Noyo Harbor Inn – Secluded historic escape in Fort Bragg

by Feb 19, 2021California

Noyo Harbor Inn Fort Bragg

Tucked onto a bluff overlooking Noyo Harbor in Fort Bragg, California, the Noyo Harbor Inn offers a secluded escape with a surprisingly accessible location along Highway 1.

Serenaded by barking sea lions, we took in the twinkling lights of the historic Noyo Harbor below our hotel window. Fishing boats bobbed in their docks casting shimmering reflections in the water. It was peaceful, idyllic … and hard to imagine we were just a couple of minutes from Fort Bragg’s strip-mall, fast-food-populated highway with oblivious commuters and tourists on a mission. Indeed, at Noyo Harbor Inn, one feels whisked away to a remote sanctuary.

“We’re that hidden place people always want to find,” said manager Scott Schneider.

On California’s scenic North Coast, historic Noyo Harbor Inn has a story that goes back more than 150 years to a time when Highway 1 wasn’t a throughway, and the hills and bluffs were home to local Native Americans, a recent influx of infantry, and a smattering of lumber mills and gold-seeking pioneers.

Noyo Harbor Inn Harborside View

The main historic lodge overlooks the harbor and a COVID-compliant tent structure allows safe dining with lots of heat lamps.

The original building perched high on the bluff owns a view and location that can’t be beat among Fort Bragg hotels – and this boutique property takes advantage of that oasis well. The inn was originally a private home built by lumber baron Alexander Wentworth MacPherson, but after that it goes through a number of iterations – from homesteads and a boarding house, to an event center and restaurant or bar, to a bed and breakfast.

Recent transition to today’s Noyo Harbor Inn in Fort Bragg

It wasn’t until 2010 that the property – most recently a lodge that had been closed for a number of years – was purchased, meticulously renovated, and re-opened to become today’s Noyo Harbor Inn boutique hotel in Fort Bragg, located in Mendocino County, California. It took seven years and millions of dollars of careful work to restore its gorgeous Craftsman styling, furnishings, and redwood and cherrywood paneling, not to mention adding an expansive multi-level deck, multi-level outdoor gardens and fountains, and modern amenities.

Outdoor Garden Noyo Harbor Inn

The main, historic lodge houses eight rooms, five upstairs and three downstairs, including a pet-friendly room, a huge “bridal” suite, and an ADA accessible room. These are the ones with the beautiful Arts and Crafts styling and quaint touches (as in our cover photo). Two of the upstairs rooms have views over the harbor, but in pivoting to COVID-safe dining, a tent structure on the deck can partly block those views. At the time of our visit, the indoor tavern and HarborView restaurant areas remained closed to comply with safety protocols. Nevertheless, the expanded outdoor seating for the hotel’s HarborView restaurant and its emphasis on locally sourced, organic, fine dining remains popular with locals, too, who gravitate there for the creations of executive chef Executive Chef Fabrice Jean-Pierre Dubuc AND the safe dining experience – one of the best in the area.


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Noyo Harbor Deck Harbor

A newer building from the 1980s faces west-southwest and overlooks the working Noyo River Harbor area with its seafood restaurants and other industrial buildings. These rooms (all queens) have views of the Noyo River and the Noyo River Bridge. Unlike the historic lodge, the look is more modern and crisper, with rooms that feature private decks but without the warm, historic paneling of the lodge. Still, some of the inn’s most popular rooms are there — spacious split-level affairs with a seating area that looks over the river and feature long wood desks.

All 15 rooms have coffee- and tea-making services and refrigerators. We loved that the inn avoided plastics — delivering filtered water in refillable glass bottles — and did not offer individual cup coffee machines (and their associated plastic and paper waste) but instead had ground coffee and a small French press in rooms. Also included are bathrobes and high-end toiletries (although we did miss some kind of bath add-in to put into the tub water).

Modern Room Noyo View

A split-level queen in the modern building is one of the more popular at Noyo Harbor Inn.

Inn rooms a delightful getaway

No matter which of the 15 rooms you choose, you’ll discover, as we did, a perfect blend of high-end amenities and tranquility.

“We’re a quiet getaway with great views, an amazing restaurant and quality amenities,” said Schneider. In fact, during our February 2021 stay, the inn was wrapping up a Wi-Fi upgrade that puts this inn heads and shoulders above many where you may need to lean out a window or stand next to a door on one leg for reception.

We spent two nights in a King Bed Tub room (#5) in the main lodge that retains one of the better harbor views despite the “COVID tent.” With its large soaking tub, fluffy bathrobes, a gas-burning fireplace, and a supremely comfy king bed, the inclination to stay in our room was strong. The bathroom was sleek and bright, with an almost ridiculously large walk-in tiled shower complete with a ship’s portal window – in keeping with the harbor theme, naturally.

Takoda Rocky Harbor View Noyo Harbor Inn

Wood paneling and portholes add to the charm of the historic main building — Rocky and Takoda agree the view over the harbor is excellent.

One thing to keep firmly in mind is that none of the rooms in the lodge or new building are air conditioned. Even with the windows open, we have been told things can get a bit hot and stuffy if it is hot outside – not a common occurrence with the marine breezes in Mendocino County, but it does happen (there are small fans in all the rooms in case of a hot spell). Also, since the restaurant and kitchen are in the main lodge, there will be the requisite noises in some rooms, from the dull roar of the cook vent (we could hear it in our room during meal services) to the sounds of music, clinking dishes and voices from the outdoor patio on the Noyo Harbor side of the building. Nothing crazy loud, but if you are sensitive and want to leave the windows open, perhaps re-consider booking a room facing or over the restaurant (i.e. #5 and #1 are upstairs, while #7 and #8 are downstairs closer to the deck). You will not need to think about kitchen and dining noises in the more modern separate building.

Modern Building Fort Bragg Hotel

The modern building’s rooms have decks facing west-southwest.

In addition, a couple of the rooms in the main lodge could be called a bit on the small size (i.e. #3 King Fireplace, no tub) – even our King Bed Tub room was not hugely spacious. And since a refrigerator takes up the lower part of an open closet, there is very limited hanging space for clothes and really no drawers or cabinets (in any rooms). For a short stay, this is really not an issue, but for a longer stay, consider a room in the modern building if that is important to you. Since the rooms in the historic main building of this Fort Bragg hotel are each so very different, we would in fact suggest calling to have the view, layout and size explained personally so you can choose what fits best.

King Tub Our Room Noyo Harbor Hotel

Although rooms in the main lodge are mostly smaller, they are delightfully historic and warm with Craftsman styling and full wood paneling.

Dining, exploring and cleanliness

With the pause on travel during the COVID pandemic, the owner and managers have continued to work on plans and upgrades: A spa was slated to open this year, but will remain shut until the pandemic is over, Schneider noted. Docks and more rooms are also in planning (we found a short stairway down to the water just up from the main lodge where a bench was still tucked into trees with the name of the old lodge on it, but what nice water access!).

No matter where we went, it was gratifying to see how seriously the inn’s management and staff took safety precautions and cleanliness. Everyone was wearing masks … correctly. There is no housekeeping, although you can ask for whatever you want. The main entrance to the lodge (and to the restaurant) had a toe-kick button for contact-less opening of the door and a foot-pump dispenser for hand sanitizer immediately inside. At the restaurant for dinner or brunch, small glass bottles of lavender-scented hand-sanitizing spray are handed out to each table (which are all appropriately spaced for social distancing and outside under a tent with plenty of heat lamps on the deck or lawn).

Harborview Breakfast On The Deck

Baked Polenta Cake for brunch, lemon Hollandaise sauce on the side, with fresh squeezed OJ. Note the NHI hand sanitizer supplied for guests.

Though not included with the price of a room, brunch and dinner can be had at the Noyo HarborView Bistro and Bar. Formerly daily, hours have changed to accommodate less traffic during the pandemic – be sure to check on current hours. And, dare we say, the brunch is delicious (Therese highly recommends the unique Baked Polenta Cake, above, while Michael thought the traditional breakfast was also outstanding. And the dinner? Well, let’s just say the word delectable barely covers it.

Harbor View Noyo Harbor

From the other side of the harbor, you can see the inn’s perch on the bluff.

The beauty of this secluded gem among Fort Bragg hotels is truly the location. You can trot down a back stairway and in a few seconds be down in the working Noyo Harbor fishing area – authentic with all of the history and grit one would expect. There, a nice stroll and access to superb restaurants awaits. Meaning if you are staying for more than a few nights, it is likely you’ll want to shake up the dining experience by heading down the street to the harbor. Within a few minutes’ walk from the inn, you can find patio picnic tables to eat wonderfully fresh take-out meals from a variety of seafood establishments. Plus, in less than a half-mile stroll you can cross Highway 1 to be on the new Coastal Trail with views that last forever and the opportunity to bike, walk or run for many, many miles if you so choose. And since you are in Fort Bragg, you are oh so close to the Skunk Train and railbiking adventures, Noyo River kayak tours, the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens and so much more.

Noyo Harbor View At Night

HITT Tip: Allow us to recommend two places to eat at Noyo Harbor:

Princess Seafood: Owned by women who do the fishing from their own boat, the restaurant serves fresh fish caught daily for both outdoor dining and take-out. Aside from amazingly fresh seafood (we brought home some Dungeness crab that were just off the boat, into the steamer, and then cleaned for us while we waited), do not miss sampling their amazing crab red pepper bisque.

Noyo River Grill: Located next to the much larger Silver’s at the Wharf, at the family-run Noyo River Grill, the seafood is fresh, the dishes creative, and seating quite cozy. If you are seeking cioppino, this is your place (Ask Therese) – just add tender homemade fettuccini. Michael had fresh crab, below, he said was amazing. And the ceviche? Yum!!!!

Noyo River Grill Dungeness Crab

Find a hotel in Mendocino County


Disclosure: Our lodging and one brunch was hosted at the Noyo Harbor Inn. The review, opinions and ratings here are our own, and are not approved, provided, or otherwise endorsed or influenced by the hotel.

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Rating Noyo Harbor Inn


OUR RATING Our hotel ratings will tell you what we think of an individual property and are not a comparison to other hotels in the area. They are valid at the time of our visit, which in this case was during the COVID-19 pandemic. That meant no daily housekeeping and some limitations on dinner service. Things can – and will -- change, of course, but we hope only back to pre-pandemic operations and not overall with properties like this that we love! We frequently pay for our hotel stays and will disclose whenever we receive discounts or comped room nights as a part of a hotel stay. Our ratings are a percent, with 100% being perfect and 0% someplace not even a rat would stay. We rate cleanliness/upkeep (e.g. dust on the windows, dirt under the beds, unclean bathroom fixtures, need of repairs/maintenance, etc.), comfort (e.g. taking into account quiet, how comfy the bed is, if there is a nice robe, a comfy chair, etc.), amenities (e.g. free parking, breakfast included, free Wi-Fi, free bikes, fitness gear, workout room, pool, etc. -- and we are not fans of hotels that say they include things, but then charge a facilities fee!), location (e.g. how easy is it to get around by foot, bike, and car), and value (e.g. how much we feel we got in return for the amount charged).