During November and December, the scenic Mendocino Coast presents new experiences for all types of traveler.
A taste of what’s on offer:
— Little River Inn has created a nature immersion package that teaches the whole family about botany, geology, sea life, astronomy and history and runs the gamut from tide pooling to kissing a giraffe;
— Noyo Harbor Inn, Restaurant & Tavern has a delicious package that includes crabbing and fishing excursions;
— Brewery Gulch Inn has added bento boxes to their elevated wine hour;
— The Inn at Newport Ranch offers an interactive mushrooming expedition, complete with a mushroom-themed picnic, and a ride the Magical Christmas Train for a socially-distanced encounter with St. Nick.
Un-crowded Mendocino in winter is the perfect getaway from the stresses of life. Perspective is gained at the foot of thousand-year-old giant redwoods, the ocean unfurls as far as the eye can see, and a cozy fireside warms the heart. The slower small-town pace lends itself to a laid-back holiday season.
Most attractions are open and the area safely welcomes visitors to revel in what is most special about Mendocino – the connection with nature and her bounty. Guests stroll pristine beaches, sip regional wines, and watch whales right from the shore – or take an old-fashioned train ride filled with seasonal cheer.
The dog-friendly historic Little River Inn, a classic coastal resort overlooking the Pacific offers rolling lawns for kids to romp on and a private trail that leads to miles of hiking in Van Damme State Park as well as an Audubon-certified golf course, regulation tennis courts, an award-winning restaurant serving California cuisine and locally sourced delicacies, and a sheltered beach teeming with aquatic life right across the street.
The resort has 65 rooms that range from the affordable to the luxurious, all of which have ocean views. Their new distance learning family package offers families the outdoors as the classroom with a five-day, self-guided itinerary that includes lessons on botany, tidal sea life, geology, astronomy, and history. The experience includes a private guided walk with local Naturalist Sue “Magoo,” a B Bryan Preserve Safari Tour with giraffes and zebras, plant and mushroom identification guides for Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens and Van Damme State Park, stargazing with hot chocolate, and more. The price of the package includes all tickets and materials – including four educational books for families to keep. The package starts at $325 for four nights for two adults and two children, plus the cost of the room. Little River Inn, 7901 N. Highway One, Little River, CA 95456, 707-937-5942, www.littleriverinn.com.
Noyo Harbor Inn, Restaurant & Tavern is a hilltop property built in 1867, with sweeping views over a quaint working harbor to the Pacific beyond. Refurbished rooms retain some of the features left by the Norwegian shipbuilders. Many of the rooms have fireplaces, soaking tubs, and private balconies.
Their restaurant, HarborView Bistro & Bar, features pre-Prohibition era cocktails and California Coastal Cuisine, including fresh wild-caught fish from the harbor below and herbs and vegetables gathered from the chef’s garden.
New this winter is Noyo Harbor Inn’s new Winter Ocean Catch Adventure package. In partnership with All Aboard Adventures, this is an opportunity to harvest Dungeness crab for which Mendocino is justly famous. Also on offer, fishing for rock cod, also known as Pacific snapper. The inn’s location means guests can stroll from their rooms to the harbor. This package allows guests to choose from among three nautical experiences, all of which depart Noyo Harbor at 7 a..m. The half-day fishing or crabbing package is $750 and includes two nights at the inn and an excursion for two. Each additional person is $150 and each additional night is $250. The full-day crabbing and fishing combo package is $900 and includes two nights and an excursion for two. Each additional person is $200 and each additional night is $275. The ½ day fishing excursion is available through Dec. 23 (excluding holidays), and the ½ day crabbing excursion and combo crabbing/fishing excursion will be available Dec. 1 through Dec. 23 (excluding holidays). There is a two-night minimum and seven days’ notice is required for reservations. Bad weather or heavy seas cancel excursions (a full refund for the excursion will be provided). Room type based on availability. A fishing license is not included and can be purchased at tackle shops, drugstores or online for less than $20. Noyo Harbor Inn, Restaurant & Tavern, 500 Casa Del Noyo, Fort Bragg, CA 95437, 707-961-8000, noyoharborinn.com.
Perched high on a bluff top overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the Brewery Gulch Inn reigns cathedral-like over the dramatic Mendocino coast. Constructed in 2001 from 150-year old redwood reclaimed from the nearby Big River, this architectural masterpiece is located on a historic piece of land that was once home to Mendocino’s first brewery. The 10 romantic rooms – most with private decks – all look out over Smuggler’s Cove. Each of the rooms boasts soothing earth tones, feather beds Sferra linens, Molton Brown products, Himalayan bath salts and thick Abyss towels.
Included with each stay is a daily cooked-to-order breakfast, and an evening wine hour, now featuring sleek redwood Mendo Boxes showcasing an array of appetizers from chef James Hardenburg, who cooks exclusively for guests. His rotating menu, sampling cuisines from around the world, features seasonal, local ingredients. There may be ahi tuna with wasabi tobiko one night, crispy duck breast and cinnamon blue corn crackers the next, or chicken souvlaki with mouthwatering tzatziki sauce. The Mendo Boxes make it easy for guests to savor each evening’s offering on the large outdoor deck, around the fire pit, or in the privacy of their own rooms. Brewery Gulch Inn, 9401 N. Highway One, Mendocino, CA 95460, 707-937-4752, www.brewerygulchinn.com.
The Inn at Newport Ranch is four hours north of San Francisco at the gateway to the wild and majestic Lost Coast. The resort is situated on 2,000+ pristine private acres and boasts 50-mile panoramic views across the Pacific. Guests have exclusive access to the vast property that encompasses virgin redwood forests, grasslands and beaches. Many guests opt to tour the acreage on horseback or book a private UTV tour. There is every amenity on offer, from ranch cuisine cooked from locally sourced ingredients (much of which is from their own organic gardens) to the onsite fireside spa and a hot tub perched atop an old water tower.
The Inn’s interior spaces are filled with handcrafted objects and fascinating items from the owner’s world travels. Recycled redwood trunks soar to cathedral ceilings, local wines are poured in front of a 20-foot fireplace, and stunning views are at your disposal all the time.
Starting in December, a Forage for Incredible Edibles package that focuses on mushrooms for which Mendocino is renowned. Included in half-day tour of a 2000-acre timber preserve with resident guides is a mushroom-themed picnic lunch, sweet Candy Cap mushroom ice cream, a fireside tea and informative lecture on the medicinal properties of mushrooms, and a mushroom-infused dinner. Availability depends on the presence of mushrooms. The cost is $350 per person. Accommodations not included. The Inn at Newport Ranch, 31502 North Highway One, Fort Bragg, CA 95437, 707-962-4818, https://www.theinnatnewportranch.com
The California Western Railroad’s Skunk Train is a 135-year-old heritage train line that takes visitors deep into ancient redwood forests, along riparian corridors, and past some of the most unchanged scenery in Northern California, including trees that are more than 1,000 years old. Since 1885, the Skunk Train has carried passengers along the Redwood Route, and today a ride on the train charms the whole family (including Fido).
Passengers travel over bridges and deep into the heart of the redwoods, through terrain that has remained essentially undisturbed for centuries. They can observe deer, blue heron, egrets, osprey, ducks, turtles – and even the occasional river otter – from the comfort of their seat, or an open-air-car.
Riders can opt to take the Pudding Creek Express train out of Fort Bragg for a 7-mile round-trip journey to Glen Blair Junction along the Pudding Creek Estuary, transporting riders over some of the first tracks laid down by the California Western Railroad in 1885. Out of Willits, the Wolf Tree Turn train is a 2-hour round-trip train that climbs up to the highest point of the line (elevation 1,740 feet), through Tunnel #2, and down into the Noyo River Canyon.
Beginning in late November, passengers can ride the Magical Christmas Train, a festive jaunt with holiday music. Author Shellie Hart reads her classic, “Skippy the TrainDeer,” Santa makes a socially-distanced appearance, and everyone goes home with a goody bag. Christmas trains run on weekends starting on Nov. 27 out of Willits and Dec. 5 out of Fort Bragg, with daily holiday trains running Dec. 18 through 23. Skunk Train, 100 W. Laurel Street, Fort Bragg, 707-964-6371 (Fort Bragg Depot) and 299 E Commercial St, Willits, 707-964-6371 (Willits Depot), www.skunktrain.com.
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 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.