Mendocino County is a self-contained universe of effortless, California-centric joy enveloped within the Redwood Forest National and State Parks, the rocky Pacific Coast and several prime wine production areas like Anderson Valley. If Highway 1 and Route 128 are the ribbons holding this package together, Elk Cove Inn & Spa can be considered the bow. Mendocino Coast’s first vacation destination, established in 1968, is an ideal 16-room gateway to the destination.
At check-in, the manager points out to me she sees Elk Cove Inn as a sort of village embodying everything that lured settlers and travelers to this part of the Golden State. The spa, tucked into the heart of the complex, is also a small, reservations-only amenity with a green wall, wood floors and personalized massages and treatments from some of the best therapists in the area. The physical location, with its cypress tree grove; artistic landscaping; herb and artisan produce gardens; and chickens, rabbits, goats, and honeybees, complete an idyllic picture of easy-going northern California living.
The main Victorian mansion, built in 1883 as the executive retreat of L.E. White Lumber Company, encompasses the resort’s office, SIBO restaurant and a handful of beautiful suites. To one side of it, there’s a modern, craftsman-style lodge holding its oceanfront junior suites, named for key figures in Mendocino history such as L.E. White (the suite where I stayed). Elsewhere, there are several free-standing Carriage House pet-friendly buildings. Each of its 16 rooms, including 12 designed to accommodate pets, has its own configuration of a kitchenette, wood-burning stove or electric fireplace, well-appointed bathrooms, robes, buttery soft sheets, European Sleep Works mattresses and duvets by luxury linen maker Comphy.
Executive Chef Victor Passalacqua, co-owner of the property along with sommelier wife Melissa, takes his experience working alongside internationally renowned chefs such as Paul Bocuse, Edward Merard and Ferran Adrià and brings it down to earth through his procurement of ingredients from local farmers and artisanal producers. SIBO is a small production enterprise, as it is only open five days a week and only makes its grab-and-go menu available Tuesday and Wednesday.
From there, just add the Pacific Ocean’s water as I did during my stay in the warm and romantically attired L.E. White suite. While I used my time to sit back and enjoy the views and natural soundtrack of the Pacific, some guests treat the space as a rustic but plush base camp for Mendocino’s outdoor activities, while others use it a rest stop between visits to wineries, other local restaurants or Fort Bragg and Mendocino Village, where numerous movies and television shows — most notably Murder She Wrote — were filmed.
Rakesh Taneja, another of the resort’s owners, points out 80 percent of Elk Cove Inn’s bookings are repeat visitors, and guests will often compare the experience of a stay at the inn to an escape to a creative friend or relative’s home, whether the goal of the trip is a quick getaway, a business retreat, family reunion or romantic weekend. Its status as an LGBTQIA+-friendly and pet-friendly destination is also a point of pride. While it’s difficult to leave this cinematic yet serene setting, guests will never be too far from shopping, destination restaurants, local hangouts (such as Dick’s Place and Patterson’s Pub), wineries and more jaw-dropping views specific to this corner of California.
Elk, CA 95432
tel 707 877 3321
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