Mendocino’s rugged, magical coastline draws me to Northern California every year. The setting of one of the most romantic inns in Mendocino County sits on a bluff overlooking the relative tranquility of the cove with stunning views of rock arches, turquoise and blue water, and a tangerine sunset sky. The force of the Pacific Ocean splashes over the sea stacks, and seagulls vie for places atop jagged stone.
You should consider a visit to the Elk Cove Inn if you want to get away for the weekend, eat well, drink unforgettable wines, relax and get a respite from everyday life. It’s the perfect place for a weekend getaway on the west coast.
While I was a guest at the Elk Cove Inn on this visit to Mendocino, all opinions are my own.
Comfort and hospitality
Our George Burk Suite room key was waiting in the residence’s outside locker for our contactless check-in.
Upon our arrival, sunlight streamed in through the huge windows of the ocean view room, and a soundscape played softly on the flat screen TV in the background, setting the mood for our stay.
The fluffy duvet on the queen bed included wine and a gift basket that all guests at the Elk Cove Inn receive. Port wine, crystal goblets and chocolates on the sideboard were a sweet end to a memorable day on the coast. The fireplace kept us cozy throughout our stay. The TV trays made it easier to arrange meals in the apartment with a view into our room or onto the balcony.
Spa services are available in the European-style day spa on the ground floor of the residence. Upstairs there is a library and games room, as well as cushioned chairs and couches where you can relax and read.
The Elk Cove Inn, a pet-friendly bed and breakfast, is a craftsman-style mansion that has been the home of the mill manager since 1883. In 1968, it became one of the first bed and breakfasts in Mendocino County.
Nestled amongst native trees, the Elk Cove Inn is popular for honeymooners, girls, couples, singles and weddings. The gazebo is the site of the textbook ceremony, and benches built into the hillside below provide unobstructed views.
Sheltered between cattle pastures, redwood forests and ocean bluffs, the property is ideally located for beach walks and beach combing. Driftwood litters the beach along with shells and flat rocks that are ideal for building cairns.
Hidden stairs under the buildings lead in two directions – to the beach and to the town. A short uphill walk connects you to Greenwood State Beach and Park and the small town of Elk.
Melissa and Victor, the co-owners and general managers of the Elk Cove Inn, are kind and friendly hosts. Telling how they became co-owners of the property, they told us about their life journeys and how proud they were of how much they had achieved in the two years since owning the inn.
The rabbits, goats, hens, roosters, and gardens that bring produce from farm to fork come directly from their land. We learned that they are self-sufficient when they showed us around their farm and nursery.
Chef Victor brings years of experience and achievement to Sibo, the Elk Cove Inn’s signature restaurant. He trained in Quebec and Switzerland, worked in many countries and owned many restaurants. During his 25-year stay in Miami, Florida, he was appointed to the advisory board of the Miami Culinary Institute, where he made a significant contribution to the institute.
In “retirement”, Victor prepares gourmet breakfasts and dinners every day for guests and the public at the Elk Cove Inn.
Sommelier Melissa, born in France, educated in Texas with a journalism degree, completed all four levels of the WSET (Wine & Spirit Education Trust) program. She met Victor when she moved to Miami, where they managed and owned a high-end wine distribution company. They specialized in French and Spanish wines that catered to American tastes.
Elk Cove Inn offers vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options. Victor is the only chef in the kitchen and strives for zero waste. He only prepares ordered meals which you choose by noon on the day of booking.
Delicious breakfasts, ordered by guests the previous evening from an extensive menu, are prepared and delivered to the guest apartment between 8:30-10:30
I ordered brouliette, which is scrambled eggs with Parmesan cheese, truffle oil, shallots and creme fraîche. Potato casserole is gluten-free and consists of eggs, cream, cheese and herbs. These two dishes were so delicious that on the second day of my stay I ordered them again.
For dinner, I chose râble de lapin, the country rabbit. My husband ordered the cassoulet de canard, confit duck leg and smoked pork belly in a rich, delicious sauce. As an appetizer, I was lucky enough to eat fried mushrooms, locally harvested fresh mushrooms.
Our meal started with a light broth followed by appetizers, entrees, dessert and house plum wine.
The whole Sibo experience was memorable and we enjoyed exceptional service in the dining room.
Elk, California, with a population of less than 250, is 22 miles south of Fort Bragg. Originally a 19th-century logging community, it was named Greenwood after brothers who were early settlers.
Today, historic buildings are preserved along Highway 1. Founded in 1901, Matson Mercantile is still family owned and operated. Everything from eardrops to olive oil, unique gifts, gardening tools and computer equipment are on sale.
The Greenwood State Beach Visitor Center museum features late 19th-century mail, photos of early settlers, period furniture, and logging camp artifacts. Due to limited hours on Fridays and Saturdays they were not open when we were there.
Old Hospital House is allegedly where Jack London wrote Call of the Wild. No account of Jacek’s life supports this story, but the locals promote it.
The Elk Store is a grocery and deli with humor. Their handmade sign warns motorists: “Danger of treacherous road ahead, stop and grab a sandwich.”
How to get there
Mendocino County is about three hours north of San Francisco on US 101 or nearly three hours south of Leggett along scenic Highway 1.
The nearest airport is Santa Rosa, a two-hour drive to the south, with a small municipal airport in Little River serving Mendocino County. Driving is required no matter how you get to this place in Northern California.
The two roads from US 101 to Coastal Mendocino, Highway 128 in Cloverdale and Highway 20 from Willits, are winding and best traveled during the day. Route 128 intersects Highway 1 and continues the curves on the two-lane road along the coast to Ełk.
Professional advice: We visited Mendocino County in the spring and fall. It is windy most of the year, but on both visits we enjoyed most days with sunshine and the occasional fog. The sunsets are spectacular and last an hour.
For more information on traveling to California, check out these articles: