River's End a restfully rustic retreat on Sonoma coast

Really, River's End is a bit of heaven, where the beautiful Russian River meets the sea and the Sonoma coast in big rocks and crashing waves. A gourmet restaurant with drop-dead views is perched above the placid estuary of the river, separated by a sandy bar from the wild ocean beyond. After dinner, I had to walk only a few steps downhill to a knotty-wood cabin with a soft bed and a picture window instead of a TV. I stayed just one night, which cost me about $250 for dinner ($85) and the cabin ($162).

The bed

Someone commented on TripAdvisor that you shouldn't go to River's End if you want sophisticated accommodations. True, it's no Post Ranch Inn; if you ask me, it's better (11048 Highway 1, Jenner, Calif.; [707] 865-2484, Ext. 111, www.ilovesunsets.com). There are just five rooms ($159 to $199) — four in cabins, one in the restaurant building — with small, rustic baths, miniature refrigerators, coffee makers, downy beds and decks. Take time over dinner, because afterward there's nothing to do but hit the sack, meaning you'll wake up in time for a sunrise walk at stunning Goat Rock Beach (bit.ly/1ewaO2r), a poached egg and Dungeness crab breakfast at funky Café Aquatica ([707] 865-2251, www.cafeaquatica.com) in Jenner and a drive 11 miles north to Fort Ross State Historic Park (bit.ly/1fAOEIy).

The meal

It was Dungeness crab season when I was here — peaking in November and December — so River's End chef Martin Recoder was featuring a five-course crab-tasting menu for $78, paired with wines for $33 extra. But even I can't eat that much crab, so I ordered six charming Marin Miyagi oysters sprinkled with flying fish roe; moved on to a plump, fresh Dungeness crab cake; then finished with homemade chocolate ice cream. And, oh, did I mention the Banshee Sonoma Coast Chardonnay?

The find

Jenner is just 11 miles north of Bodega Bay, gorgeous views all the way. But I went west from Healdsburg, about 30 miles chiefly along Highway 116, an enchanted drive paralleling the Russian River, stopping along the way at Korbel Champagne Cellars just east of Guerneville (www.korbel.com), Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve (bit.ly/19cgMDL) and Gold Coast Coffee & Bakery in Duncans Mills ([707] 865-1441 (bit.ly/1e7UWNg).

The lesson learned

There are no downsides I can think of. Only upsides, having to do with watching harbor seals get off their duffs and go fishing in the surf, with glittering pebbles on Goat Rock Beach and with finding contentment not so far away, but still at world's end.

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