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Luxury Meets Laid Back at River’s End Inn on the Sonoma Coast

There’s a certain poetic precision to the motto of the River’s End Inn, a little five-cabin hideaway in the coastal town of Jenner.

The owners and staff of the lodge like to describe the experience of staying here as “luxe unplugged.”

And before I checked into cabin No. 2 a few weekends ago, I figured I already knew pretty much what “luxe unplugged” meant: plush bedrooms, fine dining, rustic surroundings, 24 hours without WiFi.

But, as it turns out, “luxe unplugged” means a lot more than that. It means not lamenting the lack of an in-room plasma screen on Super Bowl Sunday because you’re too busy watching the sunset where the Russian River meets the Pacific Ocean.

It means getting through an entire three-course meal without checking your texts (there’s no reception out here, anyway).

It means swapping the harsh wake up call of the alarm clock for the sound of harbor seals cooing, calling, singing, frolicking, in the calm river waters just below your bedroom window.

It means watching those same seals playing tag in the spectacular pink light just before dusk, and curling up next to the gas-fire stove inside your cabin when the nighttime chill sets in.

It means admiring the rosy light on the wood-paneled walls of your room and feeling a bit like Thoreau out here, secluded and cut off from the rest of the world — that is, if Thoreau had down comforters and leather love seats, and the promise of cocktails and chocolate mousse just outside his door.

It means finding your way from restaurant back to room by flashlight beam and falling asleep to the sound of the waves.

All of this is not a vibe that’s cultivated by mistake, or even by happy coincidence. “We envision ourselves as being the place you come to get away from it all — even if you’re just from someplace nearby,” said lodge manager Evan Anatra.

Getting away from it all, Anatra realizes, is a luxury in itself, and so celebrating the escape-as-special-occasion has become the raison d’être at both the inn and its on-site restaurant.

“When you come here for a special occasion, we turn that special occasion into an experience you’re never going to forget,” he said.

The end result, of course, is that guests end up coming back, again and again, special occasion or no.

“The more often I see a new face become a regular face, the happier I am,” said Anatra.

Something tells me I’ll be adding my own face to his list.

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