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Fort Bragg

Rough-and-tumble lumber town morphs into a top coastal find

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With its century-plus history as a military garrison and then a gritty lumber town, Fort Bragg skirted under the radar of most Mendocino County visitors for a long time. But now—perhaps because the demolition of the town’s original mill in the 1990s was seen by many as a harbinger of better things to come—the town 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 stroll through boutiques and galleries before refueling with a plate of artisanal cheeses and a glass of Pinot from local Mendocino County dairies and vintners. Before going, check the county’s calendar of events to what will be happening in the area during your stay.

So where to catch some z’s while exploring it all? Fort Bragg has several hotels and other lodging options that take full advantage of the town’s dramatic Mendocino coast. At the Beachcomber Motel, you can commune around a roaring beachfront fire pit on the Mate’s Deck; at the historic Noyo Harbor Inn, guests wake up to the sound of seals and seabirds and enjoy sweeping views of its namesake working harbor. If a bed-and-breakfast is more your style, the Country Inn offers that plus beaches, the Skunk Train, and antique shopping, all within walking distance.

As for the coastal setting, it too offers appealing attractions. A rainbow of sea glass, formed from bottles and other glassware dumped into the sea up until the mid-1960s, draws the curious to Glass Beach in MacKerricher State Park. Book an excursion with Liquid Fusion Kayak or rent gear from Kayak Noyo to explore the gentle waters of the Noyo River by kayak for intimate looks at local wildlife, like river otters and black-tailed deer, as well as a different perspective on a working harbor. A few miles to the south you’ll find the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, a 47-acre conservatory of coastal flora situated between Highway 1 and the Pacific.

 

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