Explore a Remote Coastal Wonderland at The Inn at Newport Ranch
A lone cypress tree is among the last vestiges of a logging town called Newport that sprung up along the northern Mendocino coast in 1865. For 20 years, the redwood forests covering the nearby hills were logged, milled, and lowered onto schooners bound for San Francisco. At its height, Newport’s population hovered just over 2,000. But once the redwoods were depleted, the industry moved on, and the town was abandoned.
I’m peering off the edge of a cliff where the town once stood, mesmerized by the waves swirling against the rocks below. My tour guide, Otis Brown, points out the remnants of an old lumber chute jutting from the cliffs. Further along the coast, he reaches down to scoop up a bit of dirt and drops tiny shards of pottery into my hand. He tells me that for thousands of years–long before the lumberjacks arrived–this had been the ancestral home of the Yuki Native Americans. After the town disappeared, farmers moved in and began raising cattle.
Taking it in, I scan the ocean, the desolate coastal meadows, the redwood-covered hills shrouded in fog, and off in the distance, the wind-ravaged cypress tree standing beside a cedar-shingled inn. The beauty and isolation of this place are staggering.
Otis is giving me a tour of the 2,200-plus acres that now comprise The Inn at Newport Ranch. The property includes a mile and a half of rugged coastline, meadows, redwood forests, and lofty ridgelines with panoramic views. A lifelong resident of Mendocino’s North Coast, Otis is well-versed in the region’s history. He also possesses a wealth of knowledge about forestry, agriculture, and sustainability.
Climbing back into the UTV, we leave the coast. Otis takes me along dirt roads through a prairie and then up into the hills where a mixed forest gives way to denser groves of redwoods. Stopping off among the redwoods, he invites me to plant a tree. Working in partnership with the Redwood Forest Foundation, the inn plants at least one tree for every guest who visits. If you sign up for the inn’s UTV tour, you can opt to plant a tree yourself as a gift or in remembrance of a loved one.
Behind a fallen log, Otis shows me a small nursery with dozens of redwood seedlings waiting to be transplanted. I pick out a tiny tree and grab a shovel. Otis tells me I can plant it anywhere, but I ask for his help in finding a spot where the tree will thrive. He shows me an open patch where fallen redwoods are decomposing. I dig a hole in the humus-rich soil, place the root ball into the bottom, and fill the hole back in with soil. Gently tamping the soil around the roots, I whisper a little benediction.
Later on the tour, we reach the top of one of the ridgelines and one of many breathtaking picnic spots hidden around the property. The morning fog hasn’t quite burned off yet, but the view is still stunning. From this perch, I can see the wide expanse of meadows, the rugged contours of the coast, the rocky outcroppings offshore, and the vast blue ocean beyond. The view unexpectedly moves me, and I get a sense of what the owner, Will Jackson, must have felt when he first climbed this ridge.
An East Coast native, Will had long held an affinity for scenic landscapes and the explorers who ventured West. In 1985, Will saw an ad in the Wall Street Journal for an oceanfront cattle ranch in Mendocino County. When he came out to visit, the back of the property was inaccessible due to landslides and downed trees, so he set off on foot to explore. Upon reaching the top of one of the hills and seeing the view, he immediately decided to purchase the property.
Years later, he and his family built a small but extraordinary inn on the land as a legacy to future generations of visitors. Custom-crafted by artisans from fallen redwood trees, massive stones, and the bones of an old farmhouse, the nine-room inn is a work of art that weaves both natural and human history through its structures and furnishings.
Embedded in the floor at the far end of the dining room is a cross-section of a redwood tree trunk measuring 14 feet in diameter. At the opposite end, massive stones form a 20-foot-wide fireplace that you can actually sit inside. The library features a 20-panel frieze running along the top of redwood-paneled walls. A chandelier in the stairwell incorporates antique farm implements. The walls, tables, and beds were crafted from fallen redwood and all 40 doors on the property were made from a single tree. Every room holds an array of details both large and small to spark wonder and delight.
The room that I stayed in, the Newport Suite, was on the ground floor of the Redwood House. The building’s 24 supporting columns are actual tree trunks—with the bark intact—that rise from the ground up to the roof. In the Newport Suite, pools of light emanating from the base of the trunks enhance the forest-like setting. The luxurious suite offers a full kitchen, a living room with a cozy fireplace, a private patio with a hot tub, and stunning ocean views.
Guests of the inn can lounge by the fire with a cocktail or a glass of wine and enjoy extraordinary prix fixe dinners highlighting the bounty of the Mendocino coast. They can catch sight of migrating whales and a multitude of birds and be lulled to sleep by the waves. They can try their hand at a game of horseshoes or indulge in a spa treatment.
But with over 2,200 acres and 20 miles of trails meandering along the coastal bluffs and winding up into the hills, I would encourage any guest lucky enough to visit The Inn at Newport Ranch to hit the trail. Whether on foot, horseback, or all-terrain vehicle, take the opportunity to explore this private, coastal wonderland and witness its remote, breathtaking beauty.