Best California Inns for Wildlife Viewing
Grab your binoculars and book a stay at a California bed and breakfast inn where wildlife roams, flutters or swims just outside the door. Some of the inns provide comfortable perches for whale watching, while others offer spectacular birding opportunities. Resident elk, deer, bobcat, fox and coyotes make frequent appearances at a number of inns as well.
Bordered by miles of beach and mountains on the Mendocino Coast, Howard Creek Ranch Inn is an historic, 60-acre oceanfront farm with a rich array of wildlife. Elk and deer graze on the ranch, mountain lions walk the ridgelines, and fox and bobcats make frequent appearances. Coyote, porcupine, weasel, otter, wild turkey, wild boar and even bears have also been sighted. Just a short walk to the coast, guests can grab a chair and sit on the bluffs to watch for whales. From now until spring, gray whales can be seen on their annual migration from Alaska to Mexico and back. Also at the coast, the mouth of Howard Creek forms a small lake that is inviting to migratory birds as well as resident Blue Heron, pelicans, eagles, osprey, hawks and owls. The inn maintains a bird list of species and their seasons, which is posted on the inn’s website. Back at the farm, guests can feed carrots or apples to the goats, horses, llama and sheep. Accommodations include cabins, suites and rooms furnished with antiques, comfortable beds, and handmade quilts with views of the ocean, mountains, creek or gardens.
Just down the coast is the town of Little River and home of Dennen's Victorian Farmhouse. This 1877 home overlooks the northern California coastline with a perfect view of whales during the migration season, as well as seals, sea lions and otters. Just a four-minute walk to tide pools and guest can search for star fish and other ocean creatures. The native birds in the area like to show off year round, including Osprey, Hawks, Eagles, Owls and a multitude of song birds. The innkeeper is a registered veterinary technician with a specialty in wildlife and exotics, who is happy to lend out binoculars or flip you to the correct page of one of the inn's reference books. Accommodations include a private cottage, romantic rooms and cozy suites, surrounded by two-acres of breathtaking scenery.
Further south on the Mendocino Coast, the Elk Cove Inn & Spa sits high on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean and provides a comfortable perch for armchair wildlife enthusiasts. Guests can view whales while enjoying the inn’s all-inclusive champagne breakfast. Resident bobcat, hawks and even golden eagles can be viewed while enjoying cocktails during happy hour. Later, guests can cap the night off with a glass of complimentary port and watch deer meandering through the gardens. The inn’s guest rooms feature fireplaces, private baths, luxurious bathrobes, 400-thread-count sheets, down comforters, comfortable chairs and fresh flowers from the gardens. Many of the rooms have ocean views.
Avalon, a Luxury Bed & Breakfast, is nestled in a redwood grove ten miles from the Pacific Coast in Sonoma Wine Country. The dense forest surrounding the Tudor-style inn is home to coyotes, foxes, opossums, skunks, squirrels, bobcats and many deer. Up until mid-November, wild turkeys also make regular appearances—though the innkeeper says they have a habit of making themselves scarce just before the Thanksgiving holiday. Other birds that flutter about the forest include crested jays, robins, sparrows, hummingbirds, hawks, buzzards, osprey and owls. The creek that runs through the property is home to catfish, trout, salmon and crayfish. The inn’s three spacious suites have king beds, comfortable sitting areas with fireplaces, and private bathrooms finished with natural stone. One suite features an antique claw foot soaking tub, one features a steam room and one has a private hot tub patio.
High in the Sierra Mountains near Carson Pass, Caples Lake Resort is nestled along the shoreline of a 600-acre lake amid the El Dorado National Forest. In addition to great fishing and hundreds of miles of hiking trails, the resort is a bird lover’s paradise. Paddle out onto the lake to spot Red Tail Hawks and Bald Eagles diving for fish or roosting in the treetops. The lake is also a regular stop for Canadian geese on their migratory journeys each spring and fall. The resort is open Memorial Day through the end of October and from Christmas through the end of April. The main lodge has six rooms, all with spectacular views, private bathrooms and a light continental breakfast served each morning. The resort also has eight cabins with full kitchens, linens and gas log fireplaces.
The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary is teeming with wildlife and the Martine Inn provides a front-row view. From the parlor windows overlooking the Monterey Bay, guests can catch sight of otters swimming their backs cradling shellfish and cracking open the shells with rocks. Whales can be seen breaching or spouting columns of water into the air. Dolphins frolic in the bay while great white herons scan the kelp for something to eat. Hummingbirds flitter about the inn’s garden and deer try to eat all of the flowers that are not enclosed with fencing. Many of the inn’s rooms have fireplaces, claw foot tub, or views of the waves crashing against the rocky coastline. The inn is located in Pacific Grove along a coastal hiking and biking path, and is only three blocks from the Monterey Bay Aquarium.