three romantic inns in Mendocino County

With ocean scenery, redwood forests, wine tasting and a sweet village, Mendocino is perfect for a romantic getaway! (Credit: M. Ciavardini)

One of the greatest challenges in planning any romantic getaway is not just picking the destination but also choosing the accommodations.

Are you looking for cozy charm or sleek modern service? Is a soaking tub in your future, or would you rather experience the delight of a rain shower? Do you want to be as far removed from other travelers as you can be, or do you prefer a more communal experience?

Romantic inns in Mendocino County

On a recent visit to California, we stayed at three very different romantic inns in Mendocino County – each was spectacular in its own unique way.

1) Little River Inn: A little romance, a little me-time

romantic inns in Mendocino County - Little River Inn

The Little River Inn, a family-owned resort overlooking the Pacific Ocean (Credit: Brendan McGuigan)

Just south of the historic village of Mendocino, the Little River Inn is a family-owned resort overlooking the Pacific Ocean. With an on-site nine-hole golf course, tennis courts, clubhouse and pro shop, spa, restaurant and bar, you really don’t need to stray far.

The Victorian house that’s the centerpiece of the 225-acre property was built in 1857 by Silas Coombs and is today run by Cally Coombs Dym, a fifth-generation innkeeper. The inn has 65 ocean-view rooms, many with fireplaces, hot tubs or both.

Even if you aren’t staying at the inn, visit Ole’s Whale Watch Bar, named for the family member who transformed the property into an inn back in 1939. Savor a glass of wine or a Bloody Mary and just take in the view of the Pacific. If you stay for dinner, try and reserve a table in the oceanfront dining room, a somewhat more intimate space than the larger garden dining room, which is also pretty.

romantic inns in Mendocino County

Enjoy a Bloody Mary and an ocean view at Ole’s Whale Watch Bar at the Little River Inn (Credit: Pablo Abuliak)

What’s wow:

The Inn also owns several cottages located about a mile south of the main property. We stayed in the White Cottage, which features a living room with fireplace, a sleeping area and a kitchenette, along with a very private deck and hot tub overlooking the Pacific. A bottle of wine and a starry night made this romantic retreat ideal.

What’s appealing to the over-50 luxury traveler?

  • This is a great place to pamper yourself with some down-time, however you like it: sitting by a fire, taking short hikes on the cliffs of the Pacific, soaking in a hot tub or enjoying a round of golf. I could have stayed in the rocking chair on the deck of the White Cottage pretty much forever. The view, the amenities and the privacy were sheer bliss.
  • For dog lovers, the inn is offering a River Dog Package through Oct. 31 that includes a canoe excursion on the Big River for guests and their dog. You’ll find the package on the Little River Inn website.

2) Brewery Gulch Inn: Luxury, leisure and game night

The Brewery Gulch Inn in Mendocino (Credit: Brewery Gulch Inn)

Fun, romance and good service, all in an exceptionally attractive lodge, characterize the Brewery Gulch Inn. Plus, I can’t help but like an organization that has dispensed with room numbering and named many rooms after birds. The Raven room delighted us!

With a gas fireplace, balcony, large flat-screen TV with DVD player, and a soaking tub built for two, we luxuriated in our surroundings, watched a newly-released film while relaxing in club chairs, and had much fun with bubbles. When we got tired of that, we let ourselves be transfixed by our ocean view. If that wasn’t enough, we could play with the coloring books and colored pencils that awaited on the desktop in our room. Natural sodas were chilling in a refrigerator in the hallway, so we didn’t have to walk downstairs for a beverage.

Enjoy a glass of wine and some bird watching on the deck at the Brewery Gulch Inn (Credit: Brewery Gulch Inn)

In the Great Room on the first floor, we enjoyed wine and a buffet dinner by a four-sided fireplace. Books and board games in the Great Room also tempted us to play and linger outside on the deck (perfect for gatherings of friends).

What’s wow:

  • The inn’s Once-In-A-Lifetime Package includes a private cottage, use of a Porsche, champagne, dinners, massages, winery tours and other treats.
  • Rooms are beautifully decorated in soothing tones and with attractive art (not just bland, mass-produced objects so often found elsewhere).
  • I’m not a carnivore, and the chef prepared tofu and mushrooms especially for me. That’s attentive! Breakfast was just as good. In between meals, beverages and snacks are available.
  • Salvaged redwood logs that had been preserved in river silt for 100-odd years were used to build the inn.

What’s appealing to the over-50 luxury traveler?

  • The grounds, the views, the games, the service: This is a very sophisticated but relaxed getaway for any season.
  • Plenty of activities (horseback riding, kayaking, wine tours and so on) can be arranged for more ambitious travelers.

3) The Inn at Newport Ranch: Rustic relaxation and impressive craftsmanship

The Inn at Newport Ranch (Credit: M. Ciavardini)

If you long for a bit of solitude (albeit with ocean views and a redwood-forest backdrop), opt for the 2,000-acre Inn at Newport Ranch, once the site of a small town of sorts where lumber was loaded, via chute, to schooners awaiting in the ocean just beyond the cliffs. Today, the property is used as a cattle ranch and luxurious getaway. A mile of oceanfront and 20 miles of trails can be explored by horse, foot or ATV.

Guests at the Inn at Newport Ranch can enjoy a daily wine hour with appetizers (Credit: M. Ciavardini)

What’s wow:

  • The craftsmanship and detail in the ranch are stunning. We stayed in the Captain’s Quarters, an ocean-view room decorated with a nautical theme. A built-in reading bench lured one in our party to linger there as long as she could. But sometimes the hot tub atop the water tower beckoned. Other times, the fireplaces in the living room or library lured us. Communal areas are cozy and intimate; you can easily be sociable or pursue more quiet corners.
  • The large bathroom in the Captain’s Quarters featured a walk-in shower, big enough for two people, and a rain shower head. Suites in the Redwood House have fireplaces and ocean views, and either hot tubs or a large soaking tub. Guests can also book the four-bedroom Sea Drum house.
  • A walk-in stone fireplace in the Newport Room, a dining room that can seat 50, is a marvel.

What’s appealing to the over-50 luxury traveler?

  • This is the sort of place where you can get far, far away from your workaday world but still be pampered by fine surroundings, exquisite food and excellent service. If you’re not a horse-loving sort, don’t be put off by the word “ranch.” A few days here offer bliss that can be found in few other places.
  • A daily wine hour (with appetizers) is a civilized way to ease into the evening. Dine onsite if you can; the chef is accommodating of both herbivores and carnivores. Enjoy a glass of Whistlepig rye to finish off the night.
  • This is a perfect location for a wedding or vow renewal.

Take note

  • When visiting Mendocino County, bring sensible shoes for your walks near the ocean. There is very much a hiker-beware approach to safety, and you don’t want to accidentally slip and fall.


A mile of oceanfront and 20 miles of trails at the 2,000-acre Inn at Newport Ranch can be explored on horseback or ATV (Credit: Dave Mathews)


The author’s visit was hosted by the above three romantic inns in Mendocino County: Little River Inn, Brewery Gulch Inn and Inn at Newport Ranch.

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romantic inns in mendocino county