12 Best B&Bs for Wildlife Viewing in California
SACRAMENTO, CA [November 7, 2019]—Grab a pair of binoculars and book a stay at a California bed and breakfast inn where wildlife roams, flutters or swims just outside the door. Some of the inns provide comfortable perches for whale watching, while others offer spectacular birding opportunities. Resident elk, deer, bobcat, and coyotes make frequent appearances at a number of inns as well. The California Association of Boutique & Breakfast Inns (CABBI) has compiled a list of inns around the state with spectacular wildlife viewing opportunities.
Blue Lantern Inn sits on a bluff overlooking the Dana Point Harbor, enabling unparalleled water views from its terrace and patios, along with frequent sightings of harbor seals, dolphins, migrating whales, and—at closer range—an abundant array of local and migrating birds. Guests in the third-floor Tower Suite are privileged to enjoy perhaps the best views of all, aided by a private, in-room telescope. The Dana Point Headlands Conservation Area is just a half mile away and offers miles of hiking trails, scenic overlooks, beach access, and a Nature Interpretive Center.
The Inn at Playa Del Rey is immediately adjacent to the Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve, a 600-acre sanctuary for more than 60 species of wild birds, native plants, and other wildlife. From the inn's back deck overlooking the wetlands, guests might spot a great blue heron sail silently over the marsh, hear the soothing calls of song birds, or view snowy egret rookeries in the distance through binoculars. Guests at the inn have a rare unobstructed view of the wetlands, which is the last remaining coastal wetland in Los Angeles County. A 30-mile bike path along the beach is just blocks from the inn.
Pacific Grove’s Green Gables Inn has an oceanfront location that puts guests close enough to the water to see otters, whales, and a stunning variety of other marine wildlife while enjoying their French toast and morning coffee. Each season brings world-class whale watching to Monterey Bay—humpback and blue whales during summer and fall months and gray whales in winter and spring—and it could be argued that relaxing in a Queen Anne chair in a cozy Victorian living room is the most civilized way to whale watch. For guests who want to get a more up-close view, the Monterey Bay Sanctuary Scenic Trail is just outside the inn’s doors.
Along the same stretch of Pacific Grove’s rocky coastline and scenic trail, the Martine Inn offers daily wildlife sightings from the comfort of the dining parlor—which offers panoramic ocean views—as well as its ocean view guest rooms. Families of mule deer regularly graze in the grass, while all manner of gulls and hawks soar overhead. Tiny Anna’s hummingbirds flicker alongside Pacific Grove’s most famous seasonal visitors—monarch butterflies—thousands of which cluster in a nearby eucalyptus grove from October through February. Other resident species regularly seen on or near the property are southern sea otters, harbor seals, brown pelicans, black oystercatchers, dolphins, and whales.
Also along the Pacific Grove coastline, Seven Gables Inn has a prime spot near Lover’s Point. Every room of the inn offers stunning views of the Monterey Bay. Guests often spot whales and other wildlife just outside, including whale pods that swim right past the inn each year and harbor seals that pup on a beach just a short walk away. Each fall, thousands of monarch butterflies arrive to over-winter in a world-famous butterfly sanctuary just half a mile from the inn. Across the street, guests can access the Monterey Bay Sanctuary Scenic Trail, a 15-mile network of bicycle and pedestrian pathways along the coast.
Perched on a small island between the San Francisco and San Pablo Bays, East Brother Light Station is in the ideal spot for viewing nesting seabirds, harbor seals pupping, brown pelicans, porpoises, sea lions, and the occasional whale. An active lighthouse since 1873, the inn has a strategic location advantageous to passing mariners, local wildlife, and spectators of both. Although just a short ten-minute boat ride from the mainland and a 30-minute trip from downtown San Francisco, the inn offers the feeling of a remote outpost. Even the boat ride over to the island is an adventure, with opportunities to observe the wildlife in the surrounding waters and on West Brother Island.
Overlooking Smuggler’s Cove on the Mendocino Coast, Brewery Gulch Inn is an intimate and elegant retreat perfectly positioned for all manner of wildlife watching. In addition to whales that can be seen offshore from the inn’s ocean-view windows, and otters and seals frolicking playfully in the cove, a menagerie of creatures frequent the inn’s gardens—adorable chipmunks, migrating birds of all stripes, hummingbirds, quail, wild turkeys, herons, hawks, deer, and even the occasional elk. The Brewery Gulch has amassed an impressive collection of accolades, but their most prized accomplishment comes from the carefully maintained habitat that is hospitable to such a variety of wildlife.
Bordered by miles of beach and mountains on the Mendocino Coast, Howard Creek Ranch is an historic, 60-acre oceanfront farm with a rich array of wildlife. Elk and deer graze on the ranch, mountain lions walk the ridgelines, and fox and bobcats make frequent appearances. Coyote, porcupine, weasel, otter, wild turkey, wild boar and even bears have also been sighted. Just a short walk to the coast, guests can grab a chair and sit on the bluffs to watch for whales. From now until spring, gray whales can be seen on their annual migration from Alaska to Mexico and back.
Its location in the Sierra Foothills ensures plenty of opportunities to view all the usual wildlife suspects like deer, rabbits, and birds, but at Courtwood Inn guests also engage in a slightly more unusual pastime: bat watching. Every evening after dark, trim lights draw moths, themselves attracting bats eager for dinner and the chance to create an aerial show for spectators. After witnessing one of the best sunset views in California, either from the inn’s main deck or one of the upper room balconies, guests don’t have to wait long for this entertaining evening watch. At 2500 feet in elevation, the inn’s southern view encompasses rolling foothills studded with pines all the way to the San Joaquin Valley.
In a quiet forest hollow of the High Sierra, McCaffrey House Bed & Breakfast Inn is surrounded by all the creatures one would expect to find in the mountains, including birds, squirrels, and deer. But while enjoying breakfast on the deck guests have also spotted mother bears with their babies, skunks, and mountain lions. Located in one of the least populated areas in California, the inn is sheer paradise for travelers who feel most alive amidst the majesty of nature. Guests can revel in the breathtaking views of pristine forest, the sight of birds in flight, or up-close encounters with roaming wildlife.
A charming lakeside retreat in a remote, northern section of the Sierra Nevada foothills, Frenchtown Inn offers a tranquil wildlife-viewing experience. An expansive living room opens out onto a large patio area overlooking a seven-acre lake. Deer graze in the tall grasses surrounding the lake. Resident egrets snatch fish from below the lake’s surface while a variety of ducks and geese dive and dabble in water. The 100-acre property includes walking trails circling the lake and running along the irrigation canals, a small vineyard, and an on-site wine tasting room and art gallery.
Each of Donner Lake Inn's five mountain-themed guest rooms features a window bench, the perfect spot to view the natural beauty that awaits just outside. This time of year, before the snow starts to fall, forest wildlife abounds on and around the property, with frequent sightings of squirrels readying for winter, deer grazing in the yard, coyotes crossing along Gregory Creek, and various species of migrating birds. In fact, if the timing is right, guests might see one of the four bears that have been spotted this year wandering through the property, or catch a glimpse of a bobcat in the wild.
For more information about these and other California inns, visit www.cabbi.com.
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