Eight acres of wooded and landscaped grounds surround this 1881 Victorian mansion that in its early decades is said to have been Healdsburg's finest residence. A century after its construction, new owners converted the Second Empire and Greek Revival–style home into a romantic inn. A meal by candlelight in one of the first-floor dining rooms (the restaurant has received a Michelin star for a decade running) is a highlight of many guests' stays, as are the serene atmosphere and familiar service.
YOU SHOULD KNOW Although quiet romance is the goal of many guests, some rooms are suitable for travelers with older children; it's worth calling to ask.
Rooms in the three-story mansion are gloriously ornate, with mirrors in gilt frames and paintings covering every wall. Several rooms contain furnishings original to the mansion, whose former carriage house, along with a converted 1920s schoolhouse and two cottages, hold additional accommodations similarly bedecked. Many rooms have hand-carved antique armoires, standing floor mirrors, elaborate drapes, and other period accessories.
For a romantic experience, ask for room 203 or 204 in the mansion—both have balconies with east-facing vineyard views across Dry Creek Valley to 991-foot Fitch Mountain—or one of the spacious and secluded schoolhouse suites.
Some rooms in the mansion have claw-foot tubs and marble floors and old-fashioned gray-marble sinks. Bathrooms in the other buildings tend to be more modern, with ceramic-tile floors and tub-shower combos.
YOU SHOULD KNOW A few bathrooms have only a walk-in shower.
The chandeliers, 14-foot ceilings, and steep staircase that divides the front parlors evoke the mansion's grand past yet the vibe here is more gracious residence more than house museum. In the parlor to the doorway's right is the front desk; the left parlor is often occupied in the early evening by guests waiting to be seated at the Madrona Manor Restaurant. Guests are welcome to play board and other games in a cheery room behind the staircase.
A succulents garden and a citrus grove edge the peaceful pool area behind the mansion. The smallish Roman-style pool is good for a dip on a hot summer day, and lawn and lounge chairs and a few bar tables, all shaded by umbrellas, are set up in-season. During the day, you can buy a glass of wine or beer at the front desk to enjoy poolside, with cocktails available starting in the late afternoon. There's no hot tub.
Expect to eat well at the Madrona. The room rate includes a buffet-style full breakfast served in the mansion. A hot egg dish like quiche or chilaquiles anchors a lavish lineup that also includes Belgian waffles, pastries, cold cuts, cheeses, granola, yogurt, and fresh fruit. Lunch isn't served, but chef Jesse Mallgren has earned high praise for his prix-fixe multicourse dinners. Delicacies like Hokkaido scallop crudo with okra, ponzu, and cilantro might precede king salmon caught off the coast of nearby Marin County and Japanese Wagyu with endive and wild leeks. Given the quality of the food and the Victorian ambience, the cost is reasonable (ordering à la carte is also possible). The same can be said for the astute wine pairings.
Each night while items last, a menu of small plates, along with the dry-aged Madrona Burger, all of whose ingredients, from bun to pickle, are made in-house, is served in the inn's front parlor. On a warm summer night, slurping oysters on the half shell and sipping a crisp white can seem magical from a veranda perch.
Beer and wine are available for purchase throughout most of the day at the front desk, where a small bar opens from the late afternoon through much of the evening.
A mile west of downtown and highway U.S. 101, Madrona Manor benefits from its secluded location but is a few-minutes' drive from Healdsburg Plaza. Dry Creek Valley wineries are even closer. Most guests use cars to get around. No buses stop nearby, but ride-sharing options abound. The walk into town takes about 20 minutes.
Among the area restaurants the innkeepers say guests enjoy are the Brass Rabbit (4-minute drive) for casual Modern American, Barndiva (4-minute drive) for small-plate Modern American, Campo Fina (4-minute drive) for nouveau Italian, and SingleThread Farms Restaurant (5-minute drive) for multicourse Japanese-inspired meals. Farther afield, the Farmhouse Restaurant (22-minute drive) in Forestville serves intricate prix-fixe French.
For au courant "farm-to-bar" cocktails in town, head to Duke's Spirited Cocktails (4-minute drive) just north of Healdsburg Plaza or Spoonbar (4-minute drive) a block south of it. The bar at Chalkboard (4-minute drive) a block northwest of the plaza is another hot spot for a clever cocktail. Chalkboard's popular happy hour draws many locals, who enjoy the various themes (Polynesian and Southern, among other recent ones) and reasonably priced nibbles.
WHY WE LIKE IT
A lordly gate off Westside Road a mile west of Healdsburg Plaza is the portal to this mini grande dame. Longtime guests cite the romantic atmosphere, destination restaurant, and a sense of leaving the world behind as the major reasons for their return visits. We can't help but agree.