The Stanford Inn is built on a hillside above Big River Estuary on the coast of Northern California. It features cozy rooms with distant ocean views, outstanding service, and gardens. Inns with gardens always have an advantage, trumping even a crummy mattress, surly front desk employees, and bad in-room coffee, (Ok, ok, so there's no such thing as good in-room coffee) none of which are the case here.At check in you are personally escorted to your room by one of the charming staff. The fire will have been built, chocolate truffles will be on your table, and your room rate will include full from-the-menu breakfast from the Inn's wonderful vegetarian restaurant. And your dog is welcome too. The gardens here are visible from every guest room, walkable, organic and nicely designed with plants suited to the coastal environment. A 15 minute drive north will put you at the entrance to Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, and to the south the splendid Digging Dog Nursery. I visited several times in 2010-these photos were taken in May.