We had the chance to visit Mendocino for a sweet, old fashioned, family fun weekend getaway. After a breathtaking drive up the California Coast, we settled into our ocean view room with a gas fireplace at the Little River Inn. We did it all – Skunk Train, Rail Bikes, hiking Redwoods, stargazing, apple picking, wine tasting, delicious seafood at Little River Inn, Ole’s Bar and more.
Now that shelter-in-place has been modified to allow Mendocino County to welcome visitors, it’s time to plan the perfect escape to bypass the crowds and refresh the soul.
Visitors draw strength from redwoods that soar to the heavens and are reinvigorated by stunning views and crashing waves. Communing with nature reduces stress and can boost both mental and physical health. There’s even evidence that it helps build immunity.
Here are a few charming inns that offer specials and packages that enable guests to take advantage of the wild and wonderful woods and water that make the Mendocino Coast magical, along with a heritage train that offers a Railbikes experience, the ultimate way to get up-close and personal with nature.
The California Western Railroad’s Skunk Train, a 135-year-old heritage train line that takes visitors deep into ancient Redwood forests, offers an additional and highly unique way to enjoy the tracks – riding them on specially designed Railbikes.
The Railbikes run in-between trains and sit securely on the tracks, allowing passengers to enjoy the redwoods in a peaceful, quiet, and highly personal way, observing trees that are more than 1,000 years old.
Electric-powered and virtually silent, these custom-built, two-person Railbikes breeze along the world-famous Redwood Route, wending their way along scenic Pudding Creek, crossing over majestic wooden trestle bridges, and journeying into the heart of the ancient redwoods of Mendocino County.
Bathed in dappled sunlight and a light breeze, without the need to steer, riders are unbound, able to look around at the wonder of this untouched stretch of the natural world, spotting wildlife such as blue herons and osprey, an occasional lounging turtle, and perhaps a playful river otter.
The Skunk Train offers the only experience in the US where riders can enjoy electric-powered railbikes (vs pedal-powered; though riders can choose to pedal as well, or do a mix of both).
The Railbikes run out of the Fort Bragg station and cost $250 per bike, with room for two riders. To elevate the experience, there is a luxury picnic package that includes a picnic basket with an assortment of charcuterie for two, a picnic blanket, two go-anywhere wine glasses, and a beverage of choice for $395 for two. The first ride of the day at 8:30 am is offered at an early-bird rate of $195 per bike.
For a more traditional experience, the Skunk Train has carried passengers along the Redwood Route since 1885. Riders travel over bridges and deep into the heart of the redwoods, through terrain that has remained essentially undisturbed for centuries.
The iconic Little River Inn has a wonderful package for families who love the outdoors. The Stargazing Family Fun Package comes complete with a blanket and hot cocoa, the better to enjoy the nightly display that is spectacular so far from the lights of the city. Owned and operated by the same family for five generations, the inn is a turn-of-the-century stunner, surrounded by manicured gardens and just steps away from the hikeable Van Damme State Park and the scenic Van Damme State Beach.
The Inn is appropriate for any budget, with 65 rooms – from the affordable to the downright luxurious – all with ocean views. Everything needed for a fabulous vacation is right onsite. The full-service resort boasts an Audubon-certified golf course, regulation tennis courts, a spa and an award-winning restaurant that is currently serving diners in the heated garden area or at the ocean-view picnics tables set up in the front of the property.
The Stargazing Family Fun Package includes two nights lodging in a Traditional Ocean View Room with two queen beds; a Little River Inn travel blanket; the loan of their stargazing kit (including special binoculars and a star map, star guide and flashlight); hot chocolate to enjoy while stargazing; and information on stargazing for the area. Little River Inn, 7901 N. Highway One, Little River, CA 95456, (707) 937-5942, www.littleriverinn.com.
Looking for other places to stay in Mendocino?
Let Fort Bragg’s Noyo River wash life’s cares away with another stunning inn, the Noyo Harbor Inn & Restaurant, a gracious hilltop property with sweeping views over a quaint working harbor, encourages guests to book a river kayaking experience via the nearby Liquid Fusion Kayaking, to get up close and personal with Noyo River, and perhaps a harbor seal or two.
It’s a dry and comfortable 90-minute ride – no special clothes, previous experience or equipment are required. The inn itself has refurbished and updated rooms throughout that provide spacious comfort while retaining some of the exquisite features left by the Norwegian shipbuilders who embellished the inn. Many of the elegantly appointed rooms boast fireplaces, soaking tubs and private balconies.
Noyo Harbor Inn, Restaurant & Tavern, 500 Casa Del Noyo, Fort Bragg, CA 95437, 707-961-8000, noyoharborinn.com.
The folks at the Brewery Gulch Inn know that no outdoor sojourn would be complete without a bonfire on a (mostly deserted) beach. As darkness falls and the stars begin their dance across the sky, a warm bonfire crackles, custom-built by the inn’s dedicated Fanner of the Flame. If the night is clear and moonless, stargazers may be rewarded by a picture-perfect view of the Milky Way. Included in this package are all the fixin’s for s’mores; beach chairs; a beach blanket; a Bluetooth speaker; and Northern California’s version of the Map to the Stars.
Crafted from eco-salvaged redwood on a bluff high over stunning Smuggler’s Cove, Brewery Gulch Inn is an architectural masterpiece. Named as one of California’s Top Destination Resorts in the Travel + Leisure World’s Best Awards (2020 marks their 4thtime making the list), the property encompasses three acres of mature pines and redwoods, wooded glens, wetland ponds, and gardens for strolling. Inside there is warmly glowing arts and crafts furniture and a four-sided glass and steel fireplace. In the rooms there are feather beds cloaked in Sferra linens, Molton Brown products, Himalayan bath salts and thick Abyss towels.
Their full-time executive chef prepares complimentary cooked-to-order breakfasts and a coveted nightly dinner buffet and wine hour that highlights locally-sourced, organic ingredients. For an additional $75, guest can add the Big River Bonfire Package to any room. Available year-round. Brewery Gulch Inn , 9401 N. Highway One, Mendocino, CA 95460, (707) 937-4752, www.brewerygulchinn.com.
As Mendocino County reopens to outside visitors, they are very mindful of their role as stewards, and ask all visitors to do their part to help keep the area safe. The businesses above have all been self-certified to host visitors to the utmost safety standards and strictest cleaning protocols, above and beyond what is mandated by the June 12 order of the Mendocino County Public Health Office. Masks must be worn in the county when not eating and drinking and people are asked to stay six feet away from anyone not in their household group.