Mar Vista offers atmospheric dinners in a rustic, seaside conservatory

It’s not hard to find a getaway cottage with kitchen facilities. But few also provide free pick-it-yourself fixings for the table and eggs so fresh they’re still warm from the hen.

The adorable Mar Vista Cottages in Anchor Bay let guests grab a basket and shop a 5,000 square foot organic garden for anything that looks ripe and delicious to their eyes. The garden is packed with seasonal produce and herbs. Much of it is started from seed right on the property, in greenhouses manned by proprietors Tom and Renata Dorn.

Now the Dorns have added another attraction to their cluster of butter-yellow cottages that dot a grassy slope four miles north of  Gualala. They’ve built a wood and glass dining room,  the site of monthly community feasts featuring fresh and local foods catered by Rob Hunter’s Pangaea mobile kitchen.


The long communal table can accommodate 50. Half the guests get a great view of the garden. The other half look out through glass onto the Pacific ocean.

The glassed in dining is wedged between two greenhouses and is dripping with country atmosphere and conviviality. Each meal features a particular local winemarker. The monthly meals have wound down for the season but the Dorns plan to do it again next year. This is one of those insider secrets known largely only to coastal locals lucky enough to be on the Dorns notification list. But don’t think it’s exclusive. The couple is happy to add anyone to the list. Just e-mail tomdor@mcn.org or renadorn@mcn.org.

The 1930s-era cottages are a like a trip back in time. The setting has a summer camp kind of feel, with more creatures comforts. You will be delivered a basket of fresh eggs each morning. However, Tom is happy to take you out to the hen house and gather your own, right from under the hen.

Rooster Phil, a fancy crested Polish originally thought to be female until he started causing a commotion with his crowing, now has his own soundproof digs.

“We let him out at 9,” Renata assures. That’s a good thing. He’s part of the entertainment, strutting his fancy headdress and tailfeathers around the garden and greenhouse.

Cottages at Mar Vista start at $155 for a small one-bedroom and go up to $285 for a large two-bedroom home away from home with a white water ocean view. All the cottages have cozy fireplaces.

Breakaway Tip: The Dorns offer a procrastinator’s discount: a two-bedroom cottage for the price of a one-bedroom, based on availability.

Mar Vista is located at 35101 S. Hwy 1., Gualala. For reservations call 877-855-3522 or visit marvistamendocino.com. For more info on Panaea’s mobile kitchen visit pangaeacatering.com.