Few experiences are more romantic than a cozy, backwoods getaway, but let's be honest: there is such a thing as too rustic. Thankfully, Mickey Muennig the architect behind Big Sur's Post Ranch Inn understood that it was possible to maintain the integrity of the natural landscape and respect local history without sacrificing style and good taste.
When Muennig took on the daunting responsibility of turning this former homestead into a luxury resort, he relied on a background steeped in organic, eco-friendly design principles. These principles are evident the moment you arrive, even though you may not immediately realize that you have, in fact, arrived. But isn't that the point? An unassuming sign marks the entrance to Post Ranch Inn off California's coastal Highway 1. From this turn-off you drive along a wooded road to an equally inconspicuous check-in building, where you park your car and are transported through towering redwoods to your clifftop room.
While it would be nice to credit Muennig with the elegance of the accommodations, the kudos belong first and foremost to Mother Nature, from whom the architect took his cue. The room to acreage ratio guarantees seclusion, with only 30 rooms on almost 100 acres. And while the number of rooms is small, the choice of room types is plentiful. Each one is truly unique, keeping in harmony with its surroundings.
Decisions, decisions. Created to resemble the insect after which it was named, the Butterfly features a pair of outstretched wings, with three floors in each wing and one room on each floor. Free-standing Ocean Rooms look onto the Pacific from both their beds and baths, and are crowned with rooftops that double as wildflower beds. And if you ever dreamed of hiding out in the ultimate tree fort when you were a kid, the Tree Rooms are for you; these triangular structures are built on stilts nine feet off the ground. Also available are private houses, including the Post House. It is described as residential in style, and that would be true if Frank Lloyd Wright happened to design your neighborhood. Copper doors, denim bed covers, leather couches, slate floors and redwood wallseach lodging displays a diverse palette of colors and textures, complemented by natural light and extraordinary views. As for the amenities, you won't find a TV, but there are state-of-the-art stereos with every channel imaginable, wood-burning fireplaces, private decks, spa tubs and complimentary wine in the wet bar.
Admired as much for its architecture (surprise!) as its cuisine, Sierra Mar offers its popular four-course prix fixe menu and selection of 4,000 kinds of wine against a backdrop of steel, glass and redwood. Executive chef Craig von Foerster has crafted a menu that infuses California gastronomy with French and Mediterranean influences. Among the many à la carte choices are Lamb Loin with Sweet Garlic Flan, Braised Escarole and Porcini Mushroom Jus and Caramelized Nantucket Bay Scallops with Vanilla Sabayon, Satsuma Mandarin Orange and Shaved Fennel. Breakfast is included with all stays, and during this time the restaurant is open to guests only.
Daily life at the inn is not about thrills, but rather about communing, quietly, with nature and hopefully getting in touch with your relaxed inner self. Among the many complimentary activities are yoga (scheduled at least once a day) in a Yurt with views of the Ventana Mountains, Tai Chi and Qigong (twice a week) and Starry, Starry Night, in which guests gather on the patio to view Mars, star clusters and galaxies through a high-powered telescope.
Since guests obviously come here to unwind, the inn provides a wide selection of spa treatments. Massages can be taken in the guestrooms or in one of the treatment rooms, which sit on a ridge gazing onto views framed by the massive trunks of redwood trees. Signature therapies include the Post Ranch Massage, which is customized to meet your needs, and the Big Sur Jade Stone Therapy. Reflexology, Craniosacral Therapy and Reiki are also offered. Two swimming pools include a basking pool, kept at a steady 104 degrees, overlooking the ocean.
The grounds that house the Post Ranch Inn have come a long way since 1848, when 18-year-old William Brainard Post staked his claim. Then again, other things important things haven't changed, such as the pristine beauty of the landscape and the commitment to tradition. Among the latter is the inn's unofficial drink, Jack Daniels. Why? In the 1980s, when Billy Post decided to allow his family property to be turned into a resort, the buyer's commitment to respect the land was sealed with a shot of Jack. So, when you go, make sure to raise your glass to commemorate this historic, and very wise, decision.