper cup of tea to take to my room with me, as our room only had one of those pod machine things which just can’t make a good cup of tea, no matter how hard it tries.
We then meandered our way to Fort Bragg, where some of the things I’d wanted to do either didn’t exist anymore, or were closed because it was a midweek day. (Side note, this also happened when we went to Mendocino, as shown below – oops!) As I’ve mentioned before, I am not the awesomest at pre-researching things before I take a trip, and so while I’m trying to be better about this and had, in fact, researched some fun things…I didn’t bother to check hours of operation. As always, I invite you to learn from my mistakes, friends!
What we did manage to do while there was get a little bit lost while looking for food (not sure how that’s possible but I am a champion at many unexpected things, so hey), find a Little Free Library (one of my favorite things to do while traveling)…
…toodle just a bit among some of the surprisingly San Francisco-priced boutiques, and finally take advantage of a break in the rain to go to Glass Beach. Glass Beach is basically a big ol’ garbage dump from days of yore which has been pummeled by the ocean and is now a stretch of beaches just absolutely teeming with sea glass.
I had to channel my inner mountain goat to scamper down, but once there I was mesmerized, finding smooth glass of all shapes and colors, some worn porcelain and ceramics, and amazingly, an area which I thought was rock but was in fact what appeared a huge amount of garbage which had been covered in cement (and maybe tar?), probably again and again, and was also being pummeled by the waves (wave-pummeling is great for the trash-to-treasure phenomenon, take note!), making it look like a cool garbage-ensconced jetty. It was pretty wild.
That evening we drove down to Albion for dinner at The Ledford House – my go-to dinner recommendation for the Mendocino area. With a wall of windows overlooking the expansive ocean, the view alone is worth it, but the food made and served by the husband-wife owners is always impressive, and very fairly priced. Also, the sunset wasn’t too shabby…no filter on this pic because, well, just look:
On our final morning, we woke up to glorious sunshine and decided to mosey over to the beautiful, rolling golf course behind the Inn. We aren’t exactly golfers, though, so I asked if we could just borrow a cart and go hot-rodding around like teenagers drunk on cheap beer, and they said of course!
Ok that’s not true. But we did get to swing a club or two, and I even hit the ball once! So, I’m calling that a success.
Because it had been pouring rain the day before, we hadn’t been able to visit one of the weird things I’d found to do, which was check out the pygmy forest at Van Damme State Park – so, with sunshine leading the way, we went in search of it. The trail access in the park itself wasn’t accessible, but the ranger gave us alternate directions, and soon we were walking among the pygmy trees. As it turns out, pygmy trees are just…short trees. If I hadn’t been walking on a trail specifically pointing out the trees and how they came to be the stature that they were, I would have thought we were just in an only slightly-odd forest. I know I’ll probably take some heat for this, but I wasn’t as wowed as I thought I’d be. Sorry trees!
And, that was it for this trip! We did a lot less than usual, but that was kind of the whole point…and it was perfect. Our drive home was sunny, slow, and already filled with plans for the next time we visit the Mendocino Coast.
For a few things I wanted to do, or usually do when in or around Mendocino, check these out:
Larry Spring Museum of Common Sense Physics (Fort Bragg) – it just sounds so cool!
Triangle Tattoo Museum (Fort Bragg) – Because some day Paulie will finally agree to get matching tattoos with me
Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens (Fort Bragg) – Flowers! Plants! Flora! Fauna!
Dick’s Place (Mendocino) – killer Bloody Mary’s, staff that dgaf
Beacon Light by the Sea (Elk) – sounds like a cool, kinda hidden dive bar…not sure if I’m invited but I want to go some day anyway
I know there’s so much more…what are you favorite things to do when you visit the Mendocino Coast? Let me know in the comments!