Fort Bragg, California
It was just before dawn and the morning fog started to lift off the water’s surface revealing the heart of Noyo Harbor. You could hear a soft humming noise coming from a fishing boat engine as it heads out to sea leaving a wake that sends a sailboats tall mast to appear above the fog tips, bobbing up and down like it was sending Morse Code. Moments later the barking sea lion gracefully slides back into the salty water in search of breakfast as two kayakers glide effortlessly towards the mouth of the river’s entrance. The harbor is awakening.
I bare witness to this morning’s activities just steps from my room, seated comfortably inside the hilltop Gazebo, with a hot cup of coffee in hand, surrounded on one side by a world of boats and sea life and on the other, the meticulously manicured fragrant gardens of the Historic Noyo Harbor Inn and Restaurant.
On the bluff, once known as Stoney Point, above the Noyo harbor sits a 150-year- old lodge. Alexander MacPherson, a young Scotsman living in San Francisco originally built a small home and rustic lodge in 1868. Then in 1908, Mr. Holmes, the new owner, added the Noyo River House and began the transformation to the old lodge. Scandinavian shipwrights were hired as carpenters and were given the most excellent choice heartwood fir, deep cherry wood, and old-growth redwood to design the beautiful board and batten paneling used to clothe the walls and ceilings of the inn. He created an atmosphere of being immersed amongst the treetops.
Six years ago another transformation took place for this 2-mile property and lodge. John Marino wisely invested 1.6 million dollars, and the results are stunning. The new 15 room Inn is the perfect blend of luxury amenities and tranquility. You choose the backdrop, either a view of the Noyo Bridge framing the Pacific Ocean or one that transports you into the harbor and the Noyo River. Their Tavern and Restaurant offers guests and locals an unpretentious refined dining experience showcasing the riches from the area. While strolling the grounds, it would seem you are on an island, yet you are midst an active harbor.
There are so many choices to partake here, it a fabulous travel destination and a stay at the Historical Noyo Harbor Inn and Restaurant will make your trip all the more memorable.
As you begin climbing their uphill driveway, it’s hard to keep your eyes focused forward. First, over your right shoulder is a birds-eye view of the resting harbor, the Noyo Bridge and the Pacific Oceans entrance, then as the road bends, on your left lie various sizes and shaped boats safely tucked in their slips, sea lions bathing in the sun, and the entrance into the Noyo River Estuary.
The crowning jewel and heart of the Inn is located in the historic River House. When you walk inside the ambiance is of an elegant home of an area bygone. Tasteful overly stuffed chairs of muted colors, window-seat sitting nooks and rich antique touches lead you to their reception area. Their restaurant lies just beyond and to say the decor and views are both stunning and beautiful is a gross understatement. It feels like Redwood trees giving you a warm hug as you gaze down at natures water world below, enticing you to join. Or at least marvel at it for a while.
The Inn’s hospitality team is lead by Scott Schneider who wants their guests to really experience all the joy this area has to offer and to be completely pampered by courteous attentive and smiling staff. With a key in hand, I was escorted to my resting spot.
All guest rooms at the Inn at Noyo Harbor Inn are spacious, with warm tones accentuating native wood paneling and millwork or with crisp, clean decor and private decks. Enjoy expected features like a great bed with luxurious linens that seem to call out to you wherever you are in the room. Their tasteful touches include a gas burning fireplace, intimate sitting areas, table-side lighting, French Press coffee, high-speed WiFi, 42-inch flat-screen TV with premium channels and your choice of views.
The ensuite is as lovely as it is spacious and well-designed. My room has a separate walk-in tiled shower and a large soaking tub, especially handcrafted bath amenity line, fluffy white bathrobes, thick absorbent towels and plenty of room for your toiletries.
As I return to my room, I turn on the fireplace, run a warm bath added some music and began my soak. What an excellent way to embrace the day’s adventures that awaits. After a restful night’s sleep, my mind and body relaxed, it was time to recharge with breakfast.
Restaurant and Tavern
Every day starts off with Brunch at the Inn. You can enjoy your meal either in their picturesque dining room with the soft sounds of Motown playing in the background or outdoors on the multi-layered deck complete with sun umbrellas or heaters, where you can feel the heartbeat of the harbor.
With a cheerful smile and greeting from Laura, she guided me to a ringside seat table to gaze at the boats, pours me a cup of freshly roasted coffee, and hands me the menu. I selected the Noyo Benedict with sautéed swiss chard, shiitake mushrooms, Canadian bacon, with a tangy Meyer lemon hollandaise sauce. With parsley new potatoes, perfectly ripe fresh pineapple, watermelon and grapes medley, and a freshly baked croissant with house-made jams, it is a meal fit for a king, or in my case queen. Bravo chef and Bon Appetite!
If you are looking for something more on the lunch side, then their BLT is a must-try. Chef Fabrice is a highly skilled patisserie or pastry chef, and his croissants are pure flakey heaven. He adds a thin layer of jalapeño aioli on the croissant and then fills it with Applewood smoked bacon, tomato slices, little gems, and avocado. Perhaps a picnic is forecasted for today; they will happy to put together a package for your excursion.
Brunch is served daily from 10 a.m. till 2 p.m. Tavern
Happy Hour in the Tavern is the perfect spot to unwind from your day’s adventures and embrace the elegance of the evening. Tapas and delicious small plates are served alongside their pre-prohibition era-inspired cocktails, like the Kentucky Derby, or your traditional favorite drinks. Five locally crafted beers are on draft, and the area’s vintners are proudly represented either by the glass or bottle. Who could resist the combination of six Oysters on the half shell dressed in a finger lime mignonette and a glass of Scharfenberger Cremant Sparkling wine? My favorite was their Parma Ham and Grilled Asparagus Burrata, drizzled with a balsamic reduction for nuttiness, white truffle oil for earthiness, and crostinis to add the crunch. Their Murder Ridge, Wild Lands Zinfandel’14 wine accentuated all the flavors delightfully.
As you enter the dining room, a warm honey-colored glow resonates from the ornate redwood structure and strategically placed spotlighting over the tables. Oil paintings capture the areas local sceneries, painted by the Marino’s family members, dresses the walls, while their bank of windows reveals the Noyo River and the Marina below. It’s hard to decide what to look at first. While listening to the soft jazz music playing in the background, I was presented the menu of Chef Fabrice Dubuc creations. Born in Paris, he traveled the world perfecting his culinary repertoire and techniques before taking the helm here. He takes advantage of the vast selection of locally caught, raised or farmed ingredients, and his menu is an accurate reflection of the area seasons and bounties.
A glass of Navarro Methode a d l’Ancienne Pinot Noir ’14 was promptly presented to me by a smiling waiter. I started off with the French Onion Soup. A deep rich broth was home to sautéed sweet onion slices, white wine, Parmesan-crusted croutes and a light touch of Cognac on the finish. Taking advantage of the season, my entree choice was the fresh Salmon Fillet with Chimichurri sauce, Jasmine rice, and sautéed summer vegetable medley. Chef Fabrice’s talents shine here. Not only was my Salmon fillet cooked to perfection with a slightly toasted layer before reaching the sweet, flaky layers, but the freshness of herbs of the Chimichurri sauce and the salty nuttiness of the Jasmine rice created the perfect forkful. Navarro’s Pinot Noir’s deep plum and black cherry notes on the palate with a long smooth finish of toffee leather layers that completed each bite and prepared you for the next. Displaying perfect timing, I was served, in my opinion, the best part of a meal, the desert. Tonight was Chef Fabrice’s take on a familiar classic. His Goat Cheese Cheesecake made with fresh goat cheese for Pennyroyals Farms of Boonville was an airy light, slightly sweet and silken cream texture to all end. Topped with ripe fresh fruit and a light vanilla-scented Anglaise sauce, I anxiously awaited the next bite.
Restaurant and Tavern are open daily 5 p.m. til 9 p.m.
Exploring Noyo Harbor village
To find a working harbor in a picturesque small-town setting is a rare occurrence. At Noyo Harbor come to experience the sights, sounds and smells of a true fishing village. From funky houseboats to charter fishing boats, from galleries to specialty shops and from patio picnic tables to ocean view dining while listening to the local talents, this harbor offers this and so much more.
•Whale watching each Feb.-April
•full and 1/2 day open water fishing excursions: lingcod, pacific halibut,
albacore, long-fin tuna and salmon
• scenic charters which skirt the Mendocino coast
Kayaking: From wild to mild, you’ll find kayaking adventures for every level of experience that includes exploring the Pacific Ocean sea caves and the Noyo River’s meandering estuary.
Princess Seafood: These amazing women go out in their fishing boat every morning and bring home some of the highest quality fish available. You’ll find the catch of the day in the deli case in their restaurant, alongside oysters on the half shell, Shrimp and Crab Louie, Ceviche, Smoked Salmon, and a superb Crab Bisque. They fire up the grill on the weekend serving fish tacos, salmon, albacore, and BBQ oysters.
Django’s Rough Bar is open Thursday through Sunday with live music by local artists, classic London-inspired Fish and Chips, New England clam chowder in a bread bowl and local North Coast Brewing Company suds served on their covered wooden patio with harbor views or indoor seating as well.
Come experience unspoiled beauty on our wildest stretches
The ‘White Water Trail’ is 6.3 miles of oceanfront walking trails giving you access to the area’s sensitive habitat, Frontier Cemetery, Skip’s Punch Bowl, Noyo Marine Center, Glass Beach and has 14 benches designed by local artists to relax on. All the beautiful rocks are home to sea lions, harbor seals, pelicans, gulls, and abundant marine life.
Ten Mile Beach is a stretch of rugged, unspoiled coastline—technically consisting of three preserves protecting the shoreline here—includes one of California’s least developed estuaries, as well as one of its longest dune systems. The result is a copious blend of critters. Whales spout in the Pacific, brownish barking seals lounge along the rocky shoreline, and the ever-curious river otters make their home in this estuary.
Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens has 47-acres of separate Magnolia, Fuchsia, Begonia, Dahlia and Rose gardens, some with spectacular coastal views and all connected by 4 miles of easy walking trails. It is also the perfect spot for an artist to capture its beauty on canvas or pad.
Ricochet Ridge Ranch offers unforgettable horseback trail rides through both the Redwood forest and along the sandy beach. The owners, Jake Langevin and Alisha Odell are expert equestrians, their horses are well trained and they greet everyone with pure professionalism and genuine warmth.
A stay at the Historic Noyo Harbor Inn is intimate, exclusive, inspiring, relaxing and stately all at the same time. The longer you experience this grandiose property, the more appreciation you tend to have for what the owners, designer and professional staff have achieved. There is a strong sense of family here that makes it a real pleasure to experience. And did I mention the smiles!
Words and Photographs by Shelley Pittman