When my partner Robin and I were planning her birthday, we considered going out of the country for a special celebration. As Robin speaks Spanish we contemplated Mexico; and I have a sister living full-time in France. Then I was reminded of what some friends had told us — namely, that west Marin County is truly different than the rest of Northern California. Although we have lived in the Bay Area for over 20 years, I knew there were parts of Marin we had never explored. We decided to stay local and booked a weekend at Manka’s Lodge in Inverness. Upon arrival, we immediately felt we’d been transported to an entirely different world, and what a great sense of surprise that was. Situated close to Tomales Bay, the lodge and cabins are surrounded by trees and green growth to give each person a place of their own. Our first evening was most welcoming… it felt like arriving at a family friend’s residence or at summer camp in the Berkshires. Check-in was in a restored vintage Airstream. Instantly low-key (happily cell phones mostly don’t work here; there is no television, nor land lines.. perfect). Dinner was brought to our cabin and served next to the fireplace by gracious, unassuming staff.
Being in the architectural profession, I can’t help myself: whenever I go anywhere, I look at everything from a design standpoint and tend to pick things apart. What appealed to me so much about Manka’s were the furnishings and details, which appeared genuinely one-off. I wondered, “Who was the design team? Everything is so well considered!” The next day, I asked Margaret Garde, the proprietor.
She informed us she had in fact made the selections herself. As for the design, the cabins are nestled perfectly into the landscape to the point you don’t really even get a sense of structure. Entrances and decks were given much thought to maximize a sense of privacy. Once inside, you feel like you’re the only ones there. To say the furnishings resembled Ralph Lauren on steroids could be misleading; however, in this case, the furniture, rugs and lighting were inviting and soothing… fantastic for decompressing. A distinctive mix of modern and antique — beautifully harmonized — made it clear everything had been selected for a purpose. It had that rare mix of authentic and rustic. Our bathroom, which overlooked the trees, featured both a classic claw-foot tub and a huge walk–in rain shower.
Several years ago, the restaurant at Manka’s burned; it has not yet been rebuilt. Now there’s only a simple sign reading “RIP” to mark the spot. It’s not an eyesore, but it does acknowledge the loss without fuss. We never did find out where the meals were produced; it hardly mattered… the food was superb. One night we ate nearby at Salt, an excellent seafood restaurant.
En route to Manka’s, I had a concern the place might be a bit too cute, and that I wouldn’t really feel like I had left civilization. The actuality turned out to be something entirely above and beyond that. It was one of those weekends were everything was a delight. Nothing better than having expectations far exceeded. Ultimately, the surprise was three-fold: location, attention to detail, and having returned from tragedy. I couldn’t more heartily recommend a place to visit, whether you’re a Bay Area resident or a distant traveler.