With its original roots as a military garrison and then a gritty lumber town, Fort Bragg skirted under the radar of most visitors. But now—perhaps with the bellweather demolition of the town’s original mill in the 1990s—Fort Bragg has buffed up its image, with new things to see and do. There are some long-standing attractions, most notably the Skunk Train, which chugs into the redwood forests inland to the town of Willits. Whale watching boats and fishing charters depart from rustic Noyo Harbor. But perhaps the most telling indicator of the town’s evolution is the Company Store building at Redwood and Main. Where lumber employees used to shop for basic provisions, visitors and locals can shop at boutiques and galleries before refueling with a plate of local artisanal cheeses and a glass of Pinot from nearby Mendocino County.
As for the coastal setting, it too offers appealing attractions. A rainbow of sea glass, smoothed and polished by pounding Pacific waves, draws the curious to Glass Beach in Mackerricher State Park. Explore the Noyo River by kayak for intimate looks at local wildlife, like river otters and black-tailed deer.
Romance finds a home in this idyllic coastal region, where ocean fog rolls in from the ocean to blanket hushed redwood forests, and whales spout offshore. Along the coast, artists set up their easels to paint scenes of crashing surf and whitewashed cottages wrapped in rose-filled gardens.
Each year, December through May, look to the sea to witness roughly 15,000 gray whales swimming south for the summer.
It’s also a place where a new generation of farmers and winemakers focus on preserving the land as well as producing amazing food and wine. Favorite escapes include the romantic hamlet of Mendocino, roughly a 3-hour drive up the coast from San Francisco, and Eureka, a former logging town 2 hours further north, and the gateway to breathtaking Redwoods National and State Parks.
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