Cavallo Point Lodge: Luxe Digs on a Former Army Base

Photo by Kodiak Greenwood

I've been dreaming about visiting Cavallo Point ever since I first heard of the WWII-army-post-turned-luxury-lodge in Sausalito a few years ago. Its prime location at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge, gorgeous natural surroundings and huge "parade ground" (i.e. lawn) sounded ideal for a getaway with the kids, and maybe even the dog. When I finally got the chance to visit with my family over spring break, Cavallo didn't disappoint. Our dog, unfortunately, didn't join us after all -- seven hours crammed between two car seats in the back of a Prius would've been too close to animal cruelty. But if she had come along, she would've been as graciously received and pampered as the rest of us; the lodge offers special packages just for pet lovers, along with miles of nearby hiking trails to explore in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

Cavallo offers two types of rooms. Historic lodging is in the restored former officers' residences of the Fort Baker U.S. Army post, and the multi-roomed Colonial Revival suites are well suited to families. The newly built contemporary rooms built on a hill above the main property are more sleek and sexy. I requested a historic room because part of what attracted me to Cavallo was its reuse and painstaking restoration of existing buildings. I have to admit, though, that I felt a tiny twinge of regret when I took a site tour and saw the stunning view of the Golden Gate Bridge from a contemporary suite's floor-to-ceiling windows. Our historic suite, however, was comfortable and well appointed, and afforded lovely views of the bay and San Francisco skyline. The entire property is LEED Gold certified, which is evident in details like recycled plastic Adirondock chairs, organic cotton bedding and toiletries in refillable glass bottles. The lodge's alliance with the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy means that its grounds are open to the surrounding community, and special care must be taken to protect the wildlife in the area.

While we could've spent our entire three-day trip enjoying the rarefied air of Marin County, we divided our time between Sausalito and San Francisco. My number one priority was to finally visit the Academy of the Sciences in Golden Gate Park. I figured we'd need a good chunk of time to see the many attractions under the museum's green, native-plant-covered roof, so we arrived at opening time (9:30 a.m.) on a misty Friday morning. After wolfing down some surprisingly good chocolate croissants and coffee at the café, we made a beeline for the three-level rainforest exhibit, having been warned of long lines. We got in quickly and spent the next 45 minutes or so marveling at snakes, frogs, carnivorous plants and a mesmerizing multitude of butterflies as we made our way from the forest floor up through the canopy. We were then advised to gently brush off any hitchhiking butterflies before taking an elevator down to the museum's impressive aquarium. After fiddling with a neat interactive guide to continental drift and checking out a cool earthquake simulator, we were ready to shove off. (Alas, my kids are still too young to have visited the Academy's planetarium.)

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I'd been told by more than one person to visit the Ferry Building Marketplace in the Embarcadero, so that was our next stop. The scenic oceanfront location and carefully curated selection of artisanal food vendors and local crafts brought to mind Crafted at the Port of Los Angeles. But unlike Crafted, the Ferry Building was positively bustling, and offered a much more tantalizing array of lunch options than a couple of food trucks -- my fish and chips from the San Francisco Fish Company were so good they almost made me forget my name.

After spending half a day navigating and exploring the city, we were more than ready to head back over the bridge to our quiet Cavallo Point retreat. After tossing a Frisbee around on the lawn, we all went out to a casual dinner in downtown Sausalito, and then my husband and I took turns relaxing in the gorgeous adults-only, heated outdoor meditation pool at the Cavallo Point Spa. Feeling pleasantly weary, well fed and relaxed, I went to bed satisfied that I had planned and executed a best-of-all-worlds type of family getaway.

The only hiccup of the trip was our dubious choice to take the scenic route down the 101 back to Los Angeles. Sure, the scenery is stunning, but eight to nine hours in the car is an awfully long time with two small children who are eager to be back home. We'll just have to stop overnight in good ol' San Luis Obispo next time.

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