I sipped coffee on a wood-plank deck as the sun filtered through the pines, zipping up my down jacket in the morning cold. I stepped inside the dining room of Strawberry Creek Inn for breakfast, walking past antiques and leather-bound books. This was not what I was picturing when I boarded a plane for Southern California.
When you think of the areas around Los Angeles and San Diego, you probably don’t picture towering trees with giant pine cones and a cool breeze whistling through the forest. That’s what you get in the town of Idyllwild, however, a mile above sea level in the mountains outside of Palm Springs. You can walk through the woods along a stream to get to town and once there, you’ll find the mayor is a dog and you don’t have to wait very long to cross the street.
The innkeepers Marc and Nathan own two properties in the area that they purchased from others. In the case of Strawberry Creek Inn they needed to pare down the volume of knick-knacks that previously decorated the place. They have held onto the interesting ones though, like a phonograph, several typewriters, and many antique clocks, while the main living room area and guest rooms are stocked with enough books to keep any reader occupied for weeks. (Mine had War and Peace in it; no time to get through that one!)
So in many ways this checks off the typical bed and breakfast boxes, with a central lounge area, dining room, and quirky rooms that are far from minimalist. The current owners have done a good job though at keeping what makes the place special while keeping the clutter to a minimum. Plus the outside deck area is simple and inviting, letting nature and natural light create an inviting space. There’s also a gazebo on another part of the property, past the chicken coop. Yes, you’ll be eating fresh eggs here.
The “breakfast” part of the bed and breakfast experience is no afterthought at Strawberry Creek. On all three days I got something a bit different and all three combined a beautiful presentation with recipes that were a delight for the taste buds. The peach French toast with sausage was a great way to start the day after a fruit salad marinated in citrus and vanilla. Unfortunately the coffee didn’t live up to the rest, so perhaps they could use some better beans from the local roaster in town. Three’s a nice tea selection on hand though.
For other meals there are restaurants within walking distance in both directions on the main road. I would highly recommend both the Korean food and the burgers at Mile High Cafe, as well as the pasta and brick oven pizza at Fratello’s.
No two rooms are alike at this inn so take a look around their rooms section before booking. Some are in the main house, some in an annex around the outside deck, and there’s a free-standing cottage with its own living room, large deck, outdoor dining, and living room. My room, pictured above, was the Gentleman’s Quarters, a cozy space with tin ceilings and lots of wood, but with a skylight above supplying natural light.
Others take on a southwestern theme, a woodsy theme, a wintry mountain lodge theme, and more. All contain some kind of fireplace, either a wood-burning one or a pushbutton powered one. Wi-Fi works better in the main house than in the annex, but there is a signal throughout. Rooms also have televisions with DirectTV and DVD player, small refrigerators, and coffee makers.
Get more information at the official website for Strawberry Creek Inn and find rates ranging from around $130 for a queen room in low season to around $460 for the spacious cottage during high season. Weekdays are generally less than weekends. You’ll also find the inn available at BedandBreakfast.com.
Editor Tim Leffel was a guest of Strawberry Creek Inn while attending an advisory board meeting of the North American Travel Journalists Association (NATJA). As always, all opinions are his own.