Little River Inn—Stewards of the Land, Community, & Family
By Mary Charlebois]
Little River Inn (LRI) in northern California, is spectacular, but that’s not the best reason to stay there.
Yes, it’s a stunning and historic property on the edge of Northern California’s wild Pacific in the town of Little River. The backside of the grounds are embraced by Redwood Forest.
There is an Audubon-Certified golf course. Yes, you can play golf and watch whales at the same time. As a matter of fact, you can see those whales from the sunset balcony of your ocean-view room. More about the amenities later.
Little River Inn has been operated by the Coombs family for over 80-years. The family operation and atmosphere is the best amenity. LRI offers—a legacy of natural world stewardship, hospitality, family, and community service.
In 1853 Silas Coombs came to the Mendocino Coast. He built a mill that would transform the Little River area into a thriving logging town and prosperity. He also built his family home at what is now LRI’s location.
The Coombs family were early settlers on the Mendocino Coast. Logging and fishing brought folks to the rugged coast, hoping to make their fortune in the industry and services of the time.
It is said the community grew to over 10,000. However, in 1893 the mill closed when nearby forests were logged out.
Over time the population shrank to today’s count of 117, making Little River one of California’s ‘lost coasts.’ (The term refers to a population loss.)
In 1939, Oli Hervilla turned the Coombs family home into an inn. Travelers found a place to stay away from the wild and wooly hotels and rooming houses in nearby ‘dog-holes’ filled with loggers and fisherman spending their paychecks on Friday night.
Guardians of the Coast
Flash forward to 2021. Over the years, as the community got smaller, LRI got bigger and gained facilities that changed it from a roadhouse to a resort.
Community members and their families became long-term employees. It was easy for LRI to become the largest employer in such a tiny town.
LRI and the Coombs family were then, and are now, more than employers.
They are the first in line when the community is in need, whether it’s a family made homeless by fire, the museum in need of a roof, sponsorship for local events, or ecology weekends to demonstrate to all the importance of our delicate coastline and the Redwoods.
Cally Coombs-Dym, the current innkeeper of LRI, organizes and leads workshops for guests that focus on the dynamic natural world surrounding the inn.
Local wildlife, sea life, and plant life experts join the group to share their knowledge and show how it all ties together.
One of the most popular is a Foraging and Fermenting Weekend (F&F).
The weekend begins on Friday night with a welcoming reception that includes cocktails made from foraged seaweed – great in a Bloody Mary.
The following day Cally and specialists in local flora and fauna lead hikes and discussions where participants forage in the forest and onshore.
Saturday night, the chef prepares a feast from all that is gathered, supplemented with local provisions of meat, fish, fruit, and veg.
Sea snails were abundant during my foraging adventure. Many of us filled a sandwich baggie with the sea delicacies for our evening happy hour. The group had a blast cooking, cracking, and eating the conical mollusks.
The F&F weekend concludes with instructions for fermenting foraged (or otherwise acquired) vegetables. Cally shares jars of her favorites throughout the weekend, inspiring everyone to go home, buy some jars and vinegar, and get to fermenting.
So, is the point just to learn how to make seaweed pickles? I don’t think so. Cally wants to engage folks in nature by showing them the circle of life created by all living things and what can happen when one part of the circle is overused or eliminated.
She believes her family has an obligation as stewards of the land and sea. Part of that job is helping others to see their responsibility to protect the natural world so that all will thrive.
Those amenities I mentioned
Now that you understand the spirit of LRI, I’ll share some of the physical worlds of the resort.
- 66-feet above sea level and directly across CA HWY 1 from the Pacific.
- Redwood Forest on the property and adjoining Van Damme State Park. A private trail to Van Damme adjoins hikes into the park for forest bathing and waterfall chasing.
- Beach with tide pooling and kayaking. This is also the location of tide pooling and foraging walks.
- 18-hole golf course with ocean view. The Audubon-Certified golf course may have some four-legged spectators from time to time. Enjoy free rental clubs for guests.
- 2 championship tennis courts for day or night play.
- Accommodations include – Cottages, ocean view rooms, and filtered view rooms. Choose from luxuries like fireplaces, jacuzzi tubs, sunset balconies, family-friendly & pet-friendly spaces.
- Indoor ocean or garden view dining or outdoor dining in a fairy-tale garden setting. Chefs Marc Dym and Jason Azevedo source from local farmers, fishermen, and ranchers to create California cuisine. Breakfast and dinner are served.
LOCAL’S TIP: LRI has the best breakfast on the coast. Don’t skip the Mimosas or house-recipe sausage.
- Full service and award-winning bar featuring local wines, beer, and distilled spirits. Try one of the Seaweed Bloody Mary’s – it’s lovely and oh so local.
- Full-service spa. After a day of beachcombing and hiking, you’ll enjoy a massage.
- The Abalone room for weddings, parties, or meetings.
Getting to the Little River Inn
DRIVE: Little River Inn is located on Highway 1 on the Mendocino Coast in Little River, California. About 3-hours from the Golden Gate Bridge, the fastest way from San Francisco will take you through Anderson Valley on Hwy 128. Stop at wineries and creameries for luscious Anderson Valley vino and cheese for your picnic basket.
FLY: Charles M Shultz – Sonoma County Airport, STS, is in Santa Rosa, about a 2-hour drive. Further afield are San Francisco and Sacramento. Each is about a 3.5—4-hour drive. Do you have a private plane? You can fly into Little River Airport, KLLR.
A car is helpful while at LRI but not necessary. Local public transit stops directly in front of the inn. From there, you have regular routes to Mendocino and Fort Bragg.
Immersed in the Coast
Little River Inn is a local icon on the Mendocino Coast. Still, it’s the Coombs family that has made it a place folks of all ages and walks of life return to year-after-year and generation-after-generation.
One of the best reasons to visit LRI is to immerse yourself in the coasts natural world. The inn has packages for adults and families that will enroll them in the Coombs family ethos—
“For five generations, our family has been welcoming visitors to the Mendocino Coast, and these deep roots influence every aspect of how we run our inn. We view ourselves as stewards of our land, our community, and our legacy”. ~ Little River Inn, Coombs Family, & Staff.
To learn more about Little River Inn, the property, and special weekends, visit Little River Inn.
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4 thoughts on “Mendocino’s Little River Inn”
Great story! Seaweed in bloody Marys, redwoods, tidal pools, and golf courses! What more could you ask for?
Thank you, Faye. When you get out this way one of these days, it’s the place to stay. –Mary
Thank you for writing this story and account of the Little River Inn and the Coombs Family — it resonated with me on several levels. An interesting and very different travel story,
Thank you, Phyl. You are close enough to experience LRI one of these days. I hope to see you here on the coast one day. –Mary