Inn at Newport Ranch and the Mendocino Coast are made for escaping. Unplug, unwind, see California's wild side at this luxury Fort Bragg inn.
The tires rumble across the cattle guard and roll onto the crunchy gravel drive. An ancient cypress tree dominates the skyline with its grey twisting trunk and branches. To the north, cattle graze in the headlands pasture. To the west, the Pacific Ocean crashes against the rocky, wild Mendocino Coast. The peaked roofs and chimneys of this luxurious Fort Bragg inn stand silhouetted against a bright blue sky. The Inn at Newport Ranch, indeed, looks like a ranch.
Exploring the Ranch and Inn
Scouting hotels is my favorite part of being a travel writer. I love to explore every nook and cranny and report my discoveries to travelers. The Inn at Newport Ranch (INR) is the most unique and by far the largest property I've surveyed anywhere in the world. This Fort Bragg inn is 2,000-acres with a 1½-mile Pacific coastline and 3 miles of ridgeline. The property has oceanfront views, rolling hills, headlands, pastures, meadows, woodlands, and a redwood grove.
The inn and other accommodations are entirely handmade, reusing the bones of the old ranch house and materials found on the property. Fallen redwoods were harvested and used for most of the building, either as posts, walls, ceilings, floors, or furniture. Every room, every space, is a feast for your senses. Throughout the inn, designers used natural materials for everything. Deep rich woods are offset by colorful textiles and art. It's rustic, luxurious, unpretentious, and very comfortable.
The nine guest rooms are indescribable; they are works of art in every detail. Each features handmade beds and furnishings. In the ocean view room called The Captain's Quarters, a wavy wood lounge is ideally placed for napping or whale watching. A ‘ship's engine order telegraph' is repurposed into a nightlight.
Other rooms have enormous headboards made from a redwood burl slab that serves as a room divider between sleeping and sitting areas.
Reception, three guest rooms, a cozy reading area, a lounge in front of a fire, an ocean view dining room, and a breakfast room with ocean and mountain views occupy the main building. Six more rooms are scattered about in three other buildings across the drive from the inn.
Headlands, caves, secret beaches, and blow-holes dot the 1.5-mile oceanfront property. There's a gathering place encircled with boulders for seating. In the center, an enormous caldron hangs on a tripod where fires are made for happy hour and sunset celebrations.
You'll find beautiful hand-carved live-edge benches and picnic tables in other places along the headlands. They are perfect for a picnic, wildlife viewing, or just watching waves crash against the rocks.
INR is a working cattle ranch. You'll see cattle grazing in the meadows that lie between the Pacific's edge to the base of the rolling hills. The field sports grasses, wildflowers, and occasional mushrooms.
Most of INR's 2,000-acres is woodlands and recovering redwood stands. In the 1800s, logging of the property's redwood trees devastated the old-growth forest; some may have been 1200-years old. While clear-cutting was the practice then, today, INR protects and restores the redwoods on the ranch. You can hike or take an ATV tour and do a little forest bathing among the giants and ferns.
The setting for our meal was dreamy. We spent the evening in the inn's ocean view living room. The space is intimate, quiet, and beautiful. We started with happy hour by the fire, then moved across the room to our table by the Christmas tree. The candlelit room is 5-star romantic.
Sublime! I can think of no better word for the private chef's remarkable culinary delights. The food was perfect in every way. We had local pork and salmon paired with veggies from the oceanfront kitchen garden.
The ranch kitchen prepares breakfast (complimentary), boxed lunch, and dinner daily. If you have made a dinner reservation, you will be asked to select your three-course dinner the day before you arrive. The chef offers two choices for a starter, entrée, and dessert. In addition, the inn has a full-service bar that features local wines, beers, and spirits.
Things to Do On and Around this Fort Bragg Inn
Because there is so much open land, there is much to do when you visit the Inn at Newport Ranch. Along with simply relaxing and feeling the serenity of the ocean, here are a few of our favorite things to do when you visit this magnificent Fort Bragg inn.
Over Hill and Dell
An ATV tour of the ranch is a must. You'll learn about the ranch's history and the natural world surrounding this extraordinary place. A local naturalist and historian is your driver and guide. They know the property and its story. Don't pass up the chance to learn about the forest restoration, the preservation of history in this former logging town called Newport, and the life of the Yuki. These first peoples lived on the land for 10,000 years.
Pro Tip: Ask for Otis as your guide. He's engaging, knowledgeable, and a darn good storyteller. Be prepared for cool, damp conditions in the forest. You might even get a bit wet fording creeks and streams. Sturdy boots or walking shoes are a must. Consider a pair of gloves if you're prone to cold hands. The ATV is open-air and loads of fun.
Take a Walk on the Wild Side
Miles of trails for walkers and hikers surround this luxurious Fort Bragg inn and working ranch. Take a coastal or woodland hike during your visit. You can opt for either self-guided or guided tours. There are suitable routes for all abilities. Footpaths are rated from Easy to Very Difficult. You can pick up maps of ranch trails at reception. The map includes elevation changes. Mountain bike and equestrian experiences are available on request.
Picnic With Wildlife
Get a picnic lunch and a bottle of wine from the kitchen and walk to a picnic spot. Picnic tables and benches dot the property. All are designed to give privacy and a spectacular view while you dine al fresco.
Feast on Seafood in Noyo Harbor
Fancy sippin' the sundown and pickin' crab on a waterfront deck? Do you crave flash-fried Night Fish, bones, and all? Are you thinking of fish and chips with a bit of afternoon blues? How about fisherman's chowder or ceviche with scallops, clams, and mussels, all from local waters a mile or so from your table?
A day in Noyo Harbor puts you in the center of a working wharf and a vanishing way of life where the locals make a living from the water. Small working harbors have all but disappeared from the American culture. Yet, Noyo is rising from near ghost status to a vibrant revival. Eat, sleep, and play in the harbor. Immerse in the culture of a water world.
Get out on the water in a kayak or tour boat. Find some retail therapy in the galleries and shops. Select the freshest seafood on the coast from fish markets or direct from a fishing vessel.
Fort Bragg's Skunk Train is an agreeable way to experience the Redwood Line and the magnificent redwoods along Pudding Creek Estuary.
Pedal-powered railbikes go from Fort Bragg to Glen Blair Junction and return. The leisurely seven-mile roundtrip takes an hour and is suitable for riders of all levels, couples, families, and groups. The railbikes have a motor if the grade on the return to Fort Bragg gets a little challenging. Comfortable seats, a helmet, and a basket for stowing your pack, camera, or water are provided. Fido can make the journey with you in a special tow-along trailer.
You can also take the Pudding Creek Express along the same route as railbikes from the Fort Bragg depot. You can access both enclosed and open cars. Outside in the open-air observation car, passengers watch the scenery pass while listening to the conductor's narration of Skunk Train and logging history. Inside the dining/bar car, adults enjoy cocktails, wine, or beer. In addition, the Pudding Creek Express offers hot and cold soft drinks, popcorn, and snacks. Learn more and make reservations at Skunk Train.
Walk or Bike the California Coastal Trail
Along the Pacific's edge, the California Coastal Trail shares the same path as Mendocino Coast's coastal trails.
The Ka-Kahle Coastal Trail—also called the Fort Bragg Coastal Trail—and the Noyo Headlands Trail connects with the Haul Road Trail, which leads to MacKerricher State Park, north of Fort Bragg. Don't worry about the names; they are all on the only hardtop path that skirts the Pacific on the Mendocino Coast.
While investigating the trail, plan to spend some time at the Noyo Center for Marine Science along the Ka-Kahle Trail.
NCMS is devoted to innovative scientific research, hands-on education, and natural resource stewardship that engages the community, the visitor, and the scientist and inspires connection, communication, collaboration, and creativity. ~ from NCMS website
Guest House Museum
Fort Bragg/Mendocino Coast history and cultures are brought to life with a visit to the Guest House Museum, headquarters of Fort Bragg Mendocino Coast Historical Society. You'll notice the Guest House as you come down Main Street. It sits on a rise above old downtown. The charming house was built of coastal redwood in 1892. Guest House Museum is at 343 North Main Street in Fort Bragg.
Getting to The Inn at Newport Ranch
You'll need a car on the Mendocino Coast. The Inn at Newport Ranch is a 3.5-hour drive north from the Golden Gate Bridge or 2.5-hours south of Eureka. Drive Hwy 101 to Willits, then turn west on Hwy 20. Hwy 20 dead-ends into CA Hwy 1 on the coast. Turn north on CA Hwy 1. The Inn at Newport Ranch entrance is 12-miles north on the west side of the highway.
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The Inn at Newport Ranch, Fort Bragg, and the Mendocino Coast are made for escaping. Unplug, unwind, take a walk on the wild side. For more things to do on the coast, try the Visitor's Guide. Be sure to check out more ideas on Wander about what to see and do when you visit California. We also have suggestions for more spectacular luxury hotels we enjoy and recommend.