|MENDOCINO COUNTY, CALIF.
– Trade out that Tesla for a classic woody and pack the tribe for a vintage vacation, Mendocino style. Long known as an outpost for rugged individualism, edge-pushing artists and eco enthusiasts, this stretch of turf just two hours north of San Francisco offers the ultimate urban escape. Classic off-grid cabins, throwback lodges and DIY farm stays link this tapestry of ancient forests and world-class vines with a family-friendly vibe. Check in and truly check out with 90 miles of prime Pacific coastline, 24 state and national parks and a kitschy cache of lodging options certain to sway every sense. www.visitmendocino.com
In the tiny enclave called Little River lies The Andiron Seaside inn & Cabins
. Here guests can tuck into 11 classic cabins set on five acres of meadows and woods boasting all the requisite perks for a vintage family foray. Built in 1959 and recently remodeled under new ownership, this is the stop for a truly kitschy kickback. Every guest cottage is appointed with a unique interior focused on vintage, salvaged, rehabbed and recycled. From old Viewmasters to 1950s fabrics, it’s a retro-chic hideaway on the edge of the sea. Names like Nature, Nurture, Here, There, Read, Write identify each cabin, with the majority offering kitchenettes and wood-burning stoves. Decks, with views of the grassy knolls, Cypress trees and the Pacific round out the expanse. Cabin # 11, “Curious” — features all sorts of ways to indulge one’s curiosity about the world including old telescopes and guides to the night sky, fantastic old-but-working binoculars, field guides to local flora and fauna, science kits and a bird whistle; www.theandiron.com
Tucked in the beachfront enclave of Little River, the Inn at Schoolhouse Creek
is one of the oldest historic resorts on the Mendocino stretch of the North Coast, its opening date
coinciding with the 1932 completion of Highway 1. Originally mill workers’ housing, the Inn now features 17 accommodations, a forest-forward al fresco hot tub and massage yurt and plenty of wild open space.
During World War II, the property was turned over to the U.S. Coast Guard to house the shore patrol, which was on the lookout for invaders on the stretch of coast from Point Arena to the Lost Coast. The Coast Guard added three cottages to the property, one of which is the Water Tower cottage; the one-time armory now houses a private hot tub instead of anti-aircraft weaponry. Rooms are set in a bright palette of blues and yellows with vaulted beam ceilings, a gas fireplace, queen bed and private bath. A spiral staircase leads to a private perch overlooking the Pacific, with views to Japan; www.schoolhousecreek.com
Another great stay can be had at Joshua Grindle Inn.
Set on a two-acre knoll wrapped in Cypress trees, this historic 1879 Victorian farmhouse boasts 10 guest accommodations, including three housed in a replica of its historic water tower. Each room offers a queen or king bed, airy redwood beam ceilings, private baths and a Vermont Castings stove for a cozy ending to the day. If quiet is the keyword, this is the stop, complete with a hearty full breakfast; www.joshuagrindlemendocino.com
CABINS & COOLERS
For a slice of vintage California beat it to Big Bend Lodge and cabins. Set in the rural area of Leggett in north Mendocino County, the resort’s private drive delivers 1940s cottage-style lodgings with fully equipped kitchens, meandering trails, private beaches and potent sunsets. Set on the south fork of the Eel River, this is the spot to relive those retro family forays or create new ones. Nine semi-detached cabins line the property set in colorful retro interiors with decks, barbeques and plenty of wide open space to tap off steam.
On site is the requisite deep swimming hole, old oak tree swing and miles of meandering river for all-day floats; what’s purposely missing are televisions, Wi-Fi and cell service making a stay here truly unplugged. Nearby, visitors can take in a few of the region’s oddities including Confusion Hill
with a gravity-defying house, funky redwood shoe house and the world’s largest standing chainsaw sculpture. A skip away is the eye-popping drive-thru Chandelier Tree
, a 2,400-year old redwood standing 315 tall and 21 feet wide; www.bigbendlodge.com
FABLED FARMS & RETRO RANCHES
Those looking to clock in a little coastal time can head north on scenic Highway 1 to Jug Handle Creek Farm, a 29-acre forest, nature center and native plant sanctuary rife with culinary and medicinal gardens, hiking trails and direct access to the 1,200-acre Jug Handle State Reserve. Here visitors can tap into the world’s largest intact Pygmy Forest Ecological Staircase – a leisurely hike from beach to bluffs traversing 100,000 years in geology on each of the five terraces. This area is especially popular during mushroom season (fall/winter) and a key foraging spot for Mr. Fungi.
Ideal for families on a budget, the 1870s farmhouse offers seven private rooms with shared facilities including a fully-equipped modern kitchen, formal dining room, piano and library. On a quest to write that memoir, spread throughout the redwoods are three private wooden cabins, with porches, that can accommodate up to four guests. Couples on a love fest should opt for the Grand Fir Cabin, which offers a double bed. Nearby is a moderate 15-minute shaded path with direct access to the beach cove; a 10-minute drive delivers the town of Mendocino for those with off-grid anxiety; www.jughandlecreekfarm.com
For a return-to-roots program with a strong farm-to-table ethos, Emandal sits on 1,000 prime acres along Mendocino County’s Eel River. The site includes 19 redwood cabins built between 1910 and 1925 and a lively farm chore program (optional) including daily egg gathering, cow milking, berry picking, pickling and vegetable harvesting for the three family-style meals served daily. Here guests dine on home-farmed grass-fed beef, free-range chickens, house-roasted coffee beans, homemade breads and jam – as well as a large scoop of love for the great outdoors.
Set along three miles of the winding river, Emandal lodgings include beds and linens, cold spring running water, electricity and absolutely no cell service. The back-to-basics balance includes plenty of time to swim, play games and scout miles of dedicated hiking trails. Another perk: the remote location just east of the Inspiration Highway (Highway 101) offers a great safety net for families; www.emandal.com
At the other end of the dollar drop is Howard Creek Ranch
, an 1867 Registered Historic
Site and heavenly hideaway set on 60 oceanfront acres just north of Westport. An original land grant for sheep and cattle farming, today, horses, sheep, llama and pygmy goats graze the pastures. The ultimate family fun camp, the ranch offers award-winning gardens, fireplaces and wood stoves, a 75-foot swinging foot bridge, hot tubs, hiking, sauna, massage, horseback riding and the warm embrace of 1,000-year old redwood trees. On site are nine guest accommodations set in a rambling 1871 farmhouse as well as a smattering of private cottages overlooking the sea with large comfortable beds, antiques and a sumptuous daily cowboy breakfast; www.howardcreekranch.com
For the more eccentric back-to-the-land individualists, Oz Farm
is the call. Set along Highway 1 near the tiny town of Point Arena lies a 240-acre back-to-bliss redwood-kissed outpost operating entirely on solar and wind power. Managed as a sustainable working forest and organic farm, this is the stop for an off-grid getaway steeped in nature. Check the cell phone at the door and drop into another realm. The nine rustic lodgings range from classic yurts to domes and water towers, all with wood-burning stoves. The two-story rustic tower features two guest rooms with a large wrap deck next to an inviting swimming hole on the Garcia River. Pack that miner’s light as the bathroom facilities are outside by way of an outhouse; www.ozfarm.com/tower-cabin
If picking the morning kale and eggs is the call, Mar Vista Cottages offers a slice of California past. Originally built in the 1930s for sport fishermen looking to reel in resident salmon and steelhead trout, the nine-acre farm is now festooned with an stunning organic garden, fruit orchard housing 150+ hens, and resident goats Lola and Higgins who wander the grounds. Set on a sloping hill with coastal and meadow views, Mar Vista is solitude central. Accommodations include twelve quaint stand-alone cottages set in soft yellow tones with Shaker-inspired interiors, full kitchens, wood- or gas-burning fireplaces and plenty of space to wander. For larger parties, the family cottages (Units #9 – #12) have plenty of breathing room for kids to cut loose.
Mornings mean freshly brewed coffee and guests harvesting their own vegetables, herbs and eggs for breakfast. As the sun sets, a hidden al fresco hot tub sits ready as does the nightly stargazing show thanks to the lack of light pollution. There is also a nearby waterfall and access to Fish Rock Beach for tide pooling or a brisk dip; www.marvistamendocino.com
Set on 250 secluded acres in the heart of Anderson Valley’s booming wine region, Blackbird Farm
and the Farm Stay Inn
is the stop for families seeking a more in-depth farm experience and reboot with Mother Nature. Boasting 100+ miles of riding and hiking trails, the property offers four cabins, two farm houses and yurts as well as an inside track on learning the ropes of sustainable farming. Activities might include classes in cheese making, preserving, and mustard and jam crafting set against a backdrop of an organic, working farm; www.blackbird.org
Just two hours north of San Francisco Bay Area in bucolic Potter Valley, the Oak Granary
steps up with 300 acres of rolling hills, diverse wildland, mixed conifer forests and a working ranch community driven by nature-based learning. Located one half mile from Mendocino National Forest, here visitors can unplug and romp the woods, commune with Tule elk, giant redwoods and oak savannah or visit the Learning Garden for a lesson about the ecological food chain from seed to table. This nonprofit environmental education center is certain to feed the minds of any budding naturalist. The rustic-chic facilities include a Farm House (sleeps 10), Hill House (sleeps 4) and classic steel dairy barn for events. www.oakgranary.org
TAKING T HE WATERS
Calling all Sybarites! From the homey scent of the cedar sauna to the throwback hot tubs and towering views, Sweetwater Inn checks off all the boxes for a sexy little escape with a distinct vintage vibe. Standing sentinel in the heart of Mendocino with three iconic water tower guestrooms, this rustic property also offers an eco-spa with body treatments and three redwood hot tubs – one communal – clothing optional.
Built in 1872, the Sweetwater Tower was restored in 1983 offering a sunny escape for up to four guests with a sunken living room, wood-burning stove and two queen beds — one perched in the cozy elevated loft with panoramic ocean views. Equally impressive is the Redwood Tower, custom built out of local redwood with an eye to craftsmanship. The three-story tower features a rooftop deck, master suite with vaulted open-beam ceilings, gas fireplace and full kitchen. There is also a two-story Sears Tower that comfortably sleeps five. Five other guest accommodations round out the options; www.sweetwaterspa.com
Located along the Inspiration Highway (Highway 101) in the back country west of Ukiah, Orr Hot Springs
is the stop for the true hedonist with 27 bucolic acres of rugged outback. Originally on the stagecoach route in the late 1800s, the resort began building cabins in the 1930s and today has a mix of lodgings near the fresh mountain spring. Steeped in serenity, Orr offers 23 guestroom cottages including six stand-alone yurts, traditional 12-sided wooden structures with queen beds, propane heaters and shared facilities. Camping on-site is also an option with six coveted spots. Those who prefer to take to the waters after sundown should opt for room #6, which offers 24/7 direct access to the bathhouse. Guests can delve into a secluded mineral bath, opt for two communal tubs set between 104-107 degrees or snag one of two stargazing tubs located atop of the bathhouse building. The enormous cold pool, a 15 by 60 ft. spring-fed plunge built into a rock sidewall set at a delightful 65-75 degrees, offers the ultimate chill down. For those seeking a detox duo, the dry sauna and constant-flow steam room, from the same water source, do the trick; massage is also available; www.orrhotsprings.org
Muir and President Roosevelt knew a good thing when they hightailed it to California Landmark No. 980 – better known as the champagne mineral baths. Just a few miles east of Ukiah, Vichy Springs Resort and Spa
, a 700-acre facility boasting America’s only warm and naturally carbonated Vichy mineral baths (and Olympic-size pool), offers a classic escape and perfect Rx for rejuvenation. On tap are a variety of guestrooms and cottages including the historic Blue Cottage (1852), a stand-alone gem adjacent to the natural hot springs. Guests can hike to Chemisal Falls or take to the creek side baths like a lime in Perrier; www.vichysprings.info
Mendocino County welcomes nearly 1.8 million visitors annually who explore its 90 miles of prime Pacific coastline, 90+ wineries and 10 diverse AVAs (earning the highest percentage of organic and biodynamic vineyards in the United States), 24 state/national parklands and 450+ unique accommodations. Straddling scenic Highways 1 and 101, “The Redwood Corridor,” the County delivers an ideal vortex of waves, wines and redwoods laced with historic villages and outback adventures. Located 114 mi./184 km. north of San Francisco, the region’s gateway airports are San Francisco International (SFO), Oakland International (OAK), Sacramento International Airport (SMF), and Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport (STS). Visit Mendocino County is a non-profit destination marketing organization designed to enhance the economic vitality of the community by increasing tourism revenue. For more information, go to www.visitmendocino.com