Crashing waves, rugged cliffs and redwood trees. California's Mendocino Coast offers a striking contrast to the urban blandscape of Los Angeles. When I felt the urge to escape and I read about the recently opened seven-room Inn at Newport Ranch, 20 minutes north of Fort Bragg, I booked a stay. My husband, Paul, and I flew to Santa Rosa and drove three hours northwest, a long but scenic trip, and well worth it: The inn sits on a 2,000-acre cattle ranch that stretches from spectacular ocean cliffs to a forest where redwoods were logged in the 19th century. We were captivated by the setting, the craftsmanship of the whimsical "ranch-meets-forest" design and the hospitality of the innkeepers. The tab: $500 for two nights, with breakfast; $200 for other meals; $190 for horseback riding; $80 for an all-terrain-vehicle excursion, $306 for a rental car; plus taxes and airfare.
At the Inn at Newport Ranch [31502 N. Highway 1, Fort Bragg; (707) 962-4818, www.theinnatnewportranch.com], sustainably harvested redwood rules, from the furniture crafted by local artisans to the 24 tree trunks that anchor the three suites in the Redwood House. Our cozy room was the Chute, named for the metal contraption that carried logs from the cliffs to waiting schooners bound for San Francisco. I coveted the ship-like décor of the Captain's Quarters room next door — until I saw the Birdhouse Suite, where a colossal redwood burl divides the living from the sleeping area. When I returned home, I wasn't surprised to see the Inn at Newport Ranch listed among the best new hotels in the U.S. by Condé Nast Traveler.
Because we were so comfortable, we dined at the inn both evenings. No regrets. Innkeeper Creighton Smith, a Johnson & Wales-trained chef, prepared terrific organic salads, scampi and filet mignon; his apple crumble and bread pudding were killer.
We rode horses from a Fort Bragg stable along the beach in MacKerricher State Park. (The inn is building stables on its property.) Afterward, we visited Glass Beach, a glittering marvel that resulted from the decades when Fort Bragg dumped bottles, along with other trash, into the ocean. Visitors were combing the pebbles for jewel-like nuggets of shimmering green, brown and clear sea glass, their edges magically smoothed over time by the surf.
The lesson learned
Our first day, Paul and I explored the inn's 1½ miles of wind-swept ocean cliffs, spotting seals sunbathing on the rocks below. At dinner, another couple coaxed us to experience the property's 20 miles of trails that head east, so the next day we joined an excursion in one of the inn's ATVs. Our guide drove us through pastures where Angus cattle grazed up to a 900-foot peak. We stopped to admire the panoramic coastline view, then plunged into a shadowy forest. We were mesmerized as the ATV threaded through second-growth redwood trees and the moss-covered stumps of redwood behemoths felled 150 years ago.