Elk is home to many artists in many media, from ateliers to restaurants. Storied Highway One serves as Main Street for this former logging town, “The town with two names”. Originally called Greenwood after early settlers, the town settled on Elk after learning that there was already a Greenwood when establishing a post office in 1887. The old post office is now the Visitors’ Center, where you can learn about the town’s history and see historic photos and antiques from long-ago logging days.
The old name lives on at scenic Greenwood Beach, hiding in plain sight just steps from the highway. The driftwood-strewn beach can be viewed from the top of the bluff among wind-swept cypress trees, or follow the gently sloping path down to the sandy shore for a closer look. Pick up a custom-made sandwich or picnic at the Elk Store just across the street before heading to the beach.
This beautiful part of the world attracts many artists, and it’s been said that Mendocino County has more artists per capita than any other county in California. You’ll find some of these artists’ work at the Artist’s Collective in Elk, a gallery displaying the work of local artists. The gallery is open daily, and often hosts a Second Saturday reception, staying open a little later than usual and showing new artworks.
If you’re still in a shopping mood, stop by Matson’s Mercantile for anything from housewares and hardware to tea and candles. Matson’s shares the former livery stable and car showroom with local favorite Queenie’s Roadhouse, where you can sit on the wooden deck overlooking the ocean or inside the cozy restaurant. Wherever you sit, Queenie herself rules the kitchen, creating delicious down-home breakfast and lunch dishes.
At Chez Marie in the Elk Cove Inn, you will find flawlessly executed, deeply traditional French cuisine created by Marie herself, who also serves each table with a special word for every diner, whether it’s their first visit or one of many. You will truly feel as if you were dining “chez Marie”, at Marie’s home. The intimate dining room features many windows with a spectacular ocean view, the perfect place to watch the sun set.
Just down the street is the luxurious Craftsman style Harbor House Inn, built more than a century ago as an elegant private home, showcasing the beauty of local redwood. Recently remodeled, the Inn has retained its historic charm, and its 25-seat restaurant run by Chef Matthew Kammerer was awarded a coveted Michelin star in 2019. Chef Kammerer’s passion shines through every dish, with ingredients sourced within a 50 mile radius, including foraged mushrooms and sea kelp, as well as herbs and vegetables grown on site.
While it’s always a good day to be in Elk, at the end of August is Great Day in Elk, a celebration dating back nearly half a century with a parade, live music, carnival games, tons of food, and of course the famous greased pole – you can win $100 if you can climb to the top! No matter when you visit, you’ll find beauty and relaxation in this pretty little town.