The Lost Coast

The Lost Coast

March 27, 2014  |  Travel

Shelter Cove is a little community on the California coast, north of the point where Highway 1 turns inland to join Highway 101 at Leggett. That stretch of coastline is so rocky the engineers who designed and built Highway 1 decided not to attempt it. Now it is known as the Lost Coast. The town of Shelter Cove is only accessible by boat, plane, or a twisting mountain road from Garberville. It’s not the kind of place you stumble upon by accident. If you get there, it’s because you meant to.

And Todd and I did mean to go there, one day last September. We were visiting Garberville on a weekend getaway and considered
our options for an afternoon explore. We chose the road to The Lost Coast.

What a cool, quirky, interesting little place. We were only there for a few hours — just long enough to pique my curiosity. We saw the only honor-system golf course I have ever come across. If there was no attendant around, you could place your $14 greens fees in the lockbox and play all day. You really do want to aim for the greens though. The fairways are rough, the rough is rougher, and one hole requires you to aim your ball over the town’s single runway. We watched one party of three, dressed in shorts and flip-flops, climb aboard their little plane and taxi off. We happened to be there on a gorgeous sunny day, but I can imagine that dense fog is much more common. That would make things challenging for golfers and pilots alike.

We wandered around for a bit before making our way back to Garberville. I wish we could have stayed longer. In fact, months later I’m still thinking about the place. I’d love to meet and talk to some of the folks who live there. I’m sure they have stories to tell.

I want to go back.

Click on an image to enlarge it, then scroll through the gallery.


  1. As usual, your photos are breathtaking and tell sweet stories, and they took me back to this magical place!

    Somewhere I have a telling photo of me standing next to that danger sign (though “anger” is a great interpretation of the waves’ emotions!). The photo was taken 11 years ago, and I am wearing a pea coat and pants, drenched head to toe from one of those said intermittent waves that crept up and over me so quickly I couldn’t escape.

    We had planned to stop on our way back at the Redwoods Monastery where the nuns make the world’s most delicious creamed honey, but I was just too soaked, and we never did make it. I have always wanted to go back, too.

    When we went, we stayed at the Benbow Inn in Garberville; it was November and they were just putting up their ornate Christmas tree. With TVs and computers absent, afternoon scones and tea, a crackling fireplace next to a little bar, and the close proximity to those black sand beaches, it was one of the most heavenly getaways I’ve had. Highly recommended!

    Thank you for taking me back, Dorothy!

  2. Todd and I stayed at the Benbow Inn too. It was early September and warm enough to eat outside on the patio under a canopy of twinkle lights. Such a beautiful place. I didn’t know about the Monastery — definitely another reason to go back. I’m glad you only got drenched and not swept away with that rogue wave. That stuff can be scary.

    Thank you for sharing your Lost Coast story. I’m glad this post brought back a happy memory. :-)

  3. What a quaint looking place. I love the airport next to/running through the golf course. Wonder what type of hazard it is when you hit a plane? Love the images too Dorothy.

    • We thought about that too, Ken! I’m sure it’s happened. Better to hit a parked plane than one that’s flying low for takeoff or landing, I think! It really was a quaint and quirky place. I hope we return.

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