About three hours from the Sacramento Valley is an oceanside getaway spot that’s just big enough to have plenty to do, yet small enough to feel romantically secluded. Just south of Mendocino and Fort Bragg is the tiny town of Little River. There, snuggled into a cliff side between the ocean and a river, is the aptly named Little River Inn. My new husband and I were lucky enough to spend our first three nights as newlyweds in this perfectly charming resort.
For years my husband had been diving for abalone at Van Damme state beach, just across the street (and walking distance, thanks to a convenient trail) from the Little River Inn. He told himself he would stay there one day. What better time to make dreams come true than a mini-moon?
After a whirlwind wedding weekend spent with our friends and family, it was time for us to focus on us. We didn’t want to waste any time getting to the relaxing, which made the Little River Inn so appealing – no need to get on a stressful, long, cramped plane ride. We spent most of the drive reliving every moment of the previous day, and the few hours felt like only a few minutes.
The Inn had a room type for every desire. There were the rooms in the main hotel with breathtaking views of seaside cliffs. But there were also cottage homes sprinkled along the coast with additional amenities. We stayed at the Mallory House, a secluded home about a mile away from the main property. Anything you could want this place had!
Ocean views? Check
Hot tub? Check
A hot tub with ocean views? Yep, it’s got it.
We arrived just in time to catch the sunset. We opened wide the French double doors and sat on the deck in the two rocking chairs provided. We split a bottle of champagne and toasted to the fact that we actually pulled the whole wedding off. We would highly recommend viewing as many sunsets as you can. Each one was more spectacular than the last.
The rooms are spacious and roomy. My new husband and I – having recently moved back to California from Washington D.C. – joked that the cottage room was larger than our whole apartment on the East Coast (though I think it actually was). There is a living room, fireplace, small dining area, bathroom and bedroom. The bedroom too looks over the beautiful cliffs, allowing you to experience the ocean views from almost any part of the room. The shower had 2 shower heads, while the spa tub gave you an option to enjoy a Jacuzzi inside if it cooled down too much. We settled in right away, truly making it our home away from home for the next 3 days.
After enjoying a restful night, we decided to cruise up to the little town of Mendocino, just about a 10-minute drive north. This is a town where tourists are treated like town folk, kitsch is a given, and you won’t find a single chain store (but you will find plenty of delicious local coffee shops!). As it was our honeymoon, we wanted to start the day off right with a bloody mary. A local woman directed us to a restaurant called Flow’s exclaiming that they had the best bloodys in town, and she wasn’t wrong. While enjoying our libations, we made friends with another young couple enjoying their 2-year anniversary. We asked where the best dinner in the area was, the answer was The Little River Inn. Good thing we already had reservations for that night!
After enjoying our day weaving in and out of the small town shops, we headed back to get ready for dinner. We wanted to snack on some appetizers as we got ready, and luckily there is a wonderful little grocery store & deli right across from the Inn aptly named the Little River Market & Deli. They have a great selection of fine wines, meats, and cheeses. If you want to have a night in during your visit, we definitely recommend stopping in to fill your coffers.
The restaurant at The Little River Inn is the only purveyor of a special Anderson Valley Brewing Company beer called Saison 75 (named for the Inn’s 75th anniversary). AVBC is an institution in this area. More on that later! The specialty beer alone is worth visiting the bar, but what you should really come for the view. Ole’s Whalewatch Bar is steeped in history. Cora Coombs and her husband Ole Hervilla opened The Little River Inn in 1939, and the ocean view from the bar is the same one that original patrons enjoyed. For dinner, it was recommended that we try the clam chowder, which was a fresh twist on the original. For entrees, I enjoyed sole almondine and my husband’s osso bucco fell off the bone. But the star of the show was definitely the warm olallieberry cobbler dessert. We were so full from dinner but still ate the whole thing!
After our food coma induced night of sleep, we woke up ready for another relaxing day, which began with a couple’s massage at the Inn’s Salon & Spa (which is by both the tennis courts and the golf course!). It was my husband’s first massage so he didn’t know what to expect, but the masseuses made the environment feel welcoming and tranquil. It set us up for the rest of our low-key day which we spent meandering through the exquisite Botanical Gardens in Fort Bragg. If you enjoy nature even a tiny bit, this is a must see. When we visited, we were greeted with blooming roses, small forests of rhododendron, bursting dahlia, full succulent gardens, and, if you walk to the cliffside, colorful patches of seaside flowers. There was even a vegetable garden where you could pick your own strawberries! The walk through the gardens is like a romantic dream. Perfect for two honeymooners. We even bought two succulents to take home with us to start our own garden, as well as remind us of our wonderful visit to these botanical gardens on our mini-moon.
No visit to Fort Bragg is complete without a trip to the famed glass beach. We swung by as the sun hung low in the sky, searching together for interesting sea life in the tide pools. Much has been written about this unique beach, so no need to reiterate it here. Suffice it to say – it’s worth the visit!
That morning, my masseuse had told me that Ole’s Whalewatch Bar does a Taco Tuesday night that is beloved by locals. We decided it to join in the fun. The chill atmosphere of the bar made us feel like we were locals ourselves. Enjoying delicious tacos, beer, and finishing it all off with another spectacular sunset view from our room’s porch was the perfect way to spend our last night at the Inn.
But our culinary tour wasn’t over yet! We were also told that we had to try Ole’s Swedish Hotcakes for breakfast. And what a way to end our visit! On a table full of good comfort food, the Hotcakes were the stand out winner.
The great thing about a mini-moon in Mendocino is that the vacation can continue far after you leave the Inn. The Anderson Valley, just south of Mendocino, is a growing, respected wine region, with many varietals that only grow in colder climates. The wineries are stripped of pretentiousness (and high cost) that permeates Napa, yet the wine is some of the best in California. For a newlywed, cuddle-inducing garden setting, check out Handley Cellars. For the best Gewürztraminer to bond over, a visit to Navarro is a must (arguably the best wine I’ve ever had). Husch will provide the rustic romance you’re looking for, and world-famous Roederer Estate will get you as bubbly on the sparkling wine as you are with each other.
Are you a couple that prefers hops over grapes? Check out the local institution Anderson Valley Brewing Company, where dogs are just as welcome as people and the beer will not disappoint. There are always too many beers to choose from, so order a flight to get the most bang for your buck.
As our mini-moon came to a close and we enjoyed our beer, we both agreed that anyone would be lucky to have the chance to spend their first days as husband and wife at the Little River Inn and its surrounding beauty.
For more info about Little River Inn, log on to littleriverinn.com.
Blog Post by Rachel Gish. Please see photos for credits.
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