Getting There is Half the Fun: Scenic Drives to California B&Bs
Sometimes, the drive to a destination is just as much a part of the vacation as the destination itself. This is often the case with B&Bs, many of which are scattered along back country roads winding through vineyards, along the coast, through the desert and up into the mountains. The drives provide a chance to unwind, soak up the scenery and discover little-known gems along the route. Autumn is an especially magical time to take a drive through the Golden State.
Sorensen's Resort, a collection of historic cabins, cottages and B&B accommodations, is nestled in the High Sierras along scenic Highway 88 in Hope Valley. The route was first established as a trail for the Washo tribe dating back 10,000 years. It was later "discovered" by the explorers John C. Fremont and Kit Carson, and became a road for the emigrants seeking their fortune mining gold in California. In 1968, the road was dedicated as the first scenic highway in the country. Today, visitors can wind their way from the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas over the crest of the Range of Light through Carson Pass to Hope Valley and Sorensen’s Resort. The drive is particularly spectacular in the fall when the aspen leaves turn gold.
The drive to the Victorian Inn passes through the famous Avenue of the Giants in Humboldt Redwoods State Park and a bucolic patchwork of pastures and farmland before entering the charming Victorian village of Ferndale. The stately 1890 hotel stands on a corner along the main street, joining with the neighboring storefronts to evoke an earlier era. From the inn, guests can take a 100-mile round trip drive that the editors of Road & Track dubbed the "what may be the most scenic drive on the planet." The drive passes through open rangeland, along the Lost Coast, up the Mattole River Valley and through old growth redwood forests on the way back to Ferndale.
South of the Lost Coast and north of Mendocino, Howard Creek Ranch sits on 60 acres of oceanfront property in what feels like an outpost of civilization amid the rugged wilderness of the Northern California coast. From either the north or the south, the drive is spectacular. Arriving from the north, visitors pass through the old-growth redwoods lining Avenue of the Giants, and even have the opportunity to drive through a hollowed-out redwood as they make the turn to the coast and Highway One. From the south, visitors can travel the legendary Highway One with the Pacific Ocean crashing against the coastline on one side and grassy hills rising quickly on the other. For a faster trip from the south, visitors can drive through wine country along Highways 101 and 128 with tasting rooms and acres of rolling vineyards. An alternate route from 101--Highway 20--passes through 33 miles of redwood and fir forests.
The drive from San Francisco to Napa is a classic. The drive crosses the Golden Gate Bridge, where the fog often drifts across the bay and lingers over the Marin headlands. Next, the drive winds through the rolling hills of Marin County and then along the wetlands bordering the northern tip of San Pablo Bay, filled with herons, gulls, egrets and otters. From there, the road takes visitors through the rolling vineyards of Sonoma and Napa, which are ripe for harvest this month. Historic downtown Napa has dozens of bed and breakfast inns, including the Inn on First, where guests are greeted with sparkling wine and homemade truffles.
Traveling further north in Napa Valley to the charming town of Calistoga, most travelers take Highway 29. But a more scenic and less crowded route—the historic Silverado Trail—gently curves along the east side of Napa Valley. With only one stop sign for 25 miles, the route passes vineyards with tasting rooms, oak forests, and beautiful vistas. In Calistoga, there are several bed and breakfast inns, including the historic Brannan Cottage Inn and the luxurious Mount View Hotel & Spa.
The Martine Inn in Pacific Grove is a short ride to two famous drives: Seventeen Mile Drive and Highway One as it twists and turns along the rugged Big Sur coastline. But innkeeper Don Martine has a favorite route that he likes to drive in his MG. From 101, he heads north on San Juan Grade Road over the hills into the historic mission town of San Juan Bautista and then winds back to 101. "This route is the original cement roadway for 101 that meanders past grazing cattle on one hundred-year-old oak studded ranches with wonderful vistas of northern Monterey County," says Martine.
Further south along the Central Coast off Highway 101 is the exit for Paso Robles and several back country roads that wind their way through Paso Robles' rolling vineyards. The route to HammerySky Vineyards and Inn along Vineyard Drive rolls through golden hill country with moss hanging from the oak trees, turkey vultures perched atop fence posts, quail scurrying across the road, wild turkeys and the occasional peacock. The drive from the freeway is only five miles, but by the time guests reach the inn at HammerSky Vineyards, they feel as though they've gotten away from it all.
Joshua Grindle Inn
Cranberry Pumpkin French Toast
Makes 12 Servings
Plan ahead — this French toast needs to be started the night before.
12 slices sourdough bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, cubed
1 (16-ounce) package fresh or frozen cranberries or 1 (16-ounce) can whole cranberries
12 large eggs
2 cups milk
2 cups canned pumpkin
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons nutmeg
1 (16-ounce) can jellied cranberry sauce
1/2 cup sugar, or to taste
1/2 cup water, about
Spray a 1-x15-inch baking pan with non-stick cooking spray. Place 1/2 of bread cubes in bottom of pan. Top with cream cheese. Top cream cheese with 3/4 of cranberries. Top with remaining bread and cranberries. Beat together eggs, milk, pumpkin, cinnamon, cloves, ginger and nutmeg; pour over bread. Cover with plastic wrap and press firmly so bread soaks up egg mixture. Refrigerate overnight. The next day, preheat oven to 350°F. Bake French toast for 40 minutes (check after 25 minutes – if French toast is browning too quickly, cover with foil). Let stand 10 minutes. Slice and serve with cranberry sauce. For the cranberry sauce: Heat cranberry sauce and sugar in saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring, until sugar dissolves. Thin with water to desired consistency.
Joshua Grindle Inn
The Joshua Grindle Inn is set on a two-acre estate with views overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Mendocino Bay, and the quaint village of Mendocino.
For more delicious recipes from CABBI-member inns, order our CABBI Cookbook online or peruse recipe collections in our Online Recipe Box.
Savor a traditional Thanksgiving at the in Lodi wine country, as featured in Rachel Ray's magazine. The inn's Thanksgiving package includes a two-night stay, two breakfasts, a private wine tasting, a Thanksgiving dinner featuring local products and wines, and a CABBI cookbook to take home. The two-night package is $369 per couple for Main House, and $569 per couple for the Tower Suite. Request reservations by November 5.
On the Mendocino coast, the Thanksgiving Package will have guests giving thanks. The package for two includes three nights at the inn, a home-cooked Thanksgiving dinner and two passes to Mendocino Botanical Gardens. The Thanksgiving menu includes a butter lettuce salad with bacon, cherries and Point Reyes blue cheese, mashed potatoes with turkey gravy, sweet potatoes with homemade marshmallows, Brussels sprouts in a balsamic vinaigrette, grilled Turkey with stuffing and apple or pumpkin pie. The package price for non-fireplace rooms is $322; fireplace rooms are $442.
What began as an offering to the inns' employees who worked on Thanksgiving Day has evolved into a special tradition for out-of-town guests. The in Pacific Grove offers a traditional Thanksgiving Day dinner--turkey, ham and duck--with all the trimmings, prepared from scratch by Ismael Vizcaya Diaz, the inn's chef for the past 25 years. The tables are set with Gorham Silver from the 1890's, a fire roars in the fireplace and the waves crash outside. Each guest is individually hand-served and then offered additional helpings from the lavish buffet. The dinner price is $48 per person, plus gratuity and tax.
Stay at the in Calistoga for Thanksgiving and enjoy a festive, five-course turkey dinner for only $40 per person. The Thanksgiving dinner menu includes hors d'oeuvres, Southwestern corn chowder, turkey, garlic mashed potatoes, dressing, cranberry sauce, mixed vegetables, and a choice of homemade desserts. Non-alcoholic beverages will provided; guests are encouraged to bring wine to share. A two-night minimum stay is required. Stay three nights and receive a 20% discount for the third night.
Through the month of November, guests of the in Calistoga can save up to 25% their stay--Monday through Thursday--with the inn's Thanks 4 Giving special. For each can of food guests bring, they receive 5% off the room rate, up to 25% off. Guests can also receive up to 25% off a la carte spa treatments any day of the week.
For the Thanksgiving special at the in Santa Barbara, guests who book a reservation or stay at the inn between now and the end of November will receive a complimentary wine tasting at Santa Barbara Winery.