History and charm await at Aptos’ bed and breakfast gem
Just off Highway 1 on Freedom Boulevard, the Historic Sand Rock Farm bed and breakfast is the ideal staycation getaway: close to home but, nestled on 10 gorgeous tree-filled acres, remote enough to feel like an escape. For visitors to the area, the South County inn has a convenient location between Monterey and Santa Cruz.
More than 100 years old (the original cottage was built in 1887), the house retains an old-fashioned farmhouse feel, with cozy common areas and roomy, charming suites. Proprietor Kris Sheehan was sure to embrace the house’s original features when she bought and renovated it in the late ’90s. Managing to capture its antique allure while polishing it with top accommodations, Sheehan opened Sand Rock Farm for business in 2001.
The inn is a registered property with American Historic Inns and the wealth of stories surrounding it—some no more than whispered local rumors—give it a certain “if the walls could talk” magic. There’s an enormous gold-rimmed mirror in the living room that the previous owner traded for two head of cattle, and further down on the property sit the ruins of the late-1800s winery run by the original owners. The house was built using redwoods that were milled and most likely grown on the property, and Sheehan likes to say that they hold an enchantment of sorts, seeing as no harm befell the house in the 1989 earthquake, despite its proximity to the epicenter.
And then there are the more elusive tales, such as that the likes of Santana and The Grateful Dead have graced the property with musical performances. (It is rumored that Owsley “Bear” Stanley lived in the house in the ’60s, giving his good friends The Grateful Dead the opportunity to rehearse in the barn and perhaps the main house.) “But I never say it’s true,” says Sheehan of this and other stories she’s heard. “I just say, ‘People tell me [that]…’”
Although the house is brimful with the past, it’s far from crowded. With only five rooms spread between two separate “wings” of the large house, it’s spacious and private.
I stayed in the Morning Glory Suite, a large bedroom fitted with a queen-size bed, electric fireplace, two-person Jacuzzi tub and private bathroom. The patterned wallpaper, rugs and brass accents gave the feeling of staying at a well-to-do relative’s country manor. With the Jacuzzi tub full of piping hot water and complementary herbal bath grains, and the faint hoots of owls outside my window, I easily forgot that I was actually just a few miles from home.
Sheehan’s home cooked breakfast was abundant, fresh and generously individualized to fit guests’ dietary preferences. As for daytime activities, she’s also keen to hone in on the interests of each guest and provide them with an individualized set of recommendations, or, if they wish, organized activities (she works with local businesses and professionals to provide her guests with package deals, including massages, wine tastings, hikes and bike trips). “You can hike, bike, boat, go to a winery,” she says. “Birding—someone found 13 kinds of hummingbirds on our property once.”
But even if you decide to do Monterey, Santa Cruz and everything in between, be sure to allot some time for wandering around the inn’s own property. I set out to poke around the meandering plot of land and found it to be filled with small wonders. Being winter, the gardens lay dormant—just a shadow of their springtime selves, which can easily be imagined as vibrant, fragrant and lush in warmer months. But the redwood grove was as impressive as ever—here, a towering redwood gives canopy to a sizeable clearing and an intriguing stacked-barrel fountain. The grove is a popular site for weddings, and, upon further exploration, the property proves to be full of such event-friendly settings—all just as unique as the redwood grove. For indoor weddings or events, there’s the 135-year-old Historic Carriage Barn, an old-fashioned but well-kept large, airy space.
But perhaps the most interesting spot on the property is the site of the 1885 wine barreling room. Now just aged, moss-covered rock walls, the ceiling-less room has white lanterns strung across the top that catch the sun and become iridescent orbs—a bright contrast to the dark, castle-like walls.
Home to much to history and myth, Sand Rock Farm is now in its 10th year of helping visitors make new memories and writing the next chapter in the property’s tale. 2011 is a better time than ever to visit the inn, which is offering a 10 percent discount to any previous guests and a mid-week special for all guests (the second night is discounted).
Whether you’re in need of a homey place to rest your head after a busy day of sightseeing, or a place to escape—maybe to curl up with a book by the fire or relax on the redwood deck—Sheehan and her lovely b&b will be sure to provide it for you.
Visit sandrockfarm.com for more information or to make reservations. Historic Sand Rock Farm, 6901 Freedom Blvd., Aptos. 688-8005.