This Mendocino family travel guide is sponsored by a variety of local partners including Little River Inn, Liquid Fusion Kayaking. and The Skunk Train.
Are you looking for a unique long weekend away in Northern California? This guide is for you. Let me start by stating that the north coast of California is much different than Southern California beaches. I used to be a person who thought I couldn’t enjoy the crisp, foggy aesthetic of the north but I was so wrong. It turns out it’s exactly what we needed.
When I got the invite to go on this trip, I was sitting in the airport with Tyler. We were on the way to Virginia to see his mom, Tracey, who we had just learned was being put on Hospice. That was in April and at the time, June felt like a million years away. I noticed that the dates of the trip fell on Sully’s birthday and I didn’t know what a relief it would be having an itinerary for the first family birthday without Tracey around. While we were in Mendocino, we expressed multiple times just how much she would have loved it. I’m very thankful we had the opportunity to have this experience as a family, we will always remember it as a very special trip.
In this Mendocino family travel guide you will find details about our trips including where to stay and activities. We were shocked at the amount of things to do with kids in Mendocino County!
Where To Stay IN MENDOCINO: Little River Inn
The LIttle River Inn is a gorgeous, picturesque hotel perched on the edge of the Pacific Ocean. It is about a 3 hour drive from San Francisco or Sacramento. The views alone make the long car ride worth it.
The Little River Inn has been welcoming guests for over 80 years. We were lucky enough to meet the fifth generation innkeeper, Cally, and her family. It was such a joy getting to know them. Their pride in the property and community is very apparent; it’s exactly the type of small business you want to support. Their ethos, as listed on their website, says it all:
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. From our Audubon-certified golf course, to water-preservation techniques, to recycling flow, we strive to ensure that we’ll be able to continue welcoming your children and grandchildren to the same beautiful piece of pristine coastline our great-grandparents knew and loved.
We stayed in one of the Ocean View Deluxe rooms with two queen beds. The room featured a fireplace, balcony, and deluxe bathroom with luxurious bathtub and shower. It was spacious and cozy for our family of 4.
This was a hosted trip, so we got to experience a fun welcome dinner with the other families on the trip. We played Minute To Win It games, and got to sample the Inn restaurant menu while we got to know each other. The food was delicious and they had plenty of kid-friendly options.
We loved Little River Inn so much and truly can’t wait to go back!
Mendocino Family Travel Guide: Activities
Kayaking on the Noyo River
Our hosted itinerary began with an 11 o’clock Liquid Fusion Noyo Meander Kayaking Tour. The Noyo River extends for 113 miles from Willits to the Pacific Ocean in Fort Bragg. Our tour was lead by Jeff, one of the co-owners of Liquid Fusion Kayaking. He was so knowledgable and kind. The day of the tour just happened to be Sullivan’s birthday and Jeff paused to have the group sing happy birthday on the river. Such a special way to turn seven that he will always remember!
The wildlife on the Noyo was abundant. We saw deer, many different types of birds including ducklings, and harbor seals! This tour was a great way to get our family out in nature while doing something active.
Below is a short Reel of our tour, click here to book yours!
The Skunk Train
Later in the afternoon we made our way to downtown Fort Bragg where we boarded the Skunk Train. We took the Pudding Creek Express ride through the Pudding Creek Estuary with a 20 minute stop at Glen Blair Junction in the heart of the Redwoods. This 75 minute train ride is the perfect amount of time for young kids, enough to keep them interested and enjoy the novelty of a train ride.
The views were really the highlight. We sat in a traditional train car but we were able to get up during the trip to check out the views from a viewing platform at the front of the car.
Book your ride on the Skunk Train here.
We absolutely loved this activity on the way out of town. Pennyroyal Farm is located in Boonville, about 45 minutes outside of Mendocino on Highway 128. We experienced a tour of the entire farmstead where we got to meet the goats, sheep, llama, and an educational walkthrough of the gardens and vines. We also got to see their creamery where their variety of delicious cheeses are made.
After the tour, the adults had a wine and cheese tasting and the kids had a juice and cheese tasting! This was so fun for the boys who are often left out of activities like this. Bonus points for how hilarious it was to watch them drink out of wine glasses, haha!
I could go on and on about all the things I loved about Pennyroyal Farm––like the fact that every goat has a name and their cheeses are seasonal, in order to follow the animal’s natural reproductive cycle. I also really love the farm’s commitment to sustainability and modern farming practices. They are a minimum waste farm and it is apparent that the connection to the land and the community is of the utmost importance. Perhaps my favorite thing is how family friendly it is, the tour and experience was created with families in mind.
If you can’t make it to Boonville to visit Pennyroyal, you can find a variety of cheese, wine, and more are available in their online shop.
Van Damme State Park
Located adjacent to The Little River Inn is Van Damme State Park which features beaches, hiking trails, a day use area, camping, and more.
This beach is a must-see, made up of colorful sea glass.
Out Of This World Shop
We received so many recommendations for this shop on Main Street in Mendocino! They have a variety of science and educational themed gifts, gadgets, puzzles, and more.
A Few Mendocino Tips
Dress in layers
The temperature on the Mendocino coast tends to stay pretty mild but the sun can warm you up quick. Throughout the course of the day I went from pants and a sweatshirt to shorts and tank top then back again! And this was in June. The weather on the north coast is definitely unique.
Prepare For No Cell Service
Sometimes I am so in my little suburban bubble that I forget that there are still places in the world with no cell service. Little River Inn has great wifi so this was only really an issue when we were trying to Google Map our way to the Skunk Train and it wouldn’t connect. Just as we were about to ask someone for directions like it’s 1982, we found one bar of service and made it in time.