Retro charm on the Sonoma Coast tempts Holiday Goddess Julie Miller as she flashes back to the swinging ‘70s at a Californian seaside retreat.
I love animals, but birds freak me out a little. I blame Alfred Hitchcock’s 1963 movie, The Birds, filmed in the northern California coastal community of Bodega Bay, where one bird became two, became three … you know the story.
And here I am, just north of that very town, staying at the cool retro hotel, Timber Cove Inn, overlooking the wild and woolly Sonoma coastline. From my room, I have an unrestricted view of the Pacific Ocean; even the famous fog that shrouds these cliffs for much of the year has lifted for my arrival.
But suddenly I’m aware that I’m not alone. A massive gull has landed on the balcony, and is clearly checking out the new arrival through the glass. Its beady eyes put me on edge, and I scan the horizon for its brethren, just waiting for me to emerge so they can peck my eyes out…
Timber Cove Inn fires the imagination. It’s one of those places so rich in folklore that it has become its very heart and soul, as much a feature of the property as its killer location.
Built in the ‘70s by visionary architect Richard Clements (a protege of Frank Lloyd Wright’s), the property is straight out an Ali McGraw movie – all wood, glass and stone, with an outdoor firepit for roasting s’mores and sipping local pinot. Spa tubs take pride of place in every guest room, and there’s a certain retro charm in the dated fixtures, harking back to the days when the inn was a popular weekend getaway for swingers from San Francisco.
“Timber Cove Inn means a lot of different things to a lot of people,” general manager Keith Hill tells us over breakfast. “It was a wildly popular place at its peak; then for years it wasn’t properly cared for, and raccoons were invited to live in and around the building.”
Property developer Robert Olson had his own memories of the inn; he celebrated his 21st birthday in the bar, and never forgot the view. So when it came on the market in 2008, Olson snapped it up in a moment of sentimentality, determined to give the aging diva a facelift, updating and modernising her look whilst retaining her retro appeal.
Under Olson’s direction and Hill’s management, the 50 guest rooms are gradually being refitted, with luxury touches including king beds and egg-shaped bathtubs that face the ocean, slate floors in the entry foyers, bronze barn door bathroom doors leading to walk-in showers and outdoor decks to soak up the views.
The inn’s restaurant, Alexander’s, is also undergoing a resurgence, with local Sonoma produce and wines a feature of executive chef Benjamin St Clair’s impressive menu. At the tender age of just 22 years, St Clair is set to become yet another Timber Cove Inn legend, promoted from sous chef and quickly forging a reputation as a culinary force to be reckoned with.
Just a two and half hour drive north of San Francisco, and with the Sonoma region slowly challenging the neighbouring Napa region as California’s premier wine region, Timber Cove Inn is set to tell many more stories in its new guise as a luxury seaside retreat.
Visit the website at www.timbercoveinn.com
Further information: Sonoma Tourism, www.sonomacounty.com