By Emma Krasov. Photography by Yuri Krasov
Very few places on Earth are as blessed with natural beauty and uncrowded, serene environment as Mendocino County in Northern California.
A three to four hours’ road trip from the San Francisco Bay Area to Mendocino’s rugged Pacific shores, its dizzying cliffs carpeted with wild flowers, and dense redwood forests turns into an exercise in rejuvenating body and soul, and calming anxious minds. The closer you get to the wide open sky and endless ocean horizon the better you feel physically and mentally, the happier you become.
Now it’s up to you to hold on to this happiness, to continue feeling the bliss.
One sure way to do just that is to reserve your stay at the historic Little River Inn in Little River, California. You’ll see the iconic white peaks of its 1853 Victorian style building right from Highway One, and by turning into the welcoming driveway you’ll find yourself in the oasis of quiet hospitality, steeped in tradition since 1939 when the Coombs family first turned their home property into an inn.
Now with 65 rooms, situated in several white-walled buildings, the Inn offers many perks, like balconies with patio furniture, Jacuzzi tubs, fireplaces, kitchenettes, dog-friendly facilities, a day spa, and a wonderful restaurant on the premises.
The entire 225-acre territory looks positively dreamy with its manicured green lawns, a nine-hole golf course, two tennis courts, majestic pine trees, flowering bushes frequented by singing birds, and gorgeous views of the Little River and the Pacific Ocean.
With the marvelous Inn’s location and environs, it’s no wonder it used to play a part in quite a few famous movies. Among the celebrity guests there were the superstars of the Hollywood glamour epoch—Myrna Loy, Joan Fontaine, Jane Wyman with her then husband Ronald Reagan, and James Dean.
On the day we arrived at the Inn, less than a couple weeks back, all the COVID-19 prevention measures were in place, starting with a contactless check in process that included a welcome bag with keys, toiletries, coffee pods and other necessities to eliminate the need for daily housekeeping service and ensure antiviral safety for all.
Entering our suite, and feeling immediately at home, we had a glass of a refreshing Husch 2020 Mendocino Chenin Blanc (proper glassware available in the rooms) and made our dinner reservation at the heated white tent in the garden of the acclaimed Little River Inn Restaurant, led by the executive chef Marc Dym and chef de cuisine Jason Azevedo.
The restaurant offers a comprehensive list of wonderful Mendocino wines by the glass and bottle, local beer and hard cider, and specialty craft cocktails—Coastal Mirage based on vodka and elderflower, Highway One Boulevardier (rye, Campari, vermouth), Par 3 Paloma made of tequila, grapefruit and Ancho verde, and Mallory House Gibson (gin, vermouth, brine).
Small Plates menu includes Beau Soleil oysters and an absolutely amazing traditional Clam Chowder with shell-on steamed clams, smoked bacon and potatoes, onions and celery in creamy broth, topped with a chunk of freshly baked baguette.
Among the Large Plates, Alaskan Halibut with asparagus and smashed potatoes, and Red Wine Braised Short Ribs with King Trumpet mushrooms, broccolini and creamy polenta are definite standouts.
There are also light and airy house-made desserts, like Fruit Basket Tart with blueberries and vanilla bean pastry cream, and Dark Chocolate Pot de Crème with whipped cream, fresh berries and mint.
In accordance with the COVID-19 sanitary rules, our breakfast of Swedish Pancakes and Little River Inn Olallieberry Cobbler was delivered to our door in to-go containers—as hot and fresh as it was authentic and delightful!
Little River Inn is located at 7751 California 1, Little River, CA 95456. Call 707-937-5942 or visit https://www.littleriverinn.com/
A short drive from the Inn, there are various state parks and beaches, where you can walk by the fields of quail grass, aloe vera, and wild sweet peas; watch dramatic sunsets; enjoy your solitude, and practice a special kind of meditation by taking endless pictures of the overwhelming beauty all around you.
Among the closest and easily accessible nature preserves are Mendocino Headlands State Park, Russian Gulch State Park, Van Damm State Park, and a small and well-maintained Pygmy Forest with an interpretive trail featuring California Rhododendron, Dwarf Manzanita and Mendocino Cypress.
A little farther away are the landmark Point Arena Lighthouse & Museum, Stornetta Public Lands, and a deserted, wild, awashed with roaring waves Schooner Gulch State Beach with steep cliffs, piles of driftwood, and giant boulders, smoothed and rounded by the incessant tides.
To fully appreciate the magnificence of California redwoods, go up north to Fort Bragg, and board the California Western Railroad’s fun and exciting Skunk Train, or better yet, embark on the newest attraction—Railbikes.
Moving along the same route as the historic Skink Train, Railbikes position you much closer to the surrounding nature, provide non-strenuous physical activity (pedaling), and can even accommodate your dog in a special cage attached to your bike.
Experienced guides take lead in the first and last of the 2-seat 4-wheel carts, while each couple of passengers has a designated driver who operates speed levels and brakes along the way. Railbikes are equipped with electric motors to assist the cyclists as needed. Sanitized helmets and detailed instructions are provided by the guides before it all starts.
An exhilarating half-hour ride to Glen Blair Junction, and then back after a brief picnic and/or a nice walk in the forest with designated trails make this adventure suitable for all ages, from 3-year-olds to the elderly.
Railbikes are found at 100 W. Laurel St., Fort Bragg, CA 95437. Call 707-964-6371 or visit https://www.skunktrain.com/.
While you’re in the blessed Fort Bragg, try to make a reservation at the wonderful HaborView Bistro & Bar at the Noyo Harbor Inn.
An outdoor dining terrace overlooks a fleet of fishing boats bathed in the blue evening light, and the enticing menu showcases fresh seafood and plenty of locally sourced seasonal produce.
Start with a Mendocino Mermaid specialty cocktail, made with white rum and guava puree, and tinted a fantastic purplish color with blueberry-lavender syrup.
Of the many wonderful starters, pick the succulent Steamed “Penn Cove” Mussels with garlic, shallots, white wine, cream and toasted crostini, and on the Entrees menu—Pan Seared “Ora” King Salmon garnished with a complex and intriguing combination of spiced couscous and quinoa pilaf, sautéed Brussel sprouts, bacon, onion, and red onion beurre rouge.
HaborView Bistro & Bar is located at 500 Casa Del Noyo, Fort Bragg, CA 95437. Cal 707- 961-8000 or visit https://www.noyoharborinn.com/restaurant.