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Fort Bragg - California

Highlights

To those who drive along Highway 1 --passing through town -- Fort Bragg is disguised. From the road, the community seems to be comprised solely of a succession of strip malls. But once you drive off the highway onto the side streets, Fort Bragg becomes a town of fine houses and lovely gardens with masses of flowers.

What to See & Do

The Fort Bragg area retains a seafaring ambience. Noyo Harbor is south of town, at the mouth of the Noyo River -- a fishing village with charter fishing boats, and good eating while you're looking at the busy fishing fleet. There are places to stay along the highway strip (mostly chain motels) and also in Noyo Harbor. Several B&Bs have been opened, providing excellent accommodations.

On the drive between Mendocino and Fort Bragg, the Jug Handle State Reserve is a must for people with a geological interest. The reserve protects a giant staircase with five terraces leading from the sea -- at 100-foot intervals -- each 100,000 years older than the one below. There are Bishop and Monterey pine, Sitka spruce and western hemlock on the terraces. The round trip on the "staircase" takes three to four hours.

The Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens feature year-round displays of rhododendrons, azaleas, hydrangeas, heather, daisies and ferns in a wooded setting. Picnicking is available on the expansive meadows overlooking the ocean and in the fern canyons.

Skunk Train

The most popular long-time attraction here has been the Skunk Train, providing rides through a scenic section of forests between Fort Bragg and Willits. The train, which ran from Fort Bragg to Willits, through the redwoods, is in bankruptcy abut has been rescued at least for this year (2003) by the town and a Fort Bragg bank.

In 1885, lumber magnate C.R. Johnston built a railway line from the settlement to Willits, 40 miles to the east. Steam engines pulled the logging trains in 1904 and in 1925, passenger service was extended to Willits using gas-powered "Skunk" (smelly) railcars. The line now uses historic diesel and steam logging locomotives with open observation cars (and sometimes single, self-propelled trolleys) on half of the historic route -- as far as Northspur. For information phone 707-964-6371. or go to the train's web site.

Where to Eat

Silvers at the Wharf (32260 North Harbor Dr.) has a great view, with seafood, chowder and beef sandwiches. You can dine inside, or on the outdoor deck. It's located in Noyo Harbor, and serves seafood brought to the restaurant by its own fishing boat, as well as other local boats.

Headlands Coffeehouse (120 East Laurel St.) serves three meals a day. There's lots of different kinds of coffee, pastries, sandwiches, and salads.

For a brewpub experience, try the North Coast Brewing Company, 455 North Main Street, in Fort Bragg. The restauarant is open for dinner from 4 p.m. Wednesdays through Sunday. The bar opens at 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The restaurant and serves up seafood, grilled meat and pasta, in addition to regular pub fare including burgers.

If you're interested in fine dining, make a reservation at theD'aurelio's Restaurant, 438 South Franklin Street. It considered locally to be the top Italian food north of San Francisco. Pizza and classic Italian dishes are specialties, and its very suitable for family dining. It's open for dinner Wednesday through Sunday at 5:30 p.m. Reservations: (707) 964-8142.

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