Best Places to Stay Along the Northern California Coast: The Benbow Historic Inn on the Old Redwood Highway

Wherever you decide to stay, a drive along the northern California coast is visually breathtaking, and if you find a comfortable inn to lay your head, so much the better. The Benbow Historic Inn is just such a place. It is also as interesting an auberge as you will find anywhere along the great and scenic Redwood Highway.

We reached exit 636 on highway 101 at 3pm and at the onset of a downpour. The Inn appeared within seconds of leaving the freeway. It was a welcome sight, sitting on a hillside surrounded by a crown of the deepest green trees. If we didn’t know we were in California, we could be convinced we were in England.

First open to the public in July 1926, this historic Tudor style hotel elicits old world charm inside and out.

In a place where private bi-planes parked to disembark the elite of Hollywood’s past there’s now an extensive parking area for guests and visitors to the Inn.

The list of Golden Age screen icons that frequented the Inn includes Spencer Tracy, Clark Gable, Alan Ladd, Charles Laughton, Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald, Joan Fontaine (honeymooned twice), and Basil Rathbone. Dignitaries included Eleanor Roosevelt, Herbert Hoover and more recently the King of Jordan, as well as entertainers Danny Glover, Matt Leblanc, and Cher.

The renovation

The lobby is new and part of an extensive renovation and improvement project completed in 2018, but it has a sense of place that fits well into the original structure.

Note for those who have not visited the Benbow of late: Further to adding space and upgrades, the new addition has made the Inn ADA compliant. Also, an elevator has been installed – blissfully ending 9 decades of hand carrying luggage up several flights of stairs.

Walking to our sleeping room we felt a sensation of leaving the present and being drawn into a nostalgic journey back to a more reserved 1930s and 40s. After a long drive in the rain, it was a welcome adjustment.

The haunting

We had been assigned the Burtis Benbow Suite. A beautiful room well decorated with period antique furnishings, tasteful décor, and a fireplace. We loved the room, but there were two problems.

The thermostat was set at 70 degrees, but the room was 82 degrees. Wayne clicked on the bathroom lights, but nothing happened. He tried several times to no avail. Judy tried once, and voila, there was light.

We called the front desk, and the clerk immediately assigned us another room. Wayne clicked off the bathroom light, but it remained on. Judy clicked, and the light went out. Surely, there was a reasonable explanation. Consider that Burtis Benbow was the 4th Benbow child and considered a mechanical genius. Perhaps his genius extended to apparitional mechanical pranks?

During our stay at the Benbow, we learned of numerous ghostly incidents experienced by other guests and employees. Small anomalies like unexplained changes in room temperatures, pillows relocated, sherry decanter tops missing, furniture moved, office paperwork shuffled, and phone calls from empty rooms. No reports of any guest possessions being moved, only manor property.

By all reports, people experiencing these oddities seemed genuinely thrilled at the thought of being part of a friendly ghost encounter. We concluded that for the first time in our many years of staying at supposedly haunted lodgings, perhaps we had finally experienced our first paranormal event.

Outdoor activities

It’s easy to see why the old Hollywood crowd, and the motoring public traveling on the new Redwood Highway in 1926, enjoyed the Inn – the relaxation. Originally, 1290 acres of pristine wilderness provided opportunities to horseback ride, hike, bicycle, swim, boat, fish, lounge in a garden setting, and commune with nature. Almost 100 years later, much of the attraction remains.

There’s now a 9-hole golf course; the lake is gone, but the Eel River still flows gently along the Inn and under the old stone bridge. The scene is still peaceful and serene.

The outdoor patio is inviting. Our visit took place in winter, but it’s easy to imagine relaxing on the Parisian style patio with book in hand, enjoying the sound of birds and the delicate scent of flowers. We are anxious to return when everything is in bloom.

A short 20 mile scenic drive north from the Inn puts you at the gateway of the 31 mile long Avenue of the Giants 101 bypass near Humboldt Redwood State Park. We took the Avenue road, but it was raining hard, and not enjoyable. We look forward to the drive in better weather.

Indoor amenities

The main gathering room of the Inn is called the upper lobby. It is a large space and can easily accommodate a sizable crowd.

A cozy fireplace warms the room, which is conducive to a friendly conversation, reading, game of chess, cards, or just relaxing.

The library is yet another comfortable space for guest enjoyment.

The bar

The bar was part of the renovation, and completed with painstaking care to give it an appropriate stance in the overall atmosphere of the Inn.

The bar menu is inviting and Wayne’s special request for a grilled cheese sandwich and Caesar salad rendered an appetizing meal, artfully presented.

Judy delighted in a kale and farro salad embellished with, butternut squash, candied figs, caramelized onion, cotija cheese, toasted pepitas, and topped with a maple vinaigrette.

The Inn’s deep and diverse wine list of over 450 selections has earned the Inn several years of Wine Spectator Excellence Awards.

The dining room

Delicious foods are enhanced by scene and spirits.” Surrounded by elegant wooden muntin framed windows, the dining room at the Benbow Historic Inn has a decidedly British panache that demonstrates the designer’s refined taste in old-world décor.  The experience is like dining in a fashionable English country house.

Our morning meal consisted of eggs, delicious sausage, and the absolutely best crushed potatoes imaginable. The chef revealed, “The secret is to boil the full skin potatoes, fry them crisp, lightly pepper and gently crush.” Delightful!

A country lodging

If you enjoy being in a place with history, step across the threshold of time to a golden age where luxury was expected, and attention to fine dining and personal details was always the order of the day.

The erstwhile glamour and sophistication are still there in the northern California forest – at the Benbow Inn. In 1983, the Inn was placed on the National Register of Historic Places – kudos to the selection committee.

Other things to consider

In 2018, Historic Hotels of America bestowed the Best Small Historic Inns Award (under 75 guestrooms) on the Benbow Inn.

The Inn is an excellent venue for a corporate retreat or wedding for up to 225 guests.

Electric car aficionados: In these parts, it’s a long way between charges, and Benbow Inn has charging stations!

Our recommendation

In our fast-paced world, any opportunity to get away from it all, even for a short while, can do wonders to re-energize our lives. The Benbow Historic Inn offers its own special magic from another time and place.

So, choose from a range of guestroom types to suit your taste, soak in the refined ambiance, and enjoy a getaway at the Inn.

For more information

The Benbow Historic Inn has an excellent website that provides everything you need to know.

Happy travels!

*************************************

“Get out there, but be prepared.”

Whenever we travel, we are protected by AllianzTravel insurance.

You can plan your trips with Google Maps.

The opinions expressed in our articles are the journalists’ alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any entity.

Copyright © 2019 Visit great vacation destinations with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos Copyright © 2019 Judy Bayliff – Vintage photos courtesy of Benbow Historic Inn. Fake ghost image by Wayne Bayliff

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Worth a Rainy Day Drive to get to the Inn by the Sea in Maine

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Inn by the Sea on Crescent Beach, Cape Elizabeth ME hi resWe were making an autumnal writing swing through New England and the surrounding states, visiting some of the regions finest B&Bs and resorts. A week or so into our trip, we hit a nor’easter just outside Cape Elizabeth, Maine, the home of our next destination. We found that a few days in a storm can be great fun – if you happen to be staying at the inspirational Inn by the Sea.

A very different resort

The Inn by the Sea is an eco-luxury, pet friendly, beachy rustic resort, located on mile-long Crescent Beach, a short 7 miles from Portland, Maine.

04-04-04-P1010111As we drove up to the inn’s portico, the wind was lashing the entry plants to and fro, and the rain was bouncing off our rental car hood like miniature ping pong balls. We waited a few minutes, then made a dash for the front door.

06-208-IMG_6167What a comfort to be inside the well-appointed lobby and right next to the registration desk.

The staff attitude at the Inn by the Sea was the first thing we noticed. Smiling faces everywhere, even on this dark and dreary day – how refreshing.

The accommodations

There are 61 diverse guestrooms, suites, and cottages to choose from in this luxurious Four Diamond property.

In a matter of minutes we were escorted to our second floor suite overlooking the ocean — we think, but it was raining so hard that we couldn’t see much of anything beyond the dense vegetation below our balcony.

43-245-IMG_6210Before long the fireplace was making a cozy room even cozier.

14-216-IMG_6175A pot of tea from the well-stocked kitchen and we were ready to snuggle-in.

We nestled-down in front of the fire and the chill quickly left our bones. We had arrived, and were happy to be dry and comfortably situated in our weekend retreat.

Time to work

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13-215-IMG_6174We took several photos of our one-bedroom suite, and the larger two-bedroom suite next door. Both were spacious, spotlessly clean, and furnished in a tasteful beachy mode – very open and inviting.

49-251-IMG_6216The bathrooms were especially noteworthy, quite large and airy.

Outside photos

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Not so much. We could tell that the grounds were lovely, but the heavy rains were relentless, so we were only able to shoot a few photos in-between downpours.

pool in summer

It is not our usual practice to use stock images, but the sunny outside pictures in this article (like the one above) are all courtesy of the resort.

This is a hotel serious about being “green,” a “good citizen,” and “animal friendly.”

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Named a top ten American green Hotel by MSNBC and Forbes Traveler, this socially conscious resort practices what it preaches. Like growing attractive and sustainable edibles just outside the back patio.

Here’s another example 

Non-indigenous plants had overgrown and choked out local vegetation and wildlife in the brush area between the inn and the beach. The inn assumed responsibility for removing the offending species, and replacing them with indigenous plants.

rabbitAlso benefiting from the flora project was an endangered Cottontail Rabbit species being squeezed out of its habitat by the invasive vegetation.

The inn created a ‘Rabitat’ in the brush that soon had the bunnies hopping for joy – all to the delight of inn guests who now see them running about during their trek to the beach (the guests not the rabbits). That’s biodiversity in action! 

beach path 2

Pet friendly

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The Inn by the Sea invites guests to bring their canine companions on vacation. The big news is that there is no extra charge for the doggie guests! Just tell the inn that you will be accompanied by a canine family member, and request a pet-friendly room.

Not only that, but Bowser and Bowsie are treated to water bowls, beach towels, cozy blankets – and treats at turndown. There are also grooming services, pet massages, gourmet pet menus, a dog walking service, and a doggie day care for additional fees. How about that pet fans!

This is fantastic

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There’s also a Foster Dog Program where the inn works with the local animal refuge and keeps a foster dog at the inn until it is adopted. They currently have their 11th dog in house. What a great idea!

And for the humans

Couples Room at SPA at Inn by the Sea

There’s a wonderful SPA to help you relax, refresh and rejuvenate. For tension relief, try the Deep Tissue Massage – one hour is just enough.

A superb restaurant

The Sea Glass Restaurant, and nearby lobby bar, have great views and memorable meals created by Chef Steve Sicinski. Chef Steve, who is classically trained by Cordon Bleu, believes food should be about taste and health – but also be playful and energetic. His attitude makes for some delightfully delicious combinations.

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How about this hearty and delectable breakfast!

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And this unusual and delicious salad of marinated Braised Beets, Feta Cheese, and Granola dust…

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Or a succulent variation of the “Wedge,” with Romaine Lettuce, Apple Bacon crumbs, Cherry Tomatoes, and Blue Cheese with homemade Ranch Dressing.

Everything we ate left us satisfied and gratified.

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Opps, almost forgot the dessert. Apple Galette with roasted Apple Gelato, crisp Apple Salad, and Cider Caramel. Yummy!

One unusual aspect of growing food for his tables is Chef Sicinski’s working partnership with Cultivation Works a social enterprise that teaches people with disabilities to grow fresh, healthy produce in a sustainable way.

The chef can handpick salad ingredients such as baby pea sprout tendrils, baby beet tops, cilantro, and other herbs and produce grown in 11” by 22” flats in the inn’s kitchen that were started by the Cultivation Works’ “Teenie Greenie” farmers.

“Challenged adults come to the Cultivation Works’ greenhouses to learn about good agricultural practices.” They grow their micro greens with non-GMO seeds and organic soil. The program helps develop practical skills for sustainable farming, and the producers gain confidence in their abilities. This is a wonderful program. Learn more about it here.

A great place to vacation

The remainder of our days at the Inn by the Sea were spent tasting great dishes at Sea Glass, chatting with the other guests, enjoying the fire in the hearth, listening to the rain, and catching up on some good books. It was soul-settling, and we so enjoyed the change of pace. We reckon there’s not a better place to spend rainy days in Maine.

The Inn by the Sea has been selected for recognition for Conde Nast’s Gold, and Travel & Leisure’s Best Hotels in the World. It is Maine’s premier beach destination, and for that, and all the other reasons mentioned, we recommend it highly.

For more information about the Inn by the Sea, click here.

Rockland Headlight 7-001

For general tourist information about the area including the famous Portland Head Light, look here.

Pack up the kids and dogs and take a beautiful ride to Cape Elizabeth, Maine.

If you aren’t driving, Portland is serviced by major airlines and Amtrak.

You might pray for sun on your vacation, but even in the rain, you can have a wonderful time at the Inn by the Sea!

Happy travels.

*************************************

“Get out there, but be prepared.”

Whenever we travel, we are protected by Allianz Global Assist travel insurance.

You can plan your trips with Google Maps.

The opinions expressed in our articles are the journalists’ alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any entity.

Copyright © 2015 Visit great vacation destinations with Wayne and Judy Bayliff.

Photos Unless otherwise noted – Copyright © 2015 Judy Bayliff – unauthorized use strictly prohibited.

An October Drive Vacation to Old Cape Cod

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16-107-107-IMG_6361Last fall we traveled back east to New England to be part of the annual fall festival of colors. We put over 1,000 miles on our rental car, and were treated to great weather, superb accommodations, and exquisite dining. We also met some wonderful Americans – in the land where the country began.

There’s a lot to see in Massachusetts. On this trip we decided to stay away from the big cities and concentrate on small communities where we might discover something of that hometown flavor we yearn for, but encounter less and less during our travels around America.

Cape Cod 

Click on the Cape Cod link above if you want to set the mood for this story by listening to Patti Page singing her timeless hit “Old Cape Cod.”

It was almost Halloween when we arrived in The Cape. It would have been difficult to not fall in love with Cape Cod at this time of year. Cool breezes shuffling newly fallen leaves, the traffic of summer greatly diminished, and locals had already replaced tourists in the restaurants – where there was no wait to get a table. Also, at this time of year, lodging reservations are easier to get, and cheaper too.

It’s the shoulder season

If you follow our travels, you have undoubtedly noticed that most of our getaways are during what the travel industry calls the “shoulder season.” That’s the time of relative quiet before the kids get out of school, and after they go back. A period between peak and off-peak seasons. In much of the United States, the shoulder season is September, October, November, and March, April, and May.

Since most parents like to take their kids along on vacation – not everyone can take advantage of these relaxed vacation months. However, as empty nesters, we appreciate our road less-traveled outings.

Welcome to Falmouth Village

20-38-49-150-150-IMG_6407The second largest town on Cape Cod is Falmouth, but calling it “large” in any context is a misnomer because the population is shy of 32,000. Falmouth is just a nice little New England village with lots of folksy charm.

B&Bs befitting the locale

We stayed at two highly recommended B&Bs while in Falmouth – The Palmer House Inn and the Captain’s Manor. Today we will introduce you to The Palmer House, and save the equally excellent Captain’s Manor for a future article.

The Palmer House Inn

13-25-35-058-058-IMG_6309This Queen Ann style Cape Cod inn was constructed in 1901, and has been a bed and breakfast since 1983.

12-048-048-IMG_6298Bill and Pat O’Connell took ownership after retiring from the world of business and education, and have been the congenial innkeepers at the Palmer House Inn since 2005.

They have enlarged the property to its current capacity of 16 guestrooms – however, everything seems to belong exactly where it is, so we would be hard pressed to identify the areas they have changed.

03-016-016-IMG_6262The inn is lavishly decorated with beautiful antique furnishings and tasteful décor. Upon entering, the elegant wood clad walls, stained glass windows, and shining wood floors induce immediate feelings of returning to the sanctuary of a comfortable home in the early 20th century.

06-037-037-IMG_6286Each guestroom is different from the others,

05-029-029-IMG_6275and each has the usual amenities discerning guests have come to expect from top-of-the-line B&Bs.

10-20-29-040-040-IMG_6289Every great B&B worth its salt is expected to provide a savory and delicious breakfast, and the Palmer House excels in that arena.

09-19-28-039-039-IMG_6288There’s even a Palmer House cook book to help you remember the culinary treasures.

Steps away from history and corpses 

The Palmer House is steps from the Falmouth Village Green, and local shops and restaurants.

23-53-64-P1010178We can attest to strange October goings on in this neighborhood of historic (and haunted) houses.

22-50-61-P1010175After dark, the “From the Night Watchman,” ghoul-tacular at the Museums on the Green was a scary fun event we thoroughly enjoyed – along with all the kids in Falmouth Village.

18-35-46-141-141-IMG_6396The spooky activity of the night before, did not seem to negatively influence the swarm of tikes that invaded the village stores on Saturday afternoon’s trick-or-treating.

19-143-143-IMG_6398Great fun, and we were so glad to be part of the excitement!

When it is time to eat 

We have three restaurants to recommend in downtown Falmouth, one Irish, the others Italian.

Liam Maguire’s Irish Pub

The building at 273 Main Street has been serving one sort of food or another since the early 1900s. In 1994 it became Liam Maguire’s Irish Pub and Restaurant. The proprietors’ told us that they want to offer the same comfort and ambiance that they remember from the pubs back home.

17-123-123-IMG_6377We sampled their Beef and Guinness Stew. A blending of slow cooked tender beef with potatoes, carrots, peas, celery, and onions in a savory Guinness reduction. Served with a side salad and Irish soda bread. A meal in a bowl.

Stone L’Oven

26-64-75-P1010189Who doesn’t like a good authentic hand-tossed Italian style Pizza?

24-57-68-P1010182We certainly do, and we found one at 271 Main Street. What a delicious, crispy, stone-fired Neapolitan crust.

25-61-72-P1010186Yowza! It tastes every bit as good as it looks.

LaCucina Sul Mare

237 Main Street. Yes, another Main Street establishment. This street in Falmouth Village has all the restaurants you need, and they are all good neighbors!

27-07-41-P1010685LaCucina Sul Mare offers an ample variety of choice Italian cuisine nicely presented. The selection of Italian table wines is deep enough to please even the most discriminating palate.

Locals tell us this restaurant is very busy during the season, and they do not take reservations. In October there was no wait.

Park and walk

01-009-009-IMG_6255All these restaurants are a short distance from the Palmer House. By the way, if you happen to be driving an electric auto, the ecologically forward-thinking innkeepers at the Palmer House have already installed two Tesla Charging Stations on the property. Check here for details.

Stay tuned

Falmouth Village is the quintessential Cape Cod town, and a superb place for a family vacation. It is an area we particularly like photographing and writing about.

28-05-05-P1010197Martha’s Vineyard is just a ferry-boat ride away from Falmouth, and in a future article we will show images of autumn on The Vineyard, introduce another first-class B&B, and tempt you with more New England vittles.

If you go

We recommend that you look at the Palmer House website and consider staying there. It’s truly a warm and friendly home away from home. You will not be disappointed.

Happy travels!

******************

“Get out there, but be prepared.” 

Whenever we travel, we are protected by Allianz Global Assist travel insurance.

You can plan your trips with Google Maps.

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Judy Bayliff

The opinions expressed in this article are the journalists’ alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any entity.