When you drive past the "Private, Handicapped access only" sign and down the longish 1/2 - 1 mile road to the Lighthouse Inn B&B, look to your left and right into the fields and perhaps you'll spot one (or a few) of the deer or wild turkeys that live on the grounds. As you walk into the building (it's the center house of the three), you'll probably notice countless gopher holes across the caretaker's otherwise immaculate groundskeeping. The East house is a museum demonstrating how the lightkeepers lived in the early 1900's, while the West house is Jim the caretaker's residence, not restored nor open to the public.
If you manage to arrive between 4 & 6 p.m., there's a welcome & socializing reception with sliced fruits, nuts, chips, various hors d'oeuvres and wine or juice in the dining room. The living room has extremely comfortable couches & chairs dating from the lighthouse's heyday (early 1900's), and there's a glassed in gallery room in the front of the house with chairs and binoculars where you can watch the finches and other birds raiding the always-stocked birdfeeders. The rooms themselves are upstairs. Four in all, each with their own bathroom & shower (the Lightkeeper's room has a separate W.C. room and shower room). No TV's here (and I consider this a good thing... there's plenty enough to see around outside).
If you must have some kind of link to the outside world, there's WiFi access in the house and you can get the password from one of the staffers. The two days of my visit, I wasn't able to make it out to the internet (although the router was definitely working and I was able to connect to it's configuration page, I just couldn't get any further than that... the router probably needed a reboot, which I was too sheepish to follow up with any of the staffers to do).
The lighthouse itself is probably about 1,500 feet down the path from the house, and yes, it really does cast off a remarkably strong, blinking beam at night. There are thick pulldown shades in the windows that block most of the beam in all the rooms (the "Lighthouse" room gets the full blast of the light, while the Lightkeeper's room gets a side blink). It was mesmerizing to watch the beams track along the ground during the night, but my girl insisted for me to keep the blinds down. Each room has it's own climate control, but I was very content to keep my room windows open for a fresh ocean breeze.
Breakfast is advertised as five courses. First serving was sliced fruit & some yogurt on top, second course (served at the same time as the fruit & yogurt) was extremely fresh & tasty (almost certainly made on site) scones & juices; third course was a fruit smoothie; fourth course was quiche & turkey sausage (on our first morning) and french toast & bacon (on our second morning). Sorbet is the finishing course. Everything was beautifully prepared and nothing was excessive (in other words, just the right amounts of everything).
The staffers will offer recommendations for places for dining in the nearby towns (Fort Bragg is about 5-7 miles north, Mendocino is about 2 - 3 miles south). We enjoyed Sharons by the Sea (tiny place, make a reservation ahead of your visit!) and Mendo Bistro both up in Fort Bragg.
There are deer and other critters wandering all around the nature preserve (soon to be a full blown California state park) that this B&B sits upon. I doubt you could go more than an hour without seeing any deer. On both days of our visit they were very close to the B&B buildings, and when we returned from Mendo Bistro on one night a pack of at least four deer were lounging on the lawn between the parking spots and the houses. On our exit from the Nature Preserve, we got a nice view of a flock of wild turkeys. The paths around the nature preserve are easy & scenic walks, almost always in sight of the lighthouse & buildings. We noticed jellyfish in the water in the coves next to the walking paths. Depending on the time of year you're at the lighthouse, you'll certainly see whales spouting off in the water. I saw plenty of spouts during our visit (in April), a few whale backs and even one or two tails. No scenic whale breeches, no idea why (maybe the water was too shallow or they weren't in the mood for it or).
Jim Kimble the keeper is just as friendly as other reviews have stated. You'll invariably speak with him at some point before or during your stay (your reservation can be made directly via the Inn's website or, amazingly, it looks like the inn can be booked through Expedia as well). He provided us with an hour long history & explanatory tour of the public areas of the lighthouse. The light itself is off limits to the public (which is typical for most lighthouses in the USA, the U.S. Coast Guard "owns" them). There are four days per year when the light is open for tiny groups (of 4 people, must be at least 12 years old) to examine.... For 2008 that would be May 3rd (Mendocino Historic Preservation Days), June 7 (Light Station's 99th Birthday), August 2 (National Lighthouse Day) and September 27 (Cabrillo Days). I can see why only a few people would be allowed up there at any one time.... there's not that much space to move around upstairs. The people who did the restoration of the lighthouse and the residences did an amazing job.
Overall, the Lighthouse Inn is not the cheapest place to stay (our two night visit came out to be $1,200), but the money goes for a great cause (keeping the lighthouse & the inn beautifully maintained). It is certainly one of the most unique and picturesque destinations along the California Coast. I'm thankful we got to stay there before this place gets very well known and difficult to book.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Stay on the Mendocino coast in one of our vacation rental homes. We have two of the original Lightkeepers' houses and two cottages available for overnight stays. ... more less
- Also Known As:
- Lighthouse Inn At Point Cabrillo Hotel Mendocino