FLY & DINE: Shelter Cove, California (K0Q5)

A great fly-in destination for a relaxing weekend.

Shelter Big

Shelter Big

Load the airplane with your favorite co-pilot, the family dog, a well-used set of golf clubs and an overnight bag and head for the perfect west coast summer getaway. Follow the Pacific coastline to Shelter Cove on the California Lost Coast. Shelter Cove and the Shelter Cove Airport (0Q5) are located 350 miles south of Portland and 200 miles north of San Francisco. The Lost Coast refers to the approximate 80 miles of relatively secluded California coastline that is bypassed by State Route 1 and U.S. Highway 101.

Most of the Northern California coast, including Shelter Cove, is frequently shrouded in coastal fog. V494 lies adjacent to the airport but be advised that 0Q5 has no instrument procedures and no aviation services. Even in the best weather, both instrument rated and VFR pilots need to plan for an alternate and have plenty of fuel reserves. Rohnerville Airport (KFOT), Murray Field Airport (KEKA), Ells Field-Willits Municipal Airport (O28) and Arcata Airport (KACV) are within 60 nm of Shelter Cove. All have a variety of instrument approach procedures and offer 100LL.

Those on IFR flight plans and VFR flight following will say goodbye to Center approximately 15 nm from the runway. On those infrequent clear days, the remote peninsula will appear in the windshield allowing for an almost perfect visual approach. This non-towered, unlit, unmanned airstrip looks as if the gods formed a jetty with the sole purpose of landing an airplane. The traffic pattern takes you over the Pacific Ocean. Short final for the 3,400-foot x 75-foot runway can be challenging. The Shelter Cove Public Golf Course surrounds the airstrip. More importantly, the gorgeous ocean views, black-sand beaches and crashing waves lapping up around the approach end of the runway will take any aviator’s attention away from the ever-present shifting winds. If that wasn’t enough to worry about, be vigilant of possible waterfowl, golf carts or the odd doe grazing near the threshold of runway.

Arrive early enough to have a snack and cappuccino at the Fish Tank Espresso Gallery before hitting the links and checking in at one of the many inns around town. The Fish Tank Café is the cove’s only coffee shop and was recently purchased by Jack and Autumn Hargrave. It’s an open, airy breakfast and lunch place located near the north end of the runway next to the Inn of The Lost Coast. Its large selection of coffee and espresso drinks are the perfect accompaniment to a moist quick bread, toasted bagel, decadent quiche or flaky breakfast pastry ($3 to $8).

At lunch, The Fish Tank branches out with a daily selection of handmade sandwiches, salads and snacks ($8.50). This place isn’t the Carnegie Deli in New York, Salumi in Seattle or Canter’s Deli in Los Angeles. The Fish Tank’s creations are simple, tasty and filling, however. The welcoming, relaxing atmosphere and Jack’s gregarious personality will instantly put you at ease. Hang out at the narrow butcher-block eat-in bar and catch-up on all the small town gossip. Better yet, walk out onto the private deck and soak up the salty sea air and relish in the unobstructed mountain views.

When refueled and rested, walk back to the nine-hole, Shelter Cove Golf Course. This par 33, $10-a-day (cash only), Northern California Golf Association course isn’t the most challenging but it does present its own set of obstacles and rewards. Those gorgeous Pacific views distract from the 110-slope rated, narrow fairways. The rough will eat wayward shots for breakfast and the cooling coastal fog will test even the most experienced golfer.

There are a number of full-service, sit down restaurants on the cove. The historic Chart Room, the seafood-oriented Cove Restaurant and the hidden gem Cape Mendocino Tea House all have their merits. For a casual and unpretentious dinner, the Fish Tank Pizzeria is the perfect hole-in-the-wall. It’s a Neapolitan-style pizzeria. Like the Fish Tank Espresso Café, the Fish Tank Pizzeria is a tiny, mostly carry-out restaurant also located on the Inn of the Lost Coast property. There are a few seats inside and several tables set up on the outside veranda to sit and enjoy a beer or glass of wine.

Pizza was born in Naples and is characterized by buffalo milk mozzarella cheese, limited ingredients and a flat bread style crust. With a few twists, Paul and Maria Santiago are doing their best to live up to that tradition. They offer a limited variety of thin crust, crispy pies and virtually nothing else. In this tourist-based town, businesses need to offer a little something for everyone. With that philosophy in mind, the Santiago’s menu does have the cliché pineapple and Canadian bacon based Hawaiian ($17 / $20) and the ingredient heavy beef and sour cream based Mexican ($22 / $25).

Good pizza tastes of the ingredients and of love. It’s a balance of all the four basic tastes – sweet, sour, salty and bitter. The Fish Tank shines when it concentrates on simple and flavorful: the mixed cheese pizza ($12 / $15), Italian sausage and mozzarella pizza ($15 / $18) or the sausage, mozzarella and vegetable calzone ($9.50). These items show their skill, dedication and their understanding of the art of pizza making. This is one place that needs to serve pizza-by-the-slice along with whole pies.

Shelter Cove is tourist based without feeling touristy. Do be aware that many businesses fail to keep regular hours, so make sure you call before arriving. Even so, it’s the perfect place to spend a lazy day playing golf, whale watching, having a relaxing meal or just taking a stroll on the rocky, black-sand beach.

Shelter Cove Airport (0Q5)
Elevation: 69 ft. / 21 m (estimated)
Sectional chart: Klamath Falls and N San Francisco
Control tower: no
ARTCC: Oakland Center
FSS: Oakland FSS
Pattern Altitude: 1,069 ft. MSL
Runways: 12/30 3,400 ft. x 75 ft.
Traffic Pattern: Right traffic for Runway 12
Wind indicator: yes, lighted
Segmented circle: yes
Lights: no
CTAF: 122.9
There are tie-downs at both the north and south end of the taxiway.

Inn of the Lost Coast
205 Wave Drive
Shelter Cove, CA 95589
Phone: (707) 986-7521
Toll free: (888) 570-9676
Fax: (707) 986-7524
Pet friendly, courtesy cars and no reservation cancellation fees for pilots due to weather. 10% discount available for AOPA members, AARP members and AAA.

The Fish Tank Espresso Gallery
205 Wave Drive
Suite 104
Shelter Cove, CA 95589
Phone: (707) 986-7404
Breakfast Hours:
Daily, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Friday and Saturday, 5 to 9 p.m.

The Fish Tank Pizzeria
205 Wave Drive
Ste 1B
Shelter Cove, CA 95589
Phone: (707) 986-7672
Hours September through May:
Thursday to Monday, 4:30 to 9:30 p.m.
Hours June through August:
Daily, 4:30 to 10 p.m

Shelter Cove Golf Links
1555 Upper Pacific Dr
Shelter Cove, California 95589
Phone: (707) 986-1464
Fax: (707) 986-7435

The above airport information is not for navigational purposes. Please obtain up-to-date airport information from the FAA before flight.