Northern Cali: Raising the Benchmark for Romance in Elk

Guest Post and Photos By Briana Westmacott, Special to Wake and Wander

Think about it: Doesn’t a bench imply romance, in the simplest sense?  It’s a place to remove yourself from the moment, where you can rest and soak in the surrounding beauty while possibly holding a hand. We counted 11 benches/sitting areas situated around the pristine oceanfront grounds surrounding The Harbor House Inn in Northern California.

Harbor House Inn

Some are perched high atop the cliffs, others are set on the beach path that spirals down to the private black sand beach, the final one a smooth driftwood log provided by Mother Nature herself. While The Harbor House may not be responsible for placing that final sitting spot, they have done a remarkable job at providing plentiful posts to sit and ponder the absolute beauty of the Mendocino coastline in Elk, CA.

Built in 1916, The Harbor House is seeping with rustic romance. The main house boasts six unique rooms, while there are four additional cottages adjacent to the house. We entered The Cypress Room to find the fireplace lit, flanked by a window to the sea on either side. The clawfoot tub and silky soft bed were calling to us, but since there was a break in the clouds, we couldn’t settle in until we did a little exploring.

A stroll around the grounds led us to the beach path. The cliff is etched with stairs and benches along with a gushing (seasonably pending) waterfall at the base of the descent. Every time you glance up, you are awestruck by the rocky Pacific landscape. We took complete advantage of all the benches and soaked up the peace and tranquility.

Upon returning to our room, we enjoyed a local beer and glass of wine. The Scrimshaw Pilsner brewed in Ft. Bragg was pleasing as was the Husch Chardonnay from Mendocino. Another benefit to a stay at The Harbor House is the complete care that they provide for you. Your room rate includes a four-course dinner and a made to order breakfast on site. This is brilliant because you are able to settle in knowing that you will be fed, and fed well we might add. Chef Adam Ables will wow you with his delectable menu touting local fish, meats, herbs and vegetables (often picked from the garden on site). We savored the tamales oysters, Mendo Rock Fish, and Sonoma Duck for dinner. The dining room provides a panoramic view of the rock arches and leads itself to lingering throughout your meals.

We retired with full bellies and hearts as we drifted off to the sound of the sea raging below. After our breakfast of omelets and homemade French toast, we took to the beach path for one final stroll. Again, we never encountered anyone else on the path and we relished in the romantic solitude. It’s hard to leave a place like The Harbor House; our life felt so quiet and calm and the only decisions we had to make involved which bench to settle down on. The rain began to fall just as we were departing and we took one final glance in our rearview mirror at Elk, population 250. The epitome of a getaway, we were able to shut off the outside world and take many moments to bench ourselves while soaking in one of the most beautiful views in the world.

*To make reservations, visit We love the inn now, but we are especially excited about their upcoming renovations. Be sure to ask about the upgrades when you make your reservation!

Our room.


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