When the Barretts get together for our extended family vacation (four separate households) we have needs. Man do we have needs. One of my own personal needs is finding a new location at least every few years. We live in a state rich with diversity, we may as well take the opportunity to explore it. My short list of Barrett vacation home base requirements include:
This isn’t too much to ask for, right?
We have found two locations, count’em, two. This year I was ready to add one more. I must say, I think I scored big time family points with this one. Permit me a few moments to brag about the Inverness Valley Inn.
Great Location: Not only does it happen to stand less than a three hour drive from everyone, (Well, almost everyone. Sorry Aunt Jeannie.) but it lies in a stunning area of California. Inverness, near the more popular town of Point Reyes, is surrounded by water and wildlife. On the west shore of Tomales Bay and fifteen miles from the Pacific Ocean at Drake’s Bay, it is a hot spot for kayakers. The bird watchers in our group were also impressed with the array of coastal bird species they found just from the grounds of the Inn. Other wildlife that you can view around Point Reyes include elk, whales, and elephant seals. There are a vast number of hikes of all levels for the meanderer up through to the power hiker. Nice beaches are also scattered around the bay. In short, there is no shortage of outdoor activities to occupy your time.
Incidentally, this has been a getaway spot for residents of the bay area as far back as the early 1900s. Small steamboats took daytrippers down the bay to secluded beaches. They left from Brock Schreiber’s boathouse (pictured above), which is still a prominent local landmark.
Room to Play: When you turn into the driveway of the Inverness Valley Inn you are entering a fifteen acre compound. It is spacious with plenty of grassy areas surrounding each set of cottages. Though the entrance is immediately off of a highway, the trees surrounding the property insulate you from the outside world. Here within the borders you will find a swimming pool (filled with salt water), a hot tub, tennis courts, and a mini eco-farm. Toward the back of the property a trail leads to Mount Vision.
An Onsite Farm: You are likely already aware of my fondness of farms. So the fact that we were sharing the property with seven goats, six sheep, an alpaca, a llama and dozens of chicken was like icing on the cake for me. They were contained within a locked gate at night and taken to selected areas of the property to graze during the day. A noteworthy tip: sometimes their grazing area is cordoned off by a portable electric fence. Kids should be monitored when approaching the animals. When the herd is moved to their evening location, guests are permitted to help feed the animals. Owners of the Inn will sometimes divvy up extra eggs from the chickens amongst their guests as well.
Separate Rooms Close Enough to Feel Joined: Alright I’ll say it: a happy family vacation is one where we have a little room away from each other. It’s hard to appreciate the amount of energy our two wound-up boys can bring. No one else should have to. At least when they are being rowdy, I feel a little better knowing that someone isn’t trying to read in the next room. Still, I don’t want the separation to feel so great that you can’t wander over to visit without it becoming a mini trek. At Inverness Valley Inn the cottages are four-plexes. Our porch sat right beside the grandparents’. This meant that when we heard their door open in the morning, the kids would bounce over for some breakfast while we all planned out our day. As simple as it sounds, this relaxed morning gathering has become a family routine that I look forward to on our vacations.
Roomy: After the little ones are nestled in their beds, our family tradition is to gather around, shuffle up and deal. Sometimes it is poker, sometimes we’ll have a greater interest in a board game. Really, the game is just a vehicle to chide, tease and otherwise bond with each other. So having at least one room where everyone has a place at the table is non-negotiable. Here the largest bedroom was also considered the living space, so it was plenty big. The smaller bedroom (if you pick a “family suite”) was also spacious. The bathroom even included a tub, which is a nice bonus when you are staying more than a few days with kids.
Heart and Care:The owners of Inverness Valley Inn bought the property and moved from Berkeley several years ago. They had the vision of creating a sustainable environment, which now includes an organic garden and animals that provide milk, eggs, and wool. (Yes Julie, the owner, spins the wool herself!) This property is not simply a business investment, it is a passion for this family. You can see them each morning doing the chores that maintaining such a large property requires. How does this matter? For me, this stands out for several reasons:
I love that I get to be a party to someone’s passion. From our short chat I could hear the care that went into each business decision. For example, they retrofit the swimming pool so that it has salt water in order to minimize the amount of chemicals that a pool often contains.
I love that I get to share the dream that one can live in large part from what you have grown. It is clearly a lot of work. I don’t think I could do it, but I am happy to support those who work toward that end.
I love the feeling that I am visiting a home. When I plan out our vacation for next year, I will no doubt want to connect again and see what changes have happened. At least for the next few years, I think the Barretts will have a great place to vacation together.
We received a discount on our stay in exchange for writing about our experiences there.