For Northern Californians, town a copter ride away
Shelter Cove, the only settlement on the Lost Coast, the longest stretch of undeveloped shoreline in California, began officially in 1965 as the state’s first resort improvement district. The rare designation, now the only one remaining, allowed town founders to develop homes, manage a greenbelt and operate an airstrip.
Five decades later, this smattering of boutique inns, vacation homes, fishing boats and curio shops is the primary gateway to the wildest coastline in the continental United States.
Boasting the hemisphere’s steepest coastal range, few roads penetrate the nearly 100-mile long beachfront wilderness, which attracts free spirits of all kinds. Hikers take three-day beach trips without seeing another person. Surfers search for a legendary surf spot known for perfect waves.
Anglers find fish hauls, like 100-pound halibuts, usually reserved for big Alaskan trips. Mountain bikers zoom along one of the nation’s ten best single track trails, Paradise Royale.
Closer to town, secluded coves conceal prime abalone picking. Black Sands Beach offers access to the Lost Coast trail. Delgada Beach promises tide pool bonanzas. And everywhere, from hot tubs and cafes to a golf course and retired lighthouse, sports front-row, cliff-side seats to the big ocean view.
To celebrate the milestone, Redding-based Air Shasta is partnering with the Inn of the Lost Coast to begin a special package deal in which guests will be picked up from anywhere in Northern California and shuttled to Shelter Cove.
For some, the allure of the region is the geology that shaped it. The King Range National Conservation Area, the 70,000-acre BLM managed wilderness that surrounds Shelter Cove, is home to the Mendocino Triple Junction, a collision of three tectonic plates that created the fastest growing mountain range in the hemisphere, which forced the builders of coastal Highway 1 to flee inland.
For others, the draw is more spiritual. Our Lady of the Redwoods Abbey, a cloister of nuns in nearby Whitethorn that produces and sells delicious creamed honey, has received guests to their old growth redwood estate for decades, including Thomas Merton, one of the most influential spiritual writers of Twentieth Century, who would have turned 100 this year.
Merton, who dreamed of establishing a monastery near a coastal crag called Needle Point, mused that “the Lost Coast is one of the most beautiful places on Earth."
NOTE: For beach goers, prudent respect for the unpredictability of the ocean, as well as an awareness of current tide and surf conditions, is strongly advised.