Inn at Newport Ranch

Inside the Inn at Newport Ranch 5 min read

Imagine spending decades in the world of finance, working your way up to a partner’s position in a prestigious investment firm; subsequently sharing your well-earned wealth with your home-based community in a form of land grants and public structures, serving on Board of Trustees of your Alma Mater; all the while, studying the pursuits of the Wild West.


Then, as fateful chance would have it, finding a property all the way across the country, developing it and constructing an enchanted inn. Years of fighting the coastal commission, bureaucracies, a variety obstacles, all for the good of a weary traveler, who, by virtue of luck themselves, find this spot, that transcends time and space and engages your spirit.


Inn at Newport Ranch

Inn at Newport Ranch

Now eighty-seven-year-old Willard (Will) Jackson, a retired executive residing in Vermont, first visited the Mendocino area in 1980. In 1986, he purchased twenty miles of open space along the coastline. This property became the subsequent home of the Inn at Newport Ranch.


Jackson is a dreamer and a visionary. Having made his fortune on Wall Street, his lifelong passions lead him to an unlikely spot for an East Coast investor. A history buff, he read voraciously about the explorers of the West. The idea of stewardship of large swaths of land held endless fascination. He spotted an ad in The Wall Street Journal for an 850-acre oceanside cattle ranch. That property turned out to be the embodiment of his pioneering and preservationist quest. He knew that he had found his calling, just as anyone that had fallen in love knows that there is no turning back, once your heart and mind are fully engaged.


RedwoodThe property features two thousand acres of spectacular oceanfront. One hundred and fifty head of cattle still graze the range under the supervision of a local rancher. There are miles of paths throughout the dramatic mountainous redwood forest. The team that Will retained worked tirelessly on opening three miles of ridges and twenty miles of trails in the redwoods and coastline. The idea of sharing the largesse of his property was never far from his mind. He wanted to build the type of lodging that would bring pleasure and relaxation to his guests. Thus, the unique Inn at Newport Ranch was born.


Will hired Dave Sellers and Jim Sanford, Vermont-based architects and LA-based Robin Cannell Baker. These architects are renown for bringing outdoor elements into their indoor designs. Fort Bragg-based construction contractor Brent Anderson completed the assembled team. They used local materials such as stone and redwood trees to construct the inn’s 20ft fireplace, the room’s furnishings, and a magnificent 32ft communal dining room table. The indoor-outdoor feel is an homage to yesteryear. It’s synergistic with the environment and pays tribute to the magical feel of the coastal region.


The structures are deceptively understated, incorporating chic farmhouse style with striking modern touches. The bold architecture boasts heavy, barn-style doors, thirty-inch redwood planks, exposed beamsand magnificent turquoise-stained concrete floors. Tree trunks are incorporated into the design of the main building and guest rooms, giving the space a rustic cabin feel. The foundation, constructed from twenty-four redwood trees, adds to the “enchanted forest” sensibility. The inn’s floors and counters are fashioned from solid redwood slabs.


Milo the Cat

Milo the Cat

The décor also includes whimsical touches, such as Milo the Cat, who was immortalized in the turquoise floor. Ask the gracious innkeepers, Creighton and Cindi Smith to tell you the back story.


The inn opened two years ago and instantly became a phenomena. It certainly isn’t just another hotel on the coast. It’s all about understated and contemplative indulgence. It is undoubtedly custom-made for couples looking for romance. The inn’s remote and enchanting locale is ideal for leisurely, dreamy weekends.


One can hike along the cliffs, take in an ATV forest adventure outing, enjoy magnificent views from the ridgeline, ride horses, sit atop a scenic hot tub in the water tower, or watch whales glide past your deck.


Welcome to the Northern California unique brand of easy-going romance, complete with hillside-scattered towns, continuous assortment of arresting beaches, theatrically rugged rock formations—in other words, all the seaside splendor you can handle.


Made-to-order breakfast is lovingly prepared by the innkeeper Creighton Smith, a Johnson & Wales-trained chef, who makes terrific organic vegetable as well as sumptuous protein dishes. In the early evening, a selection of fireside appetizers are served, paired with wine. If you are going on a hike, a custom-made picnic cooler can be arranged. Dinner features vegetables and herbs grown in their charming private garden, as well as locally sourced seafood and meat.


The rooms all have panoramic views, private decks, rustic luxury décor, and modern amenities. Special picnic areas, such as Council Bluff, are ideal spots to dine with your beloved while gazing at the never-ending coastal views. Make a stop at Glass Beach, a sparkly spot that resulted from the decades of Fort Bragg residents dumping bottles into the ocean. Look for pieces of glistening sea glass, with the edges magically rounded by the single-minded surf over time.


Three to four hours from San Francisco, yet a world away, lies a magical place. Immerse yourself.  Be captivated by the setting, the workmanship of the thoughtful design and all of the indulgences, offered by purveyors of gracious hospitality.


In the absence of cell phone signal, as you deeply inhale the purest air possible and clear your mind, it becomes increasingly apparent what matters and what doesn’t. I became convinced that Mendocino is the best place to get in touch with yourself. The area’s timeless, classic and breathtaking beauty are constant. You are the variable, and once you arrive, you will be forever altered.


The Inn at Newport Ranch is much more than a place, it’s a revelation. It will inevitably and seamlessly transport your soul to a to a place of peace and quiet where you can hear it’s whisper.


Ilona Thompson

Ilona Thompson is Editor-in-Chief at PalateXposure, a destination site for oenophiles, gourmands and luxury travelers. She also recently launched #Wine, a site dedicated to wines and spirits reviews, and #Photography, a site devoted to high-quality wine, food, and travel related photography.

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