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True West County: Valley Ford, the Town and Hotel

Patio at the Valley Ford Hotel

Let me begin by saying there are two true West County Valley Fords you’ll want to visit: the town and the hotel. The tiny West County town (population 126) offers amazing possibilities for outdoor adventures, being located just a few miles inland from the coast, on the edges of the Estero Americano – a rich wildlife, bird and marine sanctuary. You can hike the estuary, rent kayaks for a trip on the water or cycle the rolling hills to Tomales Bay or Dillon Beach.

But bear in mind that Valley Ford is also a state of mind. Set apart from the crowded and well-traveled tourist spots, and authentic to its rural roots, this is the perfect spot to pause and just “be” rather than “do” for a few days. Depending on the dates you visit, you can listen to live music, have a gourmet dinner or simply relax with your morning coffee in a rocking chair on the front porch of a historic hotel, watching the world go by.

It all begins by booking your room at the Valley Ford Hotel, which sits in the center of town, across the road from a wonderful breakfast diner Estero Cafe and the eclectic small town general store that carries everything from local sheep’s milk ice cream to fishing poles, plumbing supplies to local honey and, of course, it also offers a deli for the packing up of picnic sandwiches.

The original hotel was founded in 1864 and has been in continuous operation ever since. Today you can choose from seven unique and charming “farmhouse style” rooms, all decorated with antiques, a comfy queen size bed and a “mini-bar” of local cheese, crackers and wine – as well as a package of house-made cookies for your bedtime snack. Tea and coffee are always right outside the door. And hanging up in your bathroom: luxuriously soft Frette bathrobes to wrap up in after your shower.

Weekends are even more welcoming. If you arrive on a Friday or Saturday night, you’ll find a tasty afternoon wine and appetizer spread waiting for you in the cozy front lobby, and a generous continental breakfast the next morning of farm fresh eggs, local sheep’s milk yogurt and house-made scones.

Another word here about meals: at least one of your dinner or Sunday brunch plans ought to include dining at the famous Rocker Oysterfeller’s, the hotel’s saloon/restaurant. The proprietor of both the hotel and restaurant also runs a flourishing gourmet catering company, so you can expect the menu to include local, farm-to-table meat and produce as well as fresh oysters from Tamales Bay.

This is also a great place for group gatherings and wedding receptions. The outside patio is large enough to accommodate the festivities but also designed with multi-levels and little pocket garden spots, so the overall feeling is one of intimacy and charm.

Details: Valley Ford Hotel - 45411 Rt. 1 Highway (wheelchair accessible as well as pet friendly)
Rocker Oysterfeller’s - Thursday and Friday 5PM to 8:30PM, Saturday 3PM to 8:30PM or Sunday Noon to 8:30PM