If you want to experience nature at its most immense, then Cali’s coastal route delivers. But, we’re not talking about oft-travelled Big Sur or Napa winelands; instead, the vast remote stretches, mist-swathed redwoods and soaring bluffs north of ‘Frisco. In Mendocino County, the Inn at Newport Ranch sits on a 2,000-acre estate (formerly logging town Newport), encompassing expansive prairies, coastal ridgeways by a whale-migration route, an active cattle ranch, mystical forests and more. Its Arts and Crafts hideaways, most with view-blessed terraces, incorporate local woods in masterful fashion and dining makes the most of the inn’s fruitful gardens and local farms. But it’s the opportunities for wild encounters here that draw those seeking spiritual succour: forest bathing or sweat-lodge sessions, UTV tours with a resident historian, horseback rides from ridge to canopy, sea-cave explorations by kayak… Or simply listening to the meditations of the restless ocean as you watch the sun rise and set.
15 spread over five residences, including six suites.
11am, but flexible, subject to availability and advance notice. Earliest check-in, 3pm; if arriving after 7pm, contact the hotel to let them know and they’ll make arrangements to check you in.
Double rooms from £379.30 ($527), including tax at 11 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional service charge of 15% per booking on check-out.
Rates usually include a farm-fresh breakfast of pancakes, eggs, bacon, sausage, oatmeal and fruit. Guests get a free glass of house-selected local wine or beer each evening. Please note a 15 per cent service charge will be added to your bill.
The hotel owners love a picnic, and trails have tables along the way where you can stop for a scenic bite to eat. Just ask nicely and the kitchen will put together a tempting array of delicacies made with local ingredients and a bottle of local wine. Snackers will be delighted to find housemade granola bars in their room and freshly baked cookies left out in the main inn. Alongside the earth-made wonders, the hotel’s craftsmanship is something to behold, whether it’s the giant stone fireplace big enough to stand in, the many uses for redwoods or the 20-panel frieze in the library, made in the style of famed US architects the Greene Brothers.
The hotel closes annually in the second and third weeks of January for a refresh.
At the hotel
Spa, sauna, board games and lawn games, laptop and DVD player to borrow, free WiFi. In rooms: bathrobes, desk, free bottled water, tea- and coffee-making kit and Red Flower bath products. The main inn has a shared roof deck and hot tub built into an old water tower, a games and TV room, library, and fireplace-warmed lounge. Redwood House Suites also have a full kitchen, and all suites have a TV.
Our favourite rooms
The hotel’s four main residences, each with a distinct character, are set close to the coastal bluffs, so you can spy the Pacific from most rooms. In the main inn, the Captain’s Quarters will make even landlubbers yearn for the sea (although the decor goes a smidge overboard with the theme), or check in to the Chute, named for the device loggers once used to get felled trees down the cliffs and onto boats; the room’s duly timber-clad with a cosy gas fireplace. Redwood House was made using the forest’s mighty woodland giants – whose trunks and burls form part of the architecture. Here, the Grove Suite’s hot-tub-topped terrace puts it just ahead of the other suites within. And if you’re lucky enough to arrive when the owners are on holiday (although we’re not sure why you’d want to take a break from this Pacific coast paradise), you can use their home (and the ranch’s secret hideaway), Sea Drum House, a four-bedroom oceanfront residence with one of the best views on the estate and natural blowholes in the rock create a soothing ‘drumming’ sound, hence the name.
Once again, warm woods are prominent in the hotel’s design scheme, but tree-trunk-lined walkways and other outdoorsy effects add to the organic, natural feel of the spa. There are two treatment rooms for a range of massages and facials, and a sauna; but there are also ample opportunities to shake the tree here, with leftfield therapies such as forest bathing, vibrational therapy with tuning forks, sound bathing with medicinal chants or the hum of electromagnetic amp coils, or a spell in a sweat lodge – a nod to the alt scene in this area of NorCal. And, private customised Pilates or yoga sessions can be arranged too.
Bring hardy gear for long hikes and horse and quad-bike expeditions. The weather’s a little less reliable in the north, so some warmer layers and a waterproof won’t go amiss.
The hotel is easily navigable for wheelchair-users and the ADA-compliant Newport Suite is fully accessible and adapted; the hot tub even has a lift which can be installed on request.
Over-eights can stay, but the inn doesn’t specifically cater to kids, and as it’s a working cattle ranch set by a cliff, they’ll need to be supervised. Private residences can be arranged for families, and kids can dine in the restaurant with permission.
Being set on a 2,000-acre nature reserve, the inn’s environmental efforts extend far beyond the usual recycling, composting and using eco-friendly cleaning products (although they do all these things too). They have two organic gardens from which the majority of the restaurant’s ingredients are harvested, other products are sourced within a 50-mile radius of the hotel. Recycled and reclaimed wood – plus lumber milled onsite – was used in the hotel’s construction, and building materials were sourced from Mendocino County. The hotel has more than redressed this balance, planting 3,000 redwoods a year, and being sure to practice regenerative ranching methods. They’ve also partnered with the Redwood Forest Foundation Inc and partake in restoration and clean-up projects within the county to support the local community.
If the weather’s fine (which it mostly is round these parts) take dinner with a view on your private deck before a nighttime dip in the hot tub. Guests in the main inn should sit fireside or by a window.
Kick off your cowboy boots and rustle up something a little more svelte.
At the inn ranch dining amounts to so much more than a hill of beans. After all, the hotel has an expanse of organic gardens which supply the kitchen with a bounty of fruits and vegetables, and honey from on-site hives. Anything which can’t be supplied onsite is sourced from within a 50-mile radius – being sandwiched between NorCal’s more fertile pastures and the Pacific, this means caught-that-day fish and seafood and farm-fresh meats, all washed down with wines from Cali-based vintners. Food is served in the Seaside Room (we’re sure you can guess which views you’ll enjoy there) and Newport Hall in the main inn. Executive chef Adam Stacy takes country dining up a notch, specialising in live-fire cookery with a seasonal focus, so what you’ll dine on depends on what’s being harvested, reared, caught and foraged at the time. For example, a fall menu errs towards the warm and comforting, with butternut squash velouté with Newport Ranch apples and Mendocino Dungeness crab, organic chicken pot-pie with Mountain View edamame and pine-pickled celery and a high-end take on s’mores. But whether there are golden leaves swirling through the air or fresh shoots poking through the soil, the chef’s creativity remains evergreen – dishes such as line-caught Sockeye salmon with mushroom and walnut duxelles, sweet-potato boxty, and passionfruit and coconut beurre blanc; or black-garlic chickpea panisse in burnt-onion broth, show a subtle and sophisticated feel for flavour. Lunch is a light affair of sandwiches, salads and grazing boards, and breakfasts have tempting hot dishes, such as sourdough waffles and syrup, buttermilk biscuits with sausage gravy and eggs Benedict.
The fireside in the main inn is so large that you can safely warm yourself by standing inside it, so there’s space for huddling around with a glass of something warming and high proof from Mendocino County. Or take a pew at yet another feat of carpentry, the live-edge redwood bar, to sip on local wines (vintners expanding out from Napa have created a boom in indie wines locally in recent years), or something a little further afield, say a straw-hued Sauternes from Château d'Yquem. Happy hour is from 6pm to 7pm, when you can claim your free daily glass of house wine or beer and enjoy amuse-bouches, house-cured charcuterie and garden crudités with fellow guests. If a storm is rolling in (and waves do hurdle the bluffs), listen out for the summons to the main inn to watch the tempest play out, while enjoying a glass of whiskey, of course.
Breakfast is served from 8.30am to 10.30am (or request an early-riser breakfast from 7.30am in advance), lunch from 1.30pm, and dinner from 7pm till last orders.
Breakfast and lunch (order by 1.30pm) can be delivered to your door and if you put an order in before 2pm, you can have dinner in-room too.
The Inn at Newport Ranch sits along the dramatic Pacific coast on a 2,000-acre estate and working cattle ranch in Mendocino County.
The closest travel hub is the domestic Charles M. Schulz–Sonoma County Airport, a two-and-a-half-hour drive away. Flights arrive direct here from major US cities (although New Yorkers and those arriving from outside the US will need to stopover). Alternatively, fly into the international airports at San Francisco or Sacramento (both just under a four-hour drive away). The hotel can’t provide transfers but staff can assist in arranging a shuttle or a driver.
The historic Skunk Train steams its way through Willitt’s Station, just over an hour’s drive away, but otherwise there are few stops near the hotel. The closest is Santa Rosa Downtown station, a two-and-a-half-hour drive away, but you’re better off road tripping where possible.
The hotel’s set along the NoCal stretch of legendary Route 1, so you’re in prime coastal-cruising territory here, and the inn’s remote location makes having a car pretty much essential. A stay here could easily be paired with a city stop in San Fran, and as you drive north you’ll have the lush green winelands to your right and the cliff-crashing Pacific to your left – awe-inspiring stuff. And, once you arrive, there’s free parking onsite.
If you choose to arrive by chopper, you can land directly on the hotel’s estate.
Worth getting out of bed for
Mendocino, the start of Northern California’s Lost Coast, is where the Pacific turns much wilder, with mists rolling poetically in over the bluffs and redwoods growing thickly up to near unfathomable heights – a place with few close neighbours. The Golden State may be a little less golden here, but there are treasures to be found deep in the woods, across the prairies and along the coastal trails; and the hotel sits at the heart of 2,000 acres of this unleashed terrain, with seven microclimates within its borders. It’s unlikely you’ll cover every inch of it during your stay, but the hotel will certainly help you try: there’s 20 miles of hiking trails along the rocky ridgeline and into the redwoods, which you can traverse on foot, by bicycle, quad bikes or on horseback, courtesy of the experts at Ricochet Ridge Ranch due south of the hotel. There are scenic viewpoints galore along the way. While you’re pausing, keep your eyes on the water – California gray whales migrate from Alaska to Baja along this route and they pass close enough here that they feed at the foot of the bluffs – the best time to catch them is on their return journey from February to April. If the weather’s right, the hotel can help with boat hire to give you a cautiously closer look. Or explore the great outdoors on a UTV tour run by Otis, a local historian and naturalist who’ll dive into the minutiae of this former logging mill and surrounds; say, pointing out great blue herons, California quail and hawks; rare nutmeg trees among the redwoods; or telling you about the hotel’s famous neighbour (apparently, John Gray of Men are From Mars, Women are from Venus fame). He’ll take you through the pastures to the top of the ridgeline, then the old-growth forest. If that’s not quite enough wilderness for you, then the Redwood National and State Parks offer 131,983 acres of conifer and redwood forest, lakes and streams and chaparral. Or, the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens are a little more manicured, but no less lovely to look at – especially so during the Festival of Lights in December. Or take to the water in a kayak or a canoe – the hotel can also help to arrange sea-cave tours.
Alternatively, settle into life on the ranch. The hotel’s spa walks on the wild side too, offering spells in sweat lodges, drum journeys with medicine songs, and vibrational therapy (alongside play-it-safe massages). Forest bathing will give you a sense of inner calm, open-air art and crochet classes will encourage your creative side, seasonal foraging sessions will intimate you with the land, while lasso lessons will awaken your inner cowboy or girl. And, you can play bocce ball or volleyball too. Further afield, ride the Skunk Train, a historic steamer that’s chugged its way through the woods to the Noyo Canyon. And search for colourful hard-to-hunt-down seaglass on Fort Bragg’s Glass Beach (if the tourists have picked it clean, never fear, the International Sea Glass Museum lies close by).
Picturesque isolation is kind of the point here, so the nearest fine diners require some driving. The hotel’s enticing menu should hold your interest throughout your stay, but if you want to dip a toe in the local culinary scene, there are some places to stop within a half-hour journey. Princess Seafood Market and Deli in Fort Bragg has a tempting handwritten-daily takeaway menu with poke bowls, Humboldt Bay oysters, bisques, chowders, Dungeness crab rolls and more. In Mendocino, Café Beaujolais is set in a 19th-century Victorian farmhouse, operates sustainably and has a delicious menu with the likes of lamb-barbacoa quesadillas, Oaxacan ceviche, burgers and salad bowls straight from the kitchen garden. And, for hearty deep-south-style vegetarian food (hush puppies, biscuit sliders, heirloom grits) and natural wines, try Fog Eater Café. And, to try a local speciality, arrive in November when the Mycological Society of San Francisco hosts the annual north coast mushroom rite of fall, with guided foraging tours, cookery lessons and more.
The Anderson Valley Brewing Company offers an eco-friendly way to get a buzz on. They adhere to sustainable brewing practices, generate 40 per cent of their electricity through solar panels and reuse all of their wastewater to irrigate their hop fields. And, if that’s not laudable enough, they even brought the German Gose style of beer back from near-extinction. Prefer grape to grain? Pacific Star Winery is the only oceanfront cellar in the county.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this rustic working ranch hotel by NorCal’s cliffs and shown off their new lassoing skills and pictures of migrating whale pods, a full account of their ruggedly outdoorsy break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside the Inn at Newport Ranch in Mendocino County…
It might seem disingenuous to call California’s coastal route undiscovered – after all, Route 1 is a road very much travelled. But go north past Big Sur’s attention-stealing scenery, Napa’s wine-soaked lands, and San Francisco’s rollicking urbanity into Mendocino County and you come across a quieter beauty, imbued with frontier stoicism and shaded by gigantic redwoods, that at least feels far removed from the Golden State’s more gilded parts. Here, between Pacific-battered bluffs and dense forests, you’ll find the Inn at Newport Ranch, spread out over a 2,000-acre estate with no fewer than seven distinct microclimates. The surrounding area may be more boom than bust nowadays – with burgeoning wine-making and ecotourism scenes – but the hotel was borne of the decline of Newport’s 19th-century logging industry. The small town was then given over to farming and finally became a wonderfully wild retreat when it was purchased by Manhattan-based banker Will Jackson. He built on the remains of the two-storey farmhouse, turned the water tower into a hot tub and constructed four more Arts and Crafts residences using largely the local redwoods and hefty stones. The spirit of the old logging community lives on in impressive feats of carpentry (whole redwoods supporting suites, burls used as headboards, a live-edge bar, handcrafted panelling and 40 doors made from a single tree), and the ghosts of the estate’s former livelihood: a log chute lashed to the cliffs, the old layout of the town visible from the road. In the here and now, the hotel is all about back-to-the-land experiences, whether it's hiking along the coastal ridgeway to spy migrating whales in season, forest bathing, keeping your eyes peeled for elk, bear and rare birds as the resident historian takes you on a UTV tour, or cowboy-ish pursuits: hopping on a ‘hoss’ for a ride across the prairie, learning to lasso. Even a simple picnic becomes spectacular here. And when it comes time to hang your hat, the hotel will be ready with a happy-hour drink and snacks, meals crafted from their own kitchen gardens (or ingredients acquired within a 50-mile radius) and a warming glass of whiskey by the fire if a dramatic storm rolls in, before you retire to the distant call of seagulls and waves crashing against the sea stacks.