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Judy Crowell: Cavallo Point — From Post to Park to Panoramic Paradise

Former military reservation turned Lodge at the Golden Gate offers stunning views and top-notch accommodations with unparalleled amenities

There’s a sameness about U.S. Army posts: the ivory wood-frame structures, the red roofs, the parade grounds, and the impressive size and location of the commanding officers’ quarters. All of this is true for Fort Baker, a 335-acre expanse below the rolling hills of Marin County.

Fronted by Horseshoe Cove, it’s a mere 10-minute drive from the sophisticated hustle and bustle of San Francisco, nestled beautifully at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge.

But, oh, the differences!

Established as a military reservation in 1866 and renamed Fort Baker when construction of permanent structures began in 1901, its mission was to create state-of-the-art barracks, mess halls and facilities to encourage a higher quality of individual to enlist. This effort to attract a better class of recruits and improve a soldier’s life worked so well that the idea soon spread across the country.

Fort Baker is now home to Cavallo Point: The Lodge at the Golden Gate, the newest lodge in the National Park Service, with 68 historic and 74 contemporary guest rooms. I recommend the historic rooms for an authentic “You’re in the Army Now” experience.

Cavallo Point is a full-fledged eco-friendly venue, earning LEED Gold Certification for its reuse and green building practices. The property also exists as a think-tank conference center.

As a resort and spa, it is top-notch. The rooms are open, airy and light-filled with breathtaking views of the San Francisco skyline and the Golden Gate Bridge — such marvelous cross ventilation/air conditioning provided by opening the windows (what a rare idea)! It’s getting back to basics — basics with service and amenities, that is.

The 11,000-square-foot Healing Arts Center & Spa is unparalleled in its tranquility and services offered. Everything from acupuncture, spa treatments, massage therapy, stress reduction, smoking cessation and facial rejuvenation to hypnotherapy, guided imagery and learning to live with chronic diseases await in this retreat situated in a grove of eucalyptus and pine trees.

Click here for a Noozhawk photo gallery.
Click here for a Noozhawk photo gallery. (Judy Crowell / Noozhawk photo)

Farley Bar and Murray Circle, its Michelin-star restaurant, draw epicureans regularly from San Francisco to enjoy the culinary delights of chef Justin Everett. Whether fireside in the cozy dining room or al fresco on the historic porch, you can watch the fog roll in or be dazzled by the sparkling night skyline of the City by the Bay.

Kids and pets are welcome here, and lodge activities for any age are endless: yoga, cooking classes using fresh produce from local farmers, hikes under or over the Golden Gate Bridge, guided walks to learn about the historic buildings of Fort Baker, afternoon tea, a one-mile hike over the hills to nearby Sausalito or multimile hikes over lots of hills to explore habitat for the endangered mission blue butterfly, sailing, biking and, of course, white wooden rockers for turning the pages of a favorite novel.

The neighboring town of Sausalito satisfies any urge for shopping and casual dining at Avatars, Horizons or Scoma’s. Don’t forget to stop at Lappert’s Ice Cream.

Tiburon, a bit farther north, provides a ferry ride into San Francisco and dockside clam chowder at Sam’s Anchor Café.

However, I think you’ll love the vicarious Army life and find it hard to leave the simplicity and charm of Cavallo Point, even for a midday excursion. Not only unique, it is indeed close to everything — but away from it all.

Noozhawk contributing writer Judy Crowell is an author, freelance travel writer and part-time Santa Barbara resident. She can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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