By Karen Rubin, Eric Leiberman & Sarah Falter
Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com
It is just after sunset when we arrive at the Little River Inn, perched on a lovely curve on the Mendocino coast with a commanding view of the ocean. Little River Inn is one of the oldest lodgings on this dramatic stretch of the Northern California coastline, family-owned for 80 years. Over the years, it has expanded, upgraded and modernized in delightful ways to be a true luxury resort with the charm of an inn and ideal for everything from a romantic getaway to a family adventure to a destination wedding.
The original house that is the nucleus of the inn was built in 1857 by Silas Coombs, and has remained in the family ever since. Grandfather Ole Hervilla, clearly a pioneer in turning Mendocino’s economy from lumbering to tourism, turned the original building into an inn in 1939, which is now run by its fifth generation innkeeper, Cally Dym.
Set on 225 wooded acres, the old Coombs home is now surrounded by 65 ocean view rooms in townhouse-style units where you have your own entrance and your own balcony and luxurious amenities like Jacuzzis, steam showers, private hot tubs, gas and wood-burning fireplaces, superior quality bedding and linens. There is also a lovely dining room in the original building and a legendary Ole’s Whale Watch bar.
The Little River Inn is distinguished by having a nine-hole golf course – the only golf course on the Mendocino coast (Ole actually built it himself in 1957 after being dissuaded by the cost of hiring golf architects); two tennis courts with lights for night play, and a day-spa.
Dining in the inn’s restaurant is sublime. The garden has been opened for outside seating (actually it is a tent) as an accommodation for COVID but has proved extremely popular – we sit among twinkle lights at the base of redwood trees.
The sophisticated menu offers a host of delightful preparations, marvelous flavors and gorgeous presentation. Sarah indulges in the Spicy Lobster Tagliolini prepared with lobster meat, lobster-tomato broth, yuzu caviar and house-made Tagliolini pasta (one of the “small plate” offerings that is sufficient for a main course); mushroom agnolotti prepared with “black pearl” oyster mushrooms, ricotta, parmesan with a black truffle cream and pecorino tartufo. Eric savors the Cioppino, prepared with Dungeness crab, clams, shrimp, local rock fish, simmered in a tomato-fennel broth; and I delight in good ol’ Ole’s cheese Burger with flourishes of grilled onions, tomato, mayo, pickes, Pain de Mei bun, prepared with perfection.
These are the creations of Chef de Cuisine Jason Azevedo who has largely taken over from five-star chef Marc Dym, who trained at the Culinary Institute of America and was named Executive Chef at Little River Inn in 2006 after Marc and Cally (the fifth-generation Innkeeper) were married. Azevedo brings a modern twist to classic American-regional cuisine and have garnered Little River Inn high Zagat ratings.
Schedule a tee time at Little River Inn’s Audubon-certified 5,458-yard, nine-hole golf course. Tucked among redwoods and pine trees, it offers majestic views of the Pacific and some “unexpected” challenges.
I love the colorful back story that once again features Ole Hervilla, who turns out to have been a major visionary for Mendocino’s tourism: After watching Arnold Palmer play on television, in the 1950s, he got the idea to build a golf course at the inn because it would be a draw for guests. Locals were skeptical that anybody would want to play golf on the coast (tell that to Pebble Beach). Working with his own contractors (after getting cost estimates from golf architects), he opened his course in 1957.
There is also a driving range, putting green, two lighted tennis courts (available free to guests; they even supply the racquet) and fully stocked Golf and Tennis Pro Shop (call 707-937-5667 to reserve a tee time).
Little River Inn’s Spa offers a full array of services including customized massages and facials (open daily, 10 am-5 pm).
All of this – the setting, accommodations, dining, amenities – makes Little River Inn prime for destination weddings from elopements to grand affairs of 200, reunions, as well as events and functions, with four different venues.
The inn is especially welcoming to families and offers Family Discovery and Family Adventure packages, and children under 16 stay free. Pet-friendly units are also available (check out the Water Dog package). Other packages include Stargazing, Romance, there are also special offerings for festivals and seasonal promotions.
Little River Inn is perfectly positioned to take advantage of all the attractions in Mendocino, Fort Bragg. You can stroll down its private trail down to Van Damme State Beach where there are 10 miles of hiking trails, a Pygmy forest, beach and tidepools.
And so, after lingering over coffee sitting in rocking chairs on our balcony, reveling in the view to the Pacific Ocean, we set out to thoroughly explore Mendocino.
Little River Inn, 7901 N Highway 1, Little River, CA, United States, 95456, 888-INN-LOVE, 707-937-5942 www.littleriverinn.com.
For excellent planning help: Visit Mendocino County, 866-466-3636, 707-964-9010, www.visitmendocino.com.
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