Fodor's Expert Review Inn at Occidental
3657 Church St., Occidental, California 95465, USA See on Map
Quilts, folk art, and original paintings and photographs fill this colorful and friendly inn up the hill from the shops and restaurants of tiny Occidental. Although run more like a trad bed-and-breakfast than many of its Sonoma County counterparts—especially in the main 1880s Victorian building it feels you're staying in someone's home—guests have plenty of privacy, and the breakfasts rival the elaborate repasts of the old-school B&B's late-20th-century heyday.
YOU SHOULD KNOW According to the inn's website, "Children 10 and younger as well as well-behaved pets are welcome in the cottage."
Rooms are divided between ones in the main Victorian home and ones in a newer chocolate-brown board-and-batten structure behind it. Some rooms—such as the Cirque du Sonoma Room, with a bright yellow-and-red color scheme—brim with personality, and others are more sedate; all are comfortable and have fireplaces. Most rooms are spacious and more than half come with private decks or balconies.
Good for families and groups, the two-bedroom Sonoma Cottage, whose decor is more straightforward contemporary than the other accommodations, sits next to the main house; pets are allowed in the cottage and a few designated rooms for an additional fee.
All eight of the newer rooms have bathrooms with jetted whirlpool tubs, as do both of the bedrooms in the cottage and three of the eight rooms in the main house (some of which aren't as elaborate). ProNature bath products are laid out on the vanities, which are well lit for shaving and applying makeup.
Redwoods and other tall trees shade the open-air courtyard between the parking lot and entrance. An air of relaxed refinement prevails amid the whimsical antiques and fine Asian rugs in the ground-floor living room, where guests gather for evening hors d'oeuvres and wine. Check-in takes place at the back of the living room. On the other side of the room, French doors open up to the wide veranda that wraps back around to the front door.
The inn's many repeat customers cite the full gourmet breakfasts as a major reason for their loyalty. The meal unfolds in the atmospheric wine cellar, which despite its name and position under the house has many windows looking out on the grounds. The first course consists of pastries, fruit, yogurt, two types of house-made granola, and juices and coffee served buffet style. Following this, a warm entrée is served, sometimes a sweet one like brioche French toast, at other times a savory item like Sunday's eggs Benedict.
Wine and cheese are served every evening in the lobby, but there is no bar.
Occidental is 11 miles south of Guerneville and 9½ miles west of Sebastopol along the Bohemian Highway, signed in town as Main Street. Sonoma County Transit buses serve the town, though you'll find few tourists aboard them. At just a few blocks long, downtown Occidental itself is highly walkable.
Pizza and pastries are the specialty at Hazel (4-minute walk), whose husband-and-wife chefs made their reputations at top Bay Area restaurants. Howard Station Cafe (1-minute walk), Occidental's neo-hippie go-to breakfast and weekend brunch spot, serves everything from biscuits and gravy to tofu rancheros and house-made granola at those meals, with soups, salads, burgers, and monstrous sandwiches on the menu for lunch. Head to Negri's Original (2-minute walk) and the Union Hotel (2-minute walk) for family-style Italian, or drive to Graton for the sophisticated Continental ambience and small and large plates at the Underwood Bar & Bistro (11-minute drive).
The bartenders at Joe's Bar (2-minute walk) inside Negri's Original whip up their variation of the classic Trader Vic's mai tai, along with a zippy Bloody Mary and assorted other hand-crafted cocktails. The highlights at Graton's Underwood Bar & Bistro (11-minute drive) include craft old-style cocktails, ports, and cognacs.
WHY WE LIKE IT
The Inn at Occidental brims with personality, but though whimsy reigns the overall vibe is tastefully upbeat rather than kitschy. Longtime staffers keep the place spic-and-span, and those breakfasts really are sublime. Many guests find the location on the western edge of the Wine Country a plus: plenty of tasting rooms operate nearby and the Sonoma Coast's beautiful Pacific Ocean beaches are a short drive away.
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