The first time traveler is going to be in for a nice surprise, if they are willing to tackle the four miles of graded dirt and rock road off Highway 1 south of San Quintin. It is a straight shot out to the Pacific, yes a little bumpy, but cheerful signs, “You are almost there!” posted every mile are very much appreciated. Faithful friends of The Old Mill return like migrating birds to the inland bay sanctuary. The Old Mill Hotel and the Viejo Molino Restaurant sit on a shore line of San Quintin Bay, which extends out and joins Bahia Falsa, continuing on out to the greater Santa Maria Bay. The series of volcanic peninsulas keep San Quintin Bay a sheltered anchorage from the more extreme Pacific tides, making it a favorite for the angler.
Shamefully, I admit that I have driven by this turnoff for years, heading to Baja Sur. I had heard the name often enough, but not being a fisherman, I drove on by. However, on this trip headed north, that oversight was about to change. Driving into an inner secluded court yard, I was looking forward to meeting Javier Castellanos, the manager, of The Old Mill, who is favored by Trip Advisor, because of his warm greeting and the complimentary cold cerveza. This day Angie checked me into the lovely suite with a view of the bay. The room was large and sunny with a corner fireplace. The bathroom had a huge tiled shower, large vanity and big fluffy towels. The bed was a dream. A cute little table with a view and wifi made it perfect for a writer gathering in a story.
From my balcony I looked out across the rippling water to the peninsula. Volcanic action created fingers of lava-flow reaching into the Pacific. Historically, when the land cooled down, people inhabited this area more than 10,000 years ago. Later they would be known as the Cochimi Indians. They learned how to live and survive on native plants, fish and wild game. In the more recent history, a British owned company had an idea to grow wheat that they would then transport by railway. Nearly a hundred English colonists bought tracts of land, planted wheat and built the gristmill. In the 1880s a train track was being laid, meant to hook up with the Southern Pacific RR in California. But the idea of wealth from this venture began to fall apart as a severe drought devastated the first harvests and the colonists abandoned San Quintin by 1900. There is said to be a 17-ton, six-wheeled locomotive underwater at the mouth of the bay. It must have been one heck of an accident and a story in its own right.
A lovely expanse of wooden deck is shared by the hotel and the restaurant. I was impressed with a life-size great white shark that seemed to be leaping from the water. The metal sculpture was fierce looking, but made me smile at the sense of humor; surely there were no great whites in these waters…were there? Oaxacan vendors displayed bright woven fabrics, jewelry and trinkets for the tourist. From here I watched a very busy launch ramp as the skilled pescadores slid their boats into the bay. Later they would return with big coolers full of fish. To say this bay is an angler’s paradise, is an understatement. There are more than 10 different species of fish found in these inland waters: white and black sea bass, halibut and dorado to name some favorites. The best months to find all species is from July to October. Even with all the activity, in the early morning you can find a quiet time to enjoy your first cup of coffee and watch the sea birds begin their day.
A short walk from the hotel for dinner is the Viejo Molino Restaurant (Spanish for Old Mill), established in 1887. A massive metal wheel from the mill remains, but is now silent and used as a brightly painted icon of former days. The restaurant itself, houses weathered fishing artifacts in its rich wood interior. Heavy metal pilings appear to hold up the roof. In the early evening a group of feisty anglers were raising a few; congratulating themselves and telling their stories about how that big yellow fin got away. The waiters were friendly and the oysters on the half shell, delicate and sweet. If you wish a less formal meal and a place close by that serves breakfast, it is a simple walk to Don Eddie’s Restaurant, just around the north corner of The Old Mill. There is also a well maintained RV park. Eddie’s is a large palapa style building and serves rich Mexican wakeup coffee.The wind had picked up and the sun was sliding into the west. The story was writing itself. I was surprised by Javier’s late afternoon visit. He offered me a cold cerveza with a hardy welcome. I could see why people return here as his graciousness is part of the package. With great flair he talked of all the things that he loved about this area. It was not just a business for him, but also home as his Rancho is nearby. He raises countless farm animals. Today was very special. With fatherly pride he shared that his broodmare had her foal just that morning. Javier’s enthusiasm was contagious as he shared a long list of things to do in the area, including a boat tour package with free lodging. More than a fisherman’s paradise, Old Mill’s historic site is an easy get-a-way from the U.S., just 200 miles from the border. A visit opens up many unique opportunities, warm hospitality and good food. Old Mill Hotel is pet friendly and offers 10% off for the Baja Bound Traveler. Whether you leave with a cooler full of fish or fond memories, it is well worth the drive into Baja California.
The Old Mill Hotel:
From the U.S.: 1-855-690-9272
From Mexico: O1-616-165-6030
Martina's email: mteomaya(at)gmail.com