INTO THE REDWOODS
Secret Hotels of Big Sur
The dramatic scenery is clearly the star along California's Big Sur coast, but these nine hotels—all with double rooms for well under $200—come in a close second. Did we mention the views?
The former whaling town of Davenport isn't much more than a tiny row of buildings right on Highway 1, the two-lane road that winds along the California coast. One of those buildings is the Davenport Roadhouse. Originally a general store, the Roadhouse had evolved into a restaurant and B&B by the time Renée Kwan, a real-estate asset manager, noticed it as she was searching for good waves to surf. She now oversees the place with managers Jesse Katz, Jeff Hansen, and Robin Sirakides, CFO of Newman's Own Organics. The eight guest rooms in the main house have high ceilings and oversize windows, and they share one large balcony with ocean views. Next to the kitchen garden is a former bathhouse with four more rooms, each with photos of the property and the town from the early 1900s. The restaurant uses local, organic ingredients in its salads and thin-crust pizzas, and for dessert there are gigantic slices of ice cream cake. To create a sense of community, the owners showcase folk singers and bluegrass bands in the restaurant and host rotating art exhibits. 831/426-8801, davenportroadhouse.com, from $120, with breakfast.
Sand Rock Farm
Kris Sheehan always kept an eye out for arts-and-crafts antiques--and a small inn where she could show them off--as she traveled the coast for her telecom job. When she found a five-bedroom Craftsman-style home in Aptos, 60 miles north of Big Sur, she pounced, and opened it as a B&B in 2000. The rooms have a country aesthetic--rocking chairs and antique beds--and three have their own hot tubs. But the inn's main appeal is its surrounding 10 acres, which include a redwood grove and four gardens. Lilac and camellia bushes flower in one; rose bushes, protected from deer by a redwood fence, grow in another. Beyond the gardens and past a large wooden barn is an 1897 winery built by the original owner, who abandoned it after producing only one year's worth of wine. Guests have the option of eating breakfast--baked French toast with braised pears, for example, or broccoli and sun-dried tomato frittatas--in the dining room or on the deck under towering redwoods. Unless it's raining, there's really no choice. 831/688-8005, sandrockfarm.com, from $185, with breakfast.
When John Enns landed a teaching position in Monterey in 2003, he and his wife, Gail--and all the art in her gallery in Washington, D.C.--moved to Pacific Grove, a sleepy respite from nearby Monterey. "We couldn't find anything that would be suitable for a gallery, so we bought a motel," John says. Soon after, Gail and their daughter Ilana opened Anton Inn as a motel/gallery, using the slow winter months to renovate. The 10 rooms have new electric fireplaces, tile floors, and subdued color palettes that complement the paintings and sculptures. On Thursday nights, the family hosts dinners for artists and any guests and friends who are interested in art. "We've had golfers, Japanese businessmen, an English playwright, an artistic director from an Israeli kibbutz, newlyweds from Egypt, and a wonderful German woman who spoke no English but delighted us all with her personality," says Gail. "One thing's for certain--it's always an experience." 831/373-4429, antoninn.com, from $119, with breakfast.
Back in the 1920s, the Fees, a local family, saw promise in the scenic valley formed by the Big Sur River. They built nine redwood-plank cabins along the river and christened them the Ripplewood Resort. (Eight other cabins, added over the next two decades, sit among the trees across Highway 1.) In 1955, Ted Hartman bought the property; two years ago, his son-in-law, Carl Shadwell, took it over. He and his brother Sean run the place. Room features vary from cabin to cabin: Some have decks, fireplaces, and/or skylights above the showers, and most have kitchens. Carl, a former chef, overhauled the restaurant's menu. "People insisted that we keep the potato casserole," says Sean, "so we had to invent a version we'd be happy with." The result--shredded potatoes blended with sour cream and cheese, and then baked or grilled--is the creamiest, most irresistible hash browns ever. 831/667-2242, ripplewoodresort.com, from $95.