In the foothills of Sausalito, the Alta Mira Hotel has a commanding position overlooking San Francisco Bay. From the expansive terrace you can enjoy panoramic views of the city and play spot the landmark: Alcatraz, Angel Island and the Oakland Bay Bridge are all easy targets. Recent renovation has restored the Alta Mira, which appropriately means "high view" in Spanish, to a condition that befits its status as one of the older hotels in the area.

It was first built in the 1880s as a plush family residence, but later burnt down and was rebuilt. The present owner, a philanthropist, bought the hotel in 2003. Accessed by a series of steep steps (there are even more if you walk up from town), the hotel has a breezy, colonial feel with pale walls, tropical plants and muted green tones throughout.

Under its new guise as a B&B, the once-popular restaurant now offers only Sunday brunch on the terrace. But this is a bonus, as guests can soak up the views exclusively every evening before heading into town. Sausalito has an almost European feel, with the marina, artsy shops and good restaurants all within walking distance.

LOCATION

Alta Mira Hotel, 125 Bulkley Avenue, Sausalito, CA 94965 (001 415 332 1350; www.sausalitoaltamira.com).

Time from international airport: It's a 15 to 30 minute drive on Highway 101 north over the Golden Gate Bridge, take the first right to Sausalito. Or sail to Sausalito by ferry from Pier 41 in downtown.

COMFORTABLE?

The 22 rooms are flooded with daylight thanks to the big windows, and all have vast, dark wood beds. The best rooms in the main house have balconies and face the Bay. Try to get room 8; it's on the end and has uninterrupted views. Adjacent to the main house are two cottages, which can be hired out for small groups. Early in the week the hotel is blissfully quiet, but check for private functions as it's a popular place for weddings. On a practical note the hotel does not have wheelchair access; it has been allowed special dispensation due to its advanced age.

Freebies: Wine and cheese for guests between 5pm and 7pm in the living room or on the large terrace; the usual toiletries in the bathroom.

Keeping in touch: Phone and television in the room.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Doubles start at $195 (£102) including breakfast, but you can save up to 30 per cent during the "calm season" from November to May.

I'm not paying that: Just down the road, you'll find doubles from $160 (£84) at The Hotel Sausalito, 16 El Portal, Sausalito (001 415 332 0700; www.hotelsausalito.com).

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