By Mika Turim-Nygren, Travel Correspondent
Historical Bed-and-Breakfast Overlooking Ocean Cove
In the early morning hours, when a heavy fog envelops the rocky bluffs of Greenwood Cove, a sort of eerie stillness takes over outside. It holds no sway in the kitchen of innkeeper Curtis Koval. Here the fireplace is already crackling, and Koval is busy making breakfast, which on this morning includes nut cake, fruit salad, bacon, and swedish pancakes—all garnished with nasturtium blossoms plucked from the garden outside. Koval plays a part in running every aspect of the Sandpiper House Inn, from preparing its gourmet meals to maintaining its rooms with a meticulous eye for detail.
Thoughtful touches grace each of the inn's five guest rooms. There's a corkscrew to pop open bottles from local vineyards and extra blankets in the closet for cozying up next to the fireplace. All accommodations don a unique layout and antique furnishings, which hark back to the inn's origins as a 1916 lumber workers' residence, in the days when trains carted redwood timber and the season's hottest flannel shirts along the cove's cliffs. Today, things have quieted down considerably, and views of the Pacific Ocean include few signs of human intervention. The Clifton room's bay window frames a vista of cliff-side pines and a line of craggy islands that dot the sea. The private decks of the Headlands room lead to a perennial garden overlooking the frothy ocean below.
Hints of the Queen Anne cottage's lumber-working legacy linger in the redwood paneling of the living and dining rooms as well as in the kitchen, where sepia-toned photographs show laborers in rolled-up sleeves posed in front of the house as it once was. Koval can regale interested visitors with tales of the inn's past, and sojourners are free to wander off on their own to the garden knoll, where deck chairs sit feet from the bay's ridge and a fishpond burbles quietly. Depending on the season, migrating whales might appear in the distance, as ospreys and hummingbirds wing by.
Elk, California: Cozy Hamlet on Quiet Mendocino Coast
Set on the shoreline of northern California just south of Mendocino, the quiet town of Elk is awash in small-town charm. Pastel cottages perch along the coastal ridge, and an artists' collective serves as home to 28 local artists, whose output spills onto a front lawn dotted with delicate bronze sculptures and weathered wood carvings. Overflowing thickets of both wildflowers and cultivated blooms perfume the air, and crashing ocean waves up and down the Mendocino coastline lend a steady rhythm to local life.
"We have such a geologically exciting landscape," says local plein air painter Deborah Nord, referring to the steep ocean cliffs that crop up so often in her canvases. The pounding sea has expressed its own artistry along the coast of the Mendocino Headlands State Park, carving basins, sculpting arches, and doodling political cartoons in the sand.
The oceanside bluffs also provide ideal lookouts for whale watching. "The easiest whale to see here on the coast is the California gray whale," says Tanya Smart, an instructor of environmental ethics at Point Cabrillo Light Station and State Historic Park. The 50-foot-long leviathans journey southward in January, and upon their return in March, the area welcomes them back with a series of whale festivals.
Not to be outdone, the region's wineries organize numerous wine festivals throughout the year. Vintners showcase a plethora of local vintages with tastings, competitions, and educational events. Travelers can also drive down the 128 into Anderson Valley to go straight to the source, hopping from one bucolic, rolling vineyard to the next.