From the moment you arrive at the Stanford Inn by the Sea, the salty energizing scent of the Pacific greets you. Located in Mendocino, a tranquil coastal community known for its breathtaking cliff-side trails and the beaches of Mendocino Headlands State Park, this ecoresort and historic farm is all about switching the pace and reconnecting with Nature.
Born as the Big River Lodge in the late 1960’s, the Inn, which scores an excellent 97 on Wayaj’s eco score, still offers a respite from the modern world. Current owners Jeff and Joan Stanford purchased the property in the eighties with the intent of creating memorable experiences for guests. According to Jeff, they immediately understood the importance of implementing more environmentally conscious practices. They started with reducing electrical energy use substantially by adopting more efficient heating and compact fluorescent lighting, and developed an energy conservation program for the Inn’s laundry. They also converted all ten acres to sustainable and organic landscaping and gardening, and all food and organic waste is composted and recycled. In addition, the Stanford utilizes diesel-powered trucks fueled with locally produced biodiesel made with reclaimed vegetable oils.
The buildings on the property maintain their original character, rugged yet sleek; while the spacious rooms range from queen (ADA accessible available) to family suites, and all have wood paneling, as well as fireplaces.
Besides the facilities that are always an important part of the travel experience, it is in the activities that this resort really shines, indeed, the Stanford Inn has been designed to enjoy the outdoors. It can be something very simple and relaxing as “[Walking] through the gardens and observe them – just look, and notice”, suggests Jeff, or something more adventurous like “Canoeing or kayaking on the undeveloped Big River Estuary through a canyon of redwoods and firs is beautiful. Harbor seals follow the canoes and kayaks and give way to blue heron territory, river otters, kingfishers and more. Guests can also explore the headlands and old logging roads by mountain bike.”
“Experiences like these, as well as hiking in the Big River canyon, are what Mendocino is about: natural beauty, rugged, forest, and air cleaned by 3,000 miles of the Pacific and its storms”, he enthuses.
The Inn is also a founding sponsor of an ultra marathon, which takes runners through Big River State Park, along the Big River Estuary, past a waterfall in Russian Gulch, and onto the bluffs of Mendocino coast. This year the marathon takes place on April 20th (there is still time to join!).
But there are plenty of amazing recreational and educational experiences at the Stanford as well. The Inn’s Massage in the Forest, of course, provides massages, using Ayurveda, as well as a variety of other techniques. In addition, there are gardening classes and a culinary arts program in their Wellness Center, as well as yoga, meditation, and even composting.
The Environmental Leadership Field School at Stanford Inn partners with John Jeavons’ GROW BIOINTENSIVE® to create an international training program in sustainable small-scale farming including land-use, both landscaping and farming, building practices, nutrition, preparing food, in addition to their own philosophy of sustainability.
The land is truly important to the Stanfords who resurrected a historic farm on the site. Jeff explains that the onsite Ravens Restaurant, which is based on the concept that fine dining can be whole food and plant based, is inspired and partly supplied by the farm.
“Yes, the Ravens Restaurant offers ethical, sustainable vegan meals. Every Wednesday, it holds a “Weekly Ethnic Inspirations Night” with live music. During the month of April the featured fare is Hawaiian with Kalua Mushrooms (smoky shredded mushrooms and onion served on coconut rice), Crispy Tofu (With pineapple, red bell pepper, and toasted coconut), and a Rice Paper Roll (tofu, cucumber, red pepper, carrot, lettuce with creamy pineapple dressing, and a chili dipping sauce.” Yum!
But the premier dish at the restaurant has to be their Sea Palm Strudel, made with locally harvested sea palm (a brown seaweed), it’s served with ume plum raspberry and wasabi sauce.
If you are vegan, or thinking about becoming vegan, the Stanford Inn offers a special retreat. From cooking to nutrition, to effective habit-change to environmental and ethical issues, you’ll learn everything you need to know to be a happier, healthier person. In addition to cooking classes and complimentary cookbooks, including “Dining at The Ravens” by Jeff and Joan Stanford, there are nutrition and healthy living classes as well as a “Bring it Home” talk which tells you how to apply what you’ve learned during your stay.
According to Jeff, “Mendocino, particularly this corner of Mendocino Bay, has an amazing energy.” “It was here when we got here and we have worked to enhance it by the practices we adopt.”
Mendocino is the only town on the California Coast that is designated as a historical landmark. Established in the 1850’s, its architecture is reminiscent of Maine with its grand Victorians and quaint saltbox cottages. And while it may be small, Mendocino is surprisingly cosmopolitan. There are annual celebrations of film and music, as well as steady stream of culinary festivals, including crab in January and mushrooms in November.
The Stanfords are truly one with the nature of Mendocino and the surrounding areas, as evidenced by their sustainable inn and all it offers. “Where there were few birds, there are hundreds today,” Jeff explains. “Insects and gophers all have come to claim a stake in what we do here. We plant sunflowers to feed the birds as winter comes, rosemary for nectar for our essential pollinators – bees and hummingbirds, oats for dogs to eat as they pass with their humans through the gardens, as well as edible flowers to garnish our dishes at The Ravens.”
There is no doubt that the Stanford Inn by the Sea is a wonderful example of what sustainable hospitality is all about: living as one with the surrounding natural habitat and local community, while creating unique experiences that inspire their visitors to change for the better.
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