Those of you who are into holistic wellness treatments won’t be new to Calistoga California. The place is filled with motels and resorts that offer healing mineral waters in their pools and mud baths, both of which I’ve experienced in Calistoga about a half a dozen times over a twenty year period. A few years ago, we reviewed the Roman Spa Hot Springs Resort, which is one of the older properties in Calistoga but the oldest, or you could also say the original wellness resort goes to Dr. Wilkinson’s Backyard Resort & Mineral Springs, which is along the main drag, Lincoln Street.
When I drove across country in 2004, I stayed at the property but Calistoga has changed over the last couple of decades. Many people may have heard about the much larger and comprehensive Indian Wells Resort, which is also along the main drag — we had lunch here at Sam’s Club and walked around the very picturesque grounds. If you are traveling in a group, it’s a great spot to try out.
They’ve been providing wellness to visitors since 1952, so you’d imagine that quite a bit might change. Recently, they underwent a design overhaul in both their rooms and outside on the grounds. Although their mud baths weren’t yet open to the public while we were there in July, they anticipate that they’ll be available to guests starting later this summer. If you’re traveling as a family, Dr. Wilkinson’s is a fun option; their renovation has an upbeat vibe which is really appealing to kids as well as millennials.
We stayed in one of their standard king rooms — note that some of the rooms face the main street whereas others are closer to the pool, so be sure to note your preference when you book.
There’s more of a modern motif to their new design — clean lines with oranges accents against white painted walls on one side and white painted brick on the other.
Below, our King room. Each guest room features mid-century style, natural wood furniture and a walk-in shower. The other thing I’d add is that their Internet is mighty fast — six times faster than our service at home, a godsend for me as I was uploading video and pictures from our day.
Retro is what it’s all about with their new look-and-feel, so Smeg tea kettles is part of the ambiance. They offer Copper Cow Coffee and infusion flower tea bags — if you want Earl Grey or another black tea, you can head down to their outdoor cafe which is right next to the pool and the reception area. There’s also a retro Galanz fridge as well so you can keep your food old, water or in our case, wine we picked up from nearby vineyards.
For an additional fee, you can purchase some of their wellness samples, such as creams, scrubs or oils from their stocked Apothecary Medicine cabinet. Malin & Goetz is their “go-to” brand for shampoo, conditioner, hand wash and creams.
There’s air conditioning which you need during those hotter summer months in Calistoga — this is desert territory even though it doesn’t look like it at first glance. Calistoga is one of those California towns you can easily imagine from the Gold Rush — a small town with shop fronts and cafes that were likely once saloons and motels for original weary travelers.
The grounds are lovely — here you can find lime trees, flowers and several hammocks which you can lounge on to pass the day away when you’re not at the pool.
Below is an outdoor area where you can relax after you’ve had a spa treatment, which will be open later this summer for guests. Massages are available inside or outdoors under one of these cabanas and I chose the latter. Who doesn’t love a good massage outdoors?
If you have kids in tow, they’ll love Doc’s swings which are hanging from a tree just off the outdoor cafe.
There’s that fabulous Buick again.
Although the property was sold to new owners in August 2020, the message is that they plan to stay “true” to the original character of the resort that original founders Doc and Edy Wilkinson created.
There are 50 renovated guest rooms and apparently all of the renovations will be done by October. You can also lay low in one of the cottages and let’s not forget the ever so charming Victorian House.
There are plenty of flowers on the property, an added bonus.
Nature is always so healing, so why not incorporate as much of it as you can at a wellness motel?
Below are extra chairs you can use around the property and for kids, don’t forget the pie machine where you can grab sweets.
There are two pools on the property, both of which are open to both adults and children, so if you want complete peace and quiet, you may want to opt for a Calistoga property that offers adult-only pools or larger grounds. One pool was in the 80’s and one was in the 90’s, so you have a choice of temperature.
Because we were visiting during a transition period as businesses are slowly opening post Covid, not everything in the spa was open. The hot tub was still in renovation as was the lounge area outside the spa and the mud bath treatments. Below are areas where you would rest after a treatment, something I experienced in this very same resort nearly twenty years ago. My outdoor massage was absolutely lovely though and if you do opt to have it outdoors, book one in the morning or end of day if you’re there during one of the hotter months.
Below, indoors at the spa at Dr. Wilkinson’s Resort.
These are the tubs where you would have your mud bath, which is oh so Calistoga. In other words, many of the nearby resorts have similar style tubs and resting areas after your treatments.
The outdoor area for massages.
They also had a few tubs outdoors for mud treatments as well, something that I don’t recall being available during my last stay.
The indoor pool (below right) was not open during our stay but they expect it to be available to guests sometime later this year (between August and November).
The evening is wonderful to walk around the town — there are several places where you can dine outside. A short walk away from Doc’s Resort is the Calistoga Inn Restaurant & Brewery where we hung our hat on one of our evenings. Great wine, great service and outdoor music to boot. Be sure to also read our review of Fleetwood, a newly opened restaurant in town, about a mile or so out of town which offers both outdoor and indoor dining options.
Below, our healthy dinner at Calistoga Inn while listening to live music in their courtyard. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to review more restaurants during this stay, but be sure to read our 2018 foodie guide for fun options.
Dr. Wilkinson’s Backyard Resort
1507 Lincoln Avenue
Calistoga CA 94515
Note: we were hosted by the property but all opinions expressed are entirely our own.
Renee Blodgett is the founder of We Blog the World. The site combines the magic of an online culture and travel magazine with a global blog network and has contributors from every continent in the world. Having lived in 10 countries and explored nearly 80, she is an avid traveler, and a lover, observer and participant in cultural diversity.
She is also the CEO and founder of Magic Sauce Media, a new media services consultancy focused on viral marketing, social media, branding, events and PR. For over 20 years, she has helped companies from 12 countries get traction in the market. Known for her global and organic approach to product and corporate launches, Renee practices what she pitches and as an active user of social media, she helps clients navigate digital waters from around the world. Renee has been blogging for over 16 years and regularly writes on her personal blog Down the Avenue, Huffington Post, BlogHer, We Blog the World and other sites. She was ranked #12 Social Media Influencer by Forbes Magazine and is listed as a new media influencer and game changer on various sites and books on the new media revolution. In 2013, she was listed as the 6th most influential woman in social media by Forbes Magazine on a Top 20 List.
Her passion for art, storytelling and photography led to the launch of Magic Sauce Photography, which is a visual extension of her writing, the result of which has led to producing six photo books: Galapagos Islands, London, South Africa, Rome, Urbanization and Ecuador.
Renee is also the co-founder of Traveling Geeks, an initiative that brings entrepreneurs, thought leaders, bloggers, creators, curators and influencers to other countries to share and learn from peers, governments, corporations, and the general public in order to educate, share, evaluate, and promote innovative technologies.