I recently fell upon a magical little eco-resort in Northern California called Stanford Inn by the Sea. A hotel and resort dedicated to sustainable practices and vegan eating and living located on Northern California’s Mendocino Coast, the magic begins as you enter its parking lot where you are suddenly surrounded by gardens and grounds which ooze flowers and herbs on all sides. The entrance, lobby area and grounds are a cross between a New England cottage B&B and a hillside resort somewhere in the American west.
The resort sits atop a meadow overlooking Mendocino Bay and they are proud to call themselves the only vegan resort in the United States. They specialize in romantic and healthy getaways although it’s also a great place for business meetings, weddings and group retreats. Started by Jeff Stanford and his wife Joan, they and their staff are dedicated to making you feel revitalized.
The rooms and suites are scattered around the main building which houses the lobby area, a small gym, the lobby, the lounge, and the restaurant. All have outside decks where you can sit, relax and take in the surrounding vegetation and beautiful flowers.
Their delicious Raven’s Restaurant, which specializes in vegan dishes and touts award-winning dishes, will leave you wondering why all the fuss about eating meat. Inspired by Stanford’s certified organic gardens, the food is prepared mindfully and consciously and it shows through the preparation of all their dishes. (see our separate blog post write-up on Ravens Restaurant). We absolutely loved the food and the experience!!
Below is the master sous chef Gabrielle Tabar who came out to say hello.
In the lobby area, you can purchase local wines, funky hats, health and spiritually conscious books, jams, jellies and other gifts, including plush toys for kids.
Below is an outside deck view off the suite during my stay.
One bedroom suites offer large wood burning fireplaces, 27″ televisions with VCR’s, DVD’s; compact stereo systems; wet bars supplied with bottled water and juice drinks; coffee makers; a sofa bed; decks; Mendocino Bay and Mendocino village views. The bedroom has its own television and a king size bed. They have various sizes, ranging from one bedrooms to suites varying by size and amenities.
Slightly larger rooms and baths distinguish these accommodations from those of Big River. Some have wood burning fireplaces and others have wood burning stoves. The guest rooms and suites are all paneled in pine and redwood, which makes you feel closer to nature without even leaving your room. And, the lounge area is also incredibly revitalizing and relaxing, with a fireplace and couches.
The views are incredibly picturesque regardless of where you are in the resort.
And, of course there’s a spa where you can get massages which I didn’t have time to try. They also have an inside pool, sauna and jacuzzi, which I relaxed in for over an hour.
For nearby adventure tours, hikes and other nearby activities, they provide access to equipment at Catch A Canoe & Bicycles, as well as massage therapists led by Dee Brater and organic foods, fair trade coffees and teas. One other important thing to note: the resort is known for being pet-friendly and there’s even a small seating section outside the main dining room where you can bring your pet with you to dinner.
The Stanford Inn’s History of Reform & The Founders’ Philosophy:
The husband and wife team started modestly moving into a 375 square foot guest room, doing most of the work themselves from housekeeping to installing fireplaces when they bought the place to renovate. In just two years they had two children and were waking each morning to serve their guests breakfast. Says Joan of their remodeling process in the early 1980’s. “Transformation takes place here physical, emotional and spiritual. While we were transforming the buildings and the landscaping, it was as if we had opened up a vein of
co-creative potential. It is a manifesting process.” Jeff is not an ordinary environmentalist. He had mixed feelings regarding the creation of the new Big River State Park in spite of being involved in the effort. “It’s unfortunate that rather than insure healthy, sustainable logging practices, we are forced to remove land from forestry altogether to preserve it.” He argues that it is irresponsible to damage a forest’s biodiversity and over-log. “Taking land out of production here puts incredible pressure on other timber areas.”
Over the years, the Stanfords have worked to develop fulltime jobs rather than the part time jobs characteristic of a seasonal resort area. The creation of their California Certified Organic Farm created full time jobs and now supplies the Inn’s restaurant, The Ravens, the area’s only organic vegetarian/vegan restaurant, creating more jobs.
“We get a lot of people who come to work here because we are vegetarian, organic. They believe this is a Shangri La. It isn’t. It is hard work,” Jeff explained when asked why some people “don’t make it.” “When I began experiencing earth energies, I read a variety of books including Dorothy MacClean’s description of working with angels at Findhorn, Scotland. Our angels, if you want to call them that, are not etheric, they are hard workers: ‘buff,’ if you know what I mean. They’re tough and those who work with them need to be tough, too.
Staff often becomes part of the family and Jeff and Joan encourage them to develop interests and aptitudes and to finish school and go on to college. For years they have worked formally and informally with the schools. Joan works in the schools addressing issues of self esteem and peer counseling. The inn provides work experiences, training in everything from cooking to bike mechanics. Students have come to work to fulfill requirements for graduation or simply for money and some have stayed. One began working as a gardener when he was fifteen. Eventually, Jeff made him manager of the new & Bicycles, too! He helped grow the business, became an expert bike mechanic, and worked in the community to raise money for a skate park which unfortunately has yet to be constructed.
The Stanfords look at their operation as a garden or farm. They understand the energies they experience to be nurturing and they believe they must reciprocate by nurturing not only the gardens, but the people with whom they work and the community. They provide meeting rooms at no charge for local non profits and public agencies such as the school district; canoes for local schools’ recreational and educational programs; and their gardens for the local 4-H club where the kids learn propagation, planting, and composting from the staff.