Summer Stargazing at California’s Secluded B&Bs
Dark night skies in remote regions of California provide rare opportunities to view stars and planets in all of their brilliance. The summer months in particular promise spectacular celestial events ranging from the Venus and Mars conjunction to the Perseid meteor showers to August’s blue moon. Fortunately for stargazing travelers, there are several California B&Bs far from city lights that are eager to help their guests experience the best the California night sky has to offer.
Orchard Hill Country Inn
In a small town east of San Diego, the stars have aligned for world-class stargazing at Orchard Hill Country Inn. Julian was recently designated as a member of the International Dark Sky Network, one of only two towns in California and less than 300 across the United States. The inn is also resuming the popular star parties it hosted prior to the pandemic, complete with telescopes and guidance from amateur astronomers. During any stay, guests have access to binoculars and planispheres for light stargazing on peaceful grounds perfect for viewing Julian’s dark, clear skies.
Volcano Union Inn
In Volcano, where the first amateur astronomical observatory in California was founded in 1860, it feels as if one could reach out and touch the stars. At the historic Volcano Union Inn, a quiet setting and few streetlights mean guests only need the stars as a nightlight and the crickets to lull them to sleep. Many gaze into the star-filled Sierra Foothill sky from an oversized lounge chair in the upstairs balcony. Or, if they dare, they can take a five-minute stroll to the cemetery overlooking the town, a favorite local stargazing spot.
Far from the light pollution of the Southern California mainland, Catalina Island is an ideal destination for experiencing the night sky. One of the island’s best perches for this transformative experience is the rooftop deck at the Aurora Hotel, with its sweeping ocean and city views. There, guests can witness rarely seen constellations emerge from the dark while the moon reflects on Avalon Harbor’s placid waters. Those looking to learn more about the vastness of space can book the Astronomy Experience, a 90-minute land-based tour led by a local astronomer.
Mar Vista Farm + Cottages
When the sun goes down at Mar Vista Farm + Cottages, bright stars command attention against a sky away from city lights, offering guests a chance to see the night sky as they’ve never seen it before. A small farm on nine acres along the “secret coast” of Mendocino County, the inn offers guests a restorative nighttime journey as the sea crashes in the distance. The innkeepers have designed the campus for minimal light pollution, leaving only the Milky Way, the North Star, and the moon to guide stargazers as they ponder what’s just beyond our world.
Brewery Gulch Inn
With spectacular views of Smuggler’s Cove and bordering 48,000 unoccupied acres, Brewery Gulch Inn enjoys the kind of isolation every astronomer craves. For just $75, the inn is offering a stargazing add-on that includes a blanket and beach chairs, all the fixings for s’mores, a Bluetooth speaker, and a star map. The designated “Keeper of the Flame” will even light a bonfire as guests cozy up on Mendocino’s most beloved beach, just in time for a picture-perfect view of the mythical green flash above the sunset or the Milky Way.
Alegria Oceanfront Inn & Cottages
Mendocino is a historical preservation district with a population of under 1,000, which means it casts little light to compete with the dazzling nighttime sky. From decks overlooking Big River Beach, guests at Alegria Oceanfront Inn & Cottages enjoy private views filled with stars. Down a private path to the river, the sky is even darker, making the views truly stunning alongside the soundtrack of waves against the sand. For a truly dark site, guests can drive just a couple of minutes south to the Spring Ranch barns.
JD House Inn
JD House Inn is the Blue Door Group’s modern interpretation of a Mendocino ship captain’s home, complete with sweeping ocean views and dramatic English gardens. It’s a heavenly spot for stargazing, especially the Grand King with its deck facing the ocean. On clear nights, there’s no city light to interfere with the stars above the Pacific. The innkeepers recommend checking the Clear Sky Chart for the best stargazing nights before heading to the inn’s website to book.
Sitting on a five-acre hilltop with commanding views of the Sierra Foothills and unobstructed views of the skies overhead, Courtwood Inn is a grand cedar lodge nestled between Yosemite National Park and Lake Tahoe. There are plenty of prime stargazing sites at this tennis-themed inn, including a 2,500 square-foot deck that wraps the entire length of the lodge, the balcony of the upper room, or even the unlit championship tennis courts that serve a very different purpose during the day.
Inn of the Lost Coast
Unparalleled beauty, stunning sunsets, and incredible celestial views surround the charming fishing village of Shelter Cove. Near the water’s edge at the west end of town, the Inn of the Lost Coast is nestled on a cliff, where the night skies can be seen for miles with hardly an end in sight. Whether from their own private balcony, the tub in their spa suite, in front of an outdoor fire pit, or walking along the bluffs hand in hand, guests have endless opportunities to wish upon a star on the Lost Coast.
Donner Lake Inn
High in the Sierra, Donner Lake Inn offers prime stargazing from its hammock, hot tub, or outdoor seating areas scattered among the pines. The inn is located at the west end of Donner Lake, far from the lights of town, and provides clear views of the dark night sky. For those who are more adventurous, take the five-minute drive to the top of Donner Summit, and view the skies in the absence of all manmade light from the parking area by Rainbow Bridge. Visitors may catch sight of the international space station or orbiting satellites passing right overhead, or even a meteor streaking across the sky.
Eden Vale Inn
Tucked into the Sierra Nevada foothills on 10 acres, Eden Vale Inn offers endless opportunities for perusing the night sky. Extensive gardens, outdoor living areas, and a year-round swimming pond make the property one-of-a-kind. The inn is even offering a Star Gazer’s Delight package that provides everything guests need for a memorable night of sky-watching. For $75, the romantic experience includes tripod-mounted stargazing binoculars, a star guide, ambient lighting, table and chairs, blankets, a bottle from the house wine list, and plenty of Sierra starlight.
The Green Toad Bed & Breakfast
Nestled in a little-known region of the Sierra Foothills between the Middle and South Forks of the American River, The Green Toad Bed & Breakfast is surrounded by nature in every direction. The inn sits on 40 acres of private forested land, surrounded by 80 acres of protected government land, and is adjacent to 90 acres of the privately-owned North Star Tree Farm. The remoteness of the inn ensures dark night skies and the inn’s 3,000 square feet of multi-tiered decking provides an ideal perch for stargazing. On chilly nights, you can even stay warm by taking in the night skies from the deck’s hot tub.