What is it like to participate in a "Farmstay"?

By Crystal Lee
July 2, 2018

Mar Vista Cottages, Gualala, California

Garden farm stay

Gavin (my husband) and I spent our fourth wedding anniversary at this absolutely gorgeous, pseudo-farmstay. We drove up north for three hours from San Francisco on a brisk June Saturday morning.

As we pulled into the driveway, we were immediately struck by how similar the landscape looked to the photos on the website: scattered around a carefully landscaped pasture were a dozen quaint, freshly painted yellow cottages.

We drove up along the dirt driveway and to the right of us was a rather large fenced-in chicken coop which was amazingly pristine and equipped with carefully crafted houses for the hens. Further up along the driveway to the left was a fenced-in garden where a gardener was tending to her crops.

When we finally arrived at the end of the narrow dirt road in front of a small red farmhouse, we were greeted by Tom and Renata, the owners of Mar Vista who both exuded warmth and welcome. Their black retriever mix, Socks, merrily greeted our rottie, Athena.

Tom with his dry, but very friendly east coast sense of humor proceeded to point out our cottage and all the amenities around us: he declared that every day at 5 PM, he hosts the “egg gathering”, in which he leads all of the cottage guests to the coop where we can hand-pick fresh eggs straight from the hens.

Gathering eggs at a Farmstay

If we wanted eggs from the prior evening’s picking, we simply had to hang a basket in front of our cottage door every night and he or Renata would fill it with fresh eggs. He also pointed out that the herb garden was for our culinary pleasure: if we craved a fresh home-grown salad, we could go into the gated garden and pick from a variety of colorful crops, berries, and edible flowers. The gardener who we saw earlier typically made herself available to answer our questions and to let us know which trees, bushes, or herbs were ready to be harvested.

After the introduction by Tom, we drove a short distance to our Cottage 4, which was a charming one bedroom one bath with a full kitchen, living area, fireplace, and a full view of the property with the backdrop of the ocean. After settling in, we walked around the property to explore.

farm stay

In addition to three curious and chummy goats, there were a couple of bunnies (a hit with the younger guests). There was a jacuzzi sheltered in a wooden hut and a lounge area with two sets of campfires, and stocked with everything we needed to make our own smores.

When nightfall came, Gavin and I roasted jumbo marshmallows over a fire that we stoked occasionally as we gazed out into the night sky. Without all the ambient light we were accustomed to in the city, the stars were bright and abundant.

The next morning, at Tom’s suggestion, we headed east from our cottage where he carved out a short hiking trail down to the creek that ran adjacent to the property. As we descended down the man-made steps, were were immersed in an auditorium of towering redwoods and listened the calming sounds of the running creek.

Beach excursion farmstay

After our little excursion into the woods, we hiked back up to the main area and walked the length of the property until we reached a fence that led to a path that snaked towards the beach. Imagine that! In less than 10 minutes we went from gazing up at gigantic redwoods to walking barefoot on a beach overlooking the Pacific.

Post beach-time, we walked back to our cottage and sure enough, our little basket that we hung outside of our door was filled with four eggs, two white and two brown. We immediately took our basket down, and made scrambled eggs in our kitchen. I am ashamed to admit that this was the first time I had real fresh eggs, and not store-bought from a refrigerator.

Vegetables from the garden

All I can say is that if you haven’t had farm fresh eggs before, you are missing out! I noticed immediately that the egg shells were a lot thicker than the ones you buy at the store, and that they tasted “meatier”.

We borrowed some olive oil and vinegar from Renata and assembled a homemade salad of different butter lettuces, arugula, and a variety of brightly colored aromatic flowers. Farm fresh eggs +  hand picked veggies = absolutely delicious lunch.

fresh garden salad

Mar Vista Cottages was a treat for all the senses. Something worth noting was that, in contrast to a typical hotel stay, there is no food and beverage served. Fortunately, if you simply don’t feel like cooking a whole meal with the kitchen in your cottage, you had the option of driving a couple of miles south to Anchor Bay where there is the delectable Anchor Bay Thai restaurant, and Trinks cafe, which boasts the best sandwiches.

If you do feel like cooking yourself, there are a couple of fully stocked grocery stores within the vicinity. The lack of food options were compensated by other amenities: it was refreshing to have our very own cottage that was at least ten yards from the next one so that we enjoyed privacy.

garden at the farmstay

Additionally, for those who absolutely cannot unplug despite the bucolic setting, there is wifi, but no television. Last but not least, if you have a dog and love bringing your furbaby with you everywhere, this is a super dog friendly place (for an added fee).

I have to say that I am grateful that we had the opportunity to stay at Mar Vista Cottages. I was inspired to write about this place as Tom and Renata, after 18 years in operation, will not be running this gem forever.

If you are city slicker looking to get away for multiple days by yourself, with your significant other, or with your family, this is a perfect blend of countryside charm and coastal scenery within the comforts of upscale glamping. For me, it was a lovely reminder to take a step back and enjoy the simple things in life.


Special thanks goes to our friends Tami Kim and Jack Pien for the recommendation! It is worth mentioning that word of mouth is one of the primary sources of business for Mar Vista. Tom and Renada spend almost nothing on advertising. All their business come from referrals and travel writers, which are enough to keep all the cottages occupied year-round.

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