“Beautiful National Park lodge, just across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, with views to die for”
Roughly half of the 142 rooms and suites are in the attractive ('historic') white buildings with red roofs, which form a semi-circle around the Parade Ground and look out towards the Bay.
These former officers' residences were painstakingly restored to preserve original features such as doors, coving and front porches, which now now have rocking chairs. The larger suites have separate sitting areas with sofabeds, armchairs and gas fireplaces.
The other rooms are in new eco-friendly buildings, usually with 4-6 units per building, on the hillsides. Nearly all of these 'contemporary' rooms have Golden Gate Bridge or Bay views - ours was amazing. Most have a balcony or patio and gas fireplaces.
Larger suites, such as the Contemporary King Junior Suite in which we stayed, have separate sitting areas with window sofas and armchairs. All have a private balcony or patio with Adirondack chairs, wet bars and fireplaces.
The decor in both historic and contemporary rooms is similar - think soft sage and mustard colours - but you get walnut in the old and bamboo in the new. All have original artwork, usually photography (our room had B&W pictures on a water theme). Floors are carpeted in the bedrooms, bathrooms have heated slate floors.
Bathrooms are shiny-white immaculate, all with a rain shower over the deep soaking tub, except in the top suites where you get a separate bath and shower. Make sure you slide your doors shut overnight to avoid light pouring through the windows in the morning.
Beds are supremely comfortable, dressed in organic linens. Amenities include flatscreen TVs, mini fridges, ceiling fan, complimentary toiletries, robes and slippers, alarm clock with plug-in iPod dock, desk with reading lights, shaving mirror, and useful in-room directories.
Food and drink is, some say, what NorCal is all about. All meals are taken in the restaurant, Murray Circle, which has original pressed metal ceilings, contemporary chandeliers and soft gold velvet curtains, which can create private dining spaces.
Executive Chef Justin Everett procures local and responsible ingredients, which change seasonally, and the restaurant earned a Michelin Star just 3 months after opening. The relationship with local suppliers is writ large on the menu - source farms are named for each dish.
For breakfast you have a choice: continental, southern (cheese grits, eggs any style, sausage, ham or bacon), New Yorker (bagel, smoked salmon, herbed creme fraiche) or Californian (garden omelette with spinach and mushrooms, organic yoghurt and granola). Or you can go a la carte, which was our preferred option: my Dungeness Crab Benedict was divine, washed down with a fresh fruit smoothie. We sat on the terrace at the front, gazing at the Golden Gate Bridge and passing marine traffic.
For weekday lunches, you choose from oysters, salads, salmon carpaccio, burgers, sole, black cod, omelettes, quiche, pasta and BLT sandwiches. The Sunday brunch menu combines both the a la carte breakfast options and lunch dishes. For picnics and excursions, pick up some snacks, drinks and fruit in the shop.
Dinner is a highlight. We went for baby beets roasted in coals accompanied by whipped ricotta and green beet tortellini, followed by an exquisite oyster bisque, then rabbit wrapped in prosciutto on smoked dates and mushrooms. Somehow room was made for a strawberry pannacotta parfait afterwards. Since our visit the menu has changed, but still sounds sublime: think oysters with shallot fondue and grass-fed beef pavé with roasted fingerling potato.
Ask the sommelier which wine he recommends for the main courses, choose your own bottle from the 5,000-bottle wine cellar, or BYO for a corkage fee. Adjacent is Farley Bar, which often has live music in the evenings. Here you can order small plates if you prefer something less formal.
The acclaimed cooking school has events on several times a week, so book yourself in on one of their day courses.
If you want to dine out, head to Sausalito which has several nice waterfront restaurants. We were told that Spinnaker, Poggio or The Fish Restaurant were good choices.
Children are very welcome at Cavallo Point Lodge, and stay for free up to 18 years of age, sharing their parents' room, either in a baby cot or on an air mattress. The spa meditation pool is only for adults, but 16 and 17 year olds can visit with parents. There's plenty to do, it's well located for San Fran and has babysitting so you can visit the spa.
Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)
Contemporary 2 Queens, Historic 2 Bedroom Suites and the various other suites (accommodating 3-6 adults) are the best for families. Check the full descriptions on rates. Note that there is no lift and most rooms are on the first or second floor.
Remember baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking
The restaurant's kids' menu offers 3 mini courses eg chicken fingers, fish sticks, mac and cheese, vanilla ice cream sundae. You can order in treats like milk and cookies, freshly baked by the pastry chef. Plenty of child-friendly eateries in SF; you can also buy basic picnic goodies in the onsite shop.
Kids aren't allowed in the pool in the spa; there are some steps on the property, and there is no lift (staff will help with your luggage, but it's better to book a ground floor room if you have a buggy).