Story and Photos by Lee Daley
Now is the time to indulge in a getaway to Mendocino County. It’s all there, breathtaking beauty, surf, sand, a rocky coastline, world-class botanical gardens, and an oceanfront artistic village. A destination worth flying to from anywhere in the US, Mendocino County offers an idyllic interlude within a three-hour drive from San Francisco.
Heading north along the coastal drive to Mendocino, the vistas, the reflections, the crisp sea air become absolutely intoxicating. It’s a stage set to behold. With an early morning start, you’ll have time to stop at the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens where Mother Nature pulls out all the stops with dazzling blooms and a flower-strewn walk to cliff-side views overlooking the Pacific.
Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens often hosts plant sales, art exhibits, bird and whale watching walks, botanical meetings and more The Sculpture Gallery features a rotating collection of up to 10 pieces placed throughout the Gardens. I loved this beautiful sculpture I came upon during a recent visit. Some are even for sale.
From the botanical gardens, make your next destination for non-stop indulgence a stay at the Little River Inn with its country house charm and vast ocean views. Just two miles south of Mendocino Village, with guest rooms ranging from economical to luxurious, this pet-friendly inn overlooks the Pacific Ocean. Details to follow below.
Art and Architecture: Walking the photo-worthy streets of Mendocino Village with its picket-fenced Victorian homes and ocean views at every turn is another memorable excursion. Visit the Mendocino Art Center with its steady stream of exhibits and events. Stop in the independently-owned Gallery Book Store with its resident cat where dedicated book sellers will help you find that special read. My favorite gallery, among many worthy choices, is Prentice Gallery right on the village’s main street. Owner and artist, Lynne Prentice has created a world-class fine art collection comprised of local Mendocino artists’ talents. Whatever your taste, you will find much to admire in the large collection of paintings, photography, stained glass pieces, jewelry and wood carvings.
Osprey Sighting: Before leaving Mendocino Village, we impulsively took a quick drive to the nearby Point Cabrillo Lighthouse to try and catch the sunset. The wind had picked up and as we neared the shore, I spied an osprey as it soared through the air in circles over the open water. A rare treat and a fitting tribute to our day, we then realized it was close to dinner time for us too. Unlike the osprey, though, we anticipated a catch that someone else had caught and cooked for us.
Dinner at the Little River Inn Restaurant reminded us once again of Mendocino’s fertile soil and sea. Starting with a warm, welcoming bowl of creamy clam chowder and following up with a fresh-as-could-be halibut entree, all was superb. We felt more than comfortable in the elegant dining room where the tables were amply spaced apart. White tablecloths, and romantic views of the subtly-lit gardens added a feeling of care and indulgence. We celebrated our meal with a blackberry cobbler filled with fresh flavor and the perfect blend of sweetness. The Little River Inn lived up to its reputation for fine dining in a serene and welcoming environment.
Known for the friendliest service on the Mendocino Coast, the Little River Inn is a destination unto itself. Guests can opt for on-site amenities like the nine-hole golf course that plays like 18, massage services in both the spa room or in-room, and the opportunity to catch sight of migratory whales while enjoying light bites and libations in Ole’s Whale Watch Bar, a classic hangout popular with locals and guests.
Enjoy breakfast in the comfort of your room, perhaps by the fireplace or on your deck. Wherever, be sure and succumb to Ole’s Swedish Hotcakes and the Ollalieberry Cobbler. Overseen by fifth-generation owner Cally Dym, Little River Inn recently celebrated its 80th anniversary on the Mendocino Coast.
Mendocino County’s authentically unspoiled character is on display wherever you may land in this one-of-a- kind haven of hipsters, artists, preservationists and natural outdoor beauty.
Mendocino County is blessed with 10 state parks. Almost within walking distance from Little River Inn, on Highway One, Van Damme State Park’s website says the park offers a scenic beach as well as a lush fern-filled forest. The highway runs through the park, separating the campground and the Fern Canyon trail head to the east from the beach and the parking lot to the west. Visitors here can launch a kayak in a protected cove. They can explore a pygmy forest. They can hike, jog, or bicycle the splendid Fern Canyon Scenic Trail beside Little River. My next interlude in Mendocino County will include a full day exploring the park followed by dinner and an overnight stay at the Little River Inn. That’s what I call indulgence.
IF YOU GO: Little River inn: https://www.littleriverinn.com/
Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens: www.gardenbythesea.org. Prentice Gallery: https://www.prenticefineart.com/
For More on destinations and activities in California, visit: https://epicureandestinations.com/california-travel-destinations-death-valley-pacifica-sonoma-willits-napa/
For more information on Mendocino Village see: “On the Mendocino Coast, a Frolic on the Rocks ” by John Sundsmo.
Even More Here: https://leedaley8.medium.com/
Oh boy! Do I need to get up to the Little River Inn! Amazing photography and delicious story of rambling up the coast.
Thanks, KM! Yes, Rambling up the coast and indulging in a stay at the Little River Inn is something everyone needs to do. Surely, more than once. I try to get there every year to enjoy the seasons as the scenery and weather evolves. We are so blessed to have such beauty nearby, almost in our backyards. Enjoy!