A Coastal Road Trip to Californiaâs Mendocino County and the Ruggedly Elegant Inn at Newport Ranch

Visit Mendocino

Fine food, fine wine, and an even finer coastline; Mendocino County, located about halfway between the San Francisco Bay Area and the Oregon border, remains one of our favorite destinations in recent memory. With its abundant natural beauty, incredible shoreline drives, and towering redwoods, it’s less touristy than other scenic parts of California coast yet even more appealing because of its lack of overdevelopment. For our journey to must-see Mendocino, we rented a Tesla Model S, testing the full range of the sporty luxury sedan’s battery packs on a run from Napa to the captivating Inn at Newport Ranch just north of Fort Bragg.

Inn at Newport Ranch

The Inn at Newport Ranch is regularly ranked among the world’s top rustic luxury inns, and the reason is immediately obvious as soon as you pass through the front gates and its famous cypress tree comes into sight. Set on 2,000 oceanfront acres of clifftop, ranch and forest land, the five-star property includes three miles of ridge tops, panoramic coastal views and 20 miles of world class hiking and riding trails through redwoods and along the coast. There are incredible vistas from various places at the Inn, but the best might be the hot tub on top of a repurposed water tower with 50-mile panoramic views across the Pacific.

Visit Mendocino

Inn at Newport Ranch

The Inn itself, built on the bones of a century-old farmhouse, and outbuildings offering privacy for larger groups or couples on a romantic getaway, are at once “grand and intimate, designed to enhance the landscape and carefully crafted to incorporate materials such as recycled redwood trees and the finest imported stone.” Rarely is rugged elegance achieved with such authenticity and lack of pretension. Drinks and hors d’oeuvres are served every evening on the spacious porch overlooking storm-tossed seas crashing theatrically against the rocks below, or in the cozy living room with its giant boulder-clad fireplace. 

This extremely civilized ritual, with service from a staff that feels like family, is followed by dinner in the dining room with another stunning brick and stone fireplace, surrounded by floor-to-ceiling windows, prepared by the Inn’s extremely talented chef. North coast seasonally-inspired ranch cuisine makes for a continually changing menu, with many ingredients sourced from the Inn’s own organic gardens as well as the surrounding farms, and of course the sea. It is healthy and delectable, especially when accompanied by the world-class wines of Mendocino, one of California’s largest and most climatically diverse wine regions. 

Visit Mendocino

Plan to spend at least a few days at the Inn at Newport Ranch to experience all its enticing offerings, such as its Fireside Spa, entered through a grove of Redwood trees; as well as that of its neighbors, such as the horseback tours setting out from Ricochet Ridge Ranch, and the Pacific Star Winery, perched on the cliffs just outside Westport. For the ultimate in privacy, guests can now opt to buy out the entire property, with accommodations at Sea Drum House. Originally built as the owner’s on-site residence, it features four bedrooms, each with a private bath, as well as a wood-burning fireplace, private garden, and of course expansive ocean views.

With its temperate northern California climate, Mendocino is an alluring destination in all seasons. Nor are outdoor activities restricted to the warmer months only. Its seaside villages bordered by fragrant forests welcome visitors throughout the year. Its autumnal foliage is considered by many to be the best outside of New England, with the added advantage that you can stop at several wonderful wineries along the way. Fall is often said to be the locals’ favorite time in Mendocino County, “as the crowds have thinned and the crisp nights feature carpets of stars overhead,” while days are still sunny and mild. 

Inn at Newport Ranch

Inn at Newport Ranch

Try a trip on the world-famous Skunk Train operating from Fort Bragg, tracing the Redwood Route which been carrying trains, cargo, and passengers since 1885, and offering various scenic excursions year round. The Mendocino Coast Whale Festivals taking place in March are timed to the migration of the stately creatures which can be spotted just offshore. Another can’t-miss year-round attraction is the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, located on 47 acres moving inland from scenic Highway 1 and including canyons, wetlands, coastal bluffs, and a pine forest. 

Inn at Newport Ranch

In fall and winter, the air in Mendocino is redolent of pine, cedar, woodsmoke and salt spray outdoors, while venturing into cobblestoned villages with quaint Victorian houses you’ll find crackling fires and tables piled high with local delicacies such as Dungeness crab and Chanterelle mushrooms, along with luscious local wines and craft beer. And last but not least be sure to stop in at Point Cabrillo Light Station, a state Historic Park on a spectacular headland extending out into the Pacific—complete with a lighthouse and cottages you can stay in. 

Visit Mendocino

Visit Mendocino

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