Visit Manka’s Inverness Lodge on the Northern California coast


As my 35th birthday loomed in the distance, I started to realize that I wanted to mark this one in some special way. As long as I can remember, I have always loved birthdays. I always made a point to celebrate, often with festive dinners or by traveling somewhere new. But this birthday seemed bigger, or at least important ~ a stepping over from being an adult-in-training to being a real adult. There needed to be some soulful pre-payment or investment, some recognition that would encourage my inner child to take on the real challenge of this next “big girl” adventure.

When I was a little girl, my father would light fireworks for my birthday and sometimes there would be an ice cream cake. In college, we would choose a fun restaurant and go all in on the splurge. This year I decided I could check off a certain bucket list item I had been dreaming about since moving to San Francisco 12+ years ago.

I’d heard stories about the historic and memorable Manka’s Inverness Lodge and always wanted to go. Inverness is a quiet community on the west shore of Tomales Bay. Most people visiting the beachy towns north of San Francisco know of and visit Point Reyes Station and drive right past the turn to Inverness, which isn’t hard to do. But, if you pull off the main drag (the road that takes you all the way out to the Point Reyes Lighthouse) you find that the neighborhoods are full of artist studios and idyllic hideaways . The fact that fog doesn’t usually lift until about noon is just part of it’s coastal charm.

We arrived at Manka’s in the afternoon. The reception desk is housed in an old Airstream trailer just off the road. We said hi and were asked to park our car outside our accommodations for the night ~ The Fishing Cabin ~ and to wander back while he was finishing up with the other couple checking in. When we arrived back up the hill, two glasses of wine were waiting for us. I asked about the history and story of the inn. A hunting lodge since the 1920’s, it was sold to Manka and Milan Prokupek in the 1950’s, who were refugees from the Communist takeover of Czechoslovakia. They ran it for 40 years before selling it to Margaret Grade in the early 90’s.

Once we got into our room, we quickly realized how dark it was. It being such a beautiful day outside, we decided to take Arlo for a walk. (Did I mention Manka’s is dog friendly? score!) We walked down the road to a set of stairs that our host had mentioned and found our way down to the path to a creek and followed it out to the Boathouse, which has a view of Tomales Bay. This is another of Manka’s accommodations. I think next time, I would like to stay there. We took a different road back that loops around, and we visited with my family friend, the potter, Carol Molly Prier who lives close by. She is best known for her burnished pots which are fired in pits dug into the sand at Dillon Beach. We had meant to stop in for a quick visit to say hi and ended up staying talking in her glorious garden for about an hour. After “shopping” directly off her studio shelves, she wrapped me up a couple of her white ware cereal bowls and we had to hurry back to meet our “fireside supper” that was being delivered shortly.

Supper was delivered and set up on the table for us. A “coastal carrot + tomato soup” was poured from a safari-style stainless steel pitcher into ceramic tumblers. “The softly smoked king of surrounding seas” (salmon) was served “on a throne of Olema cauliflower defended by baked local sheep’s milk feta”. “Luscious parts of local heritage lamb, leg and ribs,” were served with a “mash of Marin potatoes and backyard broccoli.” Like I mentioned before, the room was extremely dark, but everything we ate was delicious. After dinner, as the fireplace flickered, the fog rolled in, Noah took a nap, and I drew myself a bath. I brought my book and the dessert course with me into the bath: “ a cake of dates, from the desert plot of a Bolinas farmer, and caramel deepened with our miso.” Self-care, indeed.

The Manka’s website is pretty mysterious and I think probably for the better. These days special getaways are plastered all over instagram, blogs and Pinterest (I mean I’m not helping in this case) and its almost addictive to search out every image before making the trip. But at Manka’s just know that you will need to call to make the reservation and you will need to speak to the real-life person (probably the owner Margaret) in order to book your stay. They will take glorious care of you, so just leave it that and enjoy the experience.

That said, dinner paled in comparison to breakfast.

After our early morning walk with Arlo, we came back to find the promised metal box filled with scrumptious items perfectly prepared for us. “Inverness apples pressed for your pleasure and served alongside housemade yogurt over wild West Marin honey under our granola and blueberries – with buns that just jumped our the oven.” What a delight.

MANKA’S INVERNESS LODGE 30 Callendar Way, Inverness, CA 94937 (415) 669-1034

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  1. JJ Cummings says:

    Manka’s burned down in 2006. Margaret Grade passed away recently, sadly, this year, 2024.

    • Eleanor Denker says:

      I was so sorry to hear of Margaret’s passing. Many of the Mankas cabins made it through the fire, we stayed there in 2019.

  2. Caroline says:

    Hello Nora,
    We are heartbroken by the loss of Margaret. We were devoted guests at Manka’s for all the years Margaret had it. Impossible to express how much her presence meant to us — and to everyone her life, her voice, her food and her talents touched.
    I’m trying to find a photo of the tiled floor with the date imbedded in it the in the Boathouse second bathroom. It was created more recently and is next to the stairs to Boatman’s quarters.wondering if you have one?

    • Eleanor Denker says:

      Caroline, Thank you for your note. I wish you luck in finding this image! I never stayed at the Boathouse unfortunately.

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