Where to go for a romantic getaway on the Mendocino Coast

There are plenty of places to explore, stay, eat and relax during one of the most romantic days of the year and beyond.|

Love may be in the air this week, but all along the Mendocino Coast, romance is on the calendar every day of the year. Whether for a wedding or an anniversary celebration, a proposal on bended knee, or just a much-needed weekend getaway by the sea, the craggy, surf-splashed shores of Mendocino County provide an inspiring backdrop for amour.

Romantic stays

The fancy Victorian-style gazebo at the Elk Cove Inn is an ideal setting for sunset views and popping a bottle of bubbly or popping the question in the village of Elk. High above the driftwood and tidepool-bearing Greenwood State Beach where a fishing lagoon meets the Pacific Ocean, visitors will see towering rocks line up near the shore and a little beyond.

Rooms in the craftsman-style lodge and 1800s mansion have ocean-view balconies and fireplaces. Visitors can enjoy the on-site restaurant and wander the voluminous gardens that are popular sites for small weddings.

“Once they (partners) get married here on the property, many of our guests return year after year. One couple comes every few years and recently celebrated their 45th anniversary with us,” said Elk Cove Inn co-owner Melissa Boons. “We also help out with pre-planned proposals.”

Staff can arrange a bonfire on the beach, complete with s’mores and wine for visitors, too. A few hours here are sure to rekindle forgotten passions.

For those who want a slow start to their day, breakfast is delivered to guest rooms and is included with every stay. For dinner, there’s the in-house restaurant named Sibo Restaurant that is open for dinner Thursday to Monday. A special Valentine’s Day package and menu is available through February 14.

And just up the road a brand-new property is gradually opening its rooms and two on-site eateries.

Sacred Rock Inn has high ceilings and wood-paneled rooms with decks, window seats and Jacuzzi tubs face a panorama view where waves are crashing against the eponymous “sacred rock.” Accommodations are named the castle, water towers, bluff cottages and the restored Victorian is known as the “white house.”

The inn is also a popular site for weddings.

"When the inn is fully open, we will welcome wedding parties of up to thirty guests, and at the restaurant we'll offer rehearsals and receptions, also, with full-property buyouts,” said Sacred Rock Inn General Manger Tom Halen.

When planning a trip, ask for room 243. Guests will find a tub for two that has an endless view of the sea and the tiny beach below.

Located on the property, Greenwood Restaurant serves breakfast and lunch along with a wine list that only includes local producers. The restaurant specializes in locally-sourced oysters, mushrooms, duck and poultry. A few steps away, the Elk House is a snug, pub-like gathering place with a menu full of comfort food and libations from family-run, Mendocino County wineries and distillers.

Opened last year in the town of Mendocino, Nicholson House is a stately Victorian former family home of the late 1800s that has been transformed into a whimsical art deco-inspired hostelry with elegant crystal chandeliers. Rooms offer huge soaking tubs, steam showers, fireplaces and feather beds. Couples can unpack and settle in, then enjoy California-French gourmet dining right next door to Cafe Beaujolais, a star of the local dining scene for more than fifty years.

In 2015, Cafe Beaujolais won the Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator, which recognized 3,600 outstanding restaurants worldwide that offer extraordinary wine lists.

Where to stay

Elk Cove Inn: Guests of this pet-friendly spot will find views on the Mendocino Coast.The Elk Cove Inn’s mansion was built in 1883 by the L.E. White Lumber Co. as the mill superintendent’s home. It became one of the first bed and breakfast inns on the Mendocino Coast in 1968. The inn is set back from the road, surrounded by native trees, a creek and the ocean, with private stairs to the driftwood-strewn beach below.

Location: 6300 Highway 1, Elk

More information: 800-275-2967, www.elkcoveinn.com

Sacred Rock Inn: Restored rooms and cottages have views of rugged bluffs and the Pacific Ocean. Close by, there’s an abundance of outdoor activities like wine and cider tasting, hiking and beach trips.

Location: 5920 Highway 1, Elk

More information: 707-877-3422, www.sacredrockinn.com

Nicholson House at Beaujolais: Originally built as a private family home and later converted into housing for the community, Nicholson House at Beaujolais is a place where guests can sat or stop by for dinner and drinks.

Location: 951 Ukiah St., Mendocino

More information: 707-937-0312, www.nicholsonhouse.com

Sweetwater Inn & Spa: Situated in the heart of Mendocino, the inn has a variety of accommodations to choose from including dog-friendly cottages with gas fireplaces, hot tubs, kitchens or kitchenettes; historic water tower suites and cozy Victorian rooms. Guests of the Sweetwater Eco Spa can choose from private outdoor redwood hot tubs, infrared and traditional saunas. Massages are also available.

Location: 955 Ukiah St., Mendocino

More information: 800-300-4140, www.sweetwaterspa.com

MacCallum House: A historic Victorian home nestled in the center of town, MacCallum House is a boutique hotel and restaurant. The grounds are surrounded by lush gardens and the main property houses nineteen rooms, along with a restaurant. Some rooms have fireplaces, hot tubs and ocean views.

Location: 45020 Albion St., Mendocino

More information: 800-609-0492, www.maccallumhouse.com

Spring Ranch: The historic private property on the rugged Northern California Coast is just minutes from Mendocino and state parks. Thee Victorian mansion boasts a wrap-around porch, stone fireplace, formal dining room and hot tub.

Location: 8475 Highway 1, Little River

More information: 415-760-3432, www.spring-ranch.com

Eat, drink and relax

Adjacent to Nicholson House, sweethearts can melt into relaxation at Sweetwater Eco Spa in Mendocino with a restorative soak in a private or communal redwood hot tub and a cedar-lined sauna. Massages are also available. A comforting retreat for locals and visitors since the 1980s, the sprawling property also includes a small inn, a clutch of clapboard cottages and three-story-tall water towers with rooftop decks where guests can gaze out over the town and the sea.

Sweetwater Inn & Spa’s towers are among about thirty remaining water towers from those erected between the 1850s and the 1930s, when Mendocino thrived as a redwood logging and mill town. Ships captains’ mansions are now bed-and-breakfast inns. The old saltbox cottages are quaint shops and art galleries are guarded by picket fences that scarcely hold back rampant honeysuckle vines and old-fashioned gardens.

Accommodations are clean, comfortable with both pet-and child-friendly lodging.

Guests are just blocks away from downtown dining spots like GoodLife Cafe & Bakery, Luna Trattoria, Mendocino Cafe and Patterson's Pub.

It’s easy to imagine horse-drawn carriages and ladies with parasols sweeping along the boardwalks on Main Street and in front of the MacCallum House, which anchors Albion Street like a dowager queen from Victorian times, as fancy as a white wedding cake with its finials and gables and gingerbread trim. The house was originally built as a gift to a bride, "Daisy" Kelley MacCallum, in 1882.

“Hot and cold water in three different places and there is a bathroom with a sprinkler overhead for family use,” said an edition of the Mendocino Beacon. “The house contains five airy bedrooms with lofty ceiling and corresponding breadth, a cheery dining room, a parlor with space for a library, and a pantry with a washroom.”

When locals and visitors spot a giant white tent on the front lawn of the MacCallum House, they know a wedding is taking place. More intimate ceremonies are held by fireside, in the gardens of the main house, or above town in a newer annex, which features spacious suites and wide decks with sea views.

“We do between ten and twenty weddings a year, ranging from about 30 to 200 people and around ten elopements,” said MacCallum House General Manager Saya Abernathy-Hansen. “This year we have ten weddings booked.”

The property has two acres of gardens, perfect for pairs to explore. The Mendocino Restaurant and Bar, located on the property is open for breakfast and dinner. The restaurant focuses on organic foods and sustainable farming. Couples looking at their their five-course tasting menu, must make a reservation.

Get hitched by the seaside

Besides formal weddings at inns or local hotels, the Mendocino Coast offers scenic outdoor venues for simple ceremonies or for romantic interludes, no commitment required.

A five-minute drive from downtown in Mendocino Headlands State Park, many couples have found the Cypress Grove to be a photogenic setting for engagement and wedding photos while others used the entwined cypress trees as a dazzling backdrop for Instagram-worthy posts. Permits are required to schedule ceremonies and events at the location, but anyone can visit during park hours.

Another popular outdoor wedding venue is the sunny meadow at the Mendocino Bay Overlook across from the bluffs of Mendocino above Big River Beach.

For events up to 200 people, Spring Ranch, near Little River, sports an old western feel. The venue hosted 27 weddings in 2022. With a rustic mansion built in the 1860s and a fanciful barn salvaged from British Columbia, the area is a romantic spot amid a eucalyptus forest.

“We’re sort of lost in the mists of time here, with plenty of nooks and crannies where our guests can get lost and alone,” said Carol Sanders, who is the chief wedding planner at Spring Ranch. “We call it ‘Mendo Time.’ For maximum enjoyment of our very private, tree-studded ranch, we specialize in the three-day wedding or family reunion weekends, starting with a barbecue with a live band, then family activities, outings in the oceanside nature preserve across the road, the rehearsal dinner, and of course, an unforgettable wedding and party.”

Romantic Restaurants in Sonoma County

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, but romance is always in the air. Whether you’re heading out for a quiet dinner for two, an evening on the town or venturing further afield for a weekend escape, we’ve put together a list of favorite restaurants for sharing with the love of your life (or the love of this month, either way).

See the full list: https://www.sonomamag.com/most-romantic-restaurants-in-sonoma-county/

For any couple seeking serene privacy, the Russian room tucked away in the Carriage Barn Loft is a sanctuary made just for romance. Beneath vaulted ceilings and ancient beams is a parlor with a stone fireplace, and a kitchen, a bathroom with a clawfoot tub and a king-sized bed with views of forest and meadow through arched windows.

The Mendocino Coast is ideal for a cozy weekend getaway with your love or for partners looking to tie the knot with the scenic backdrop of ocean views and nature’s best. There are plenty of places to explore, stay, eat and relax during one of the most romantic days of the year and beyond.

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