From US-101 at Leggett, a narrow stretch of Hwy-1 twists up and over the rugged coastal mountains before hugging the coast through the weather-beaten logging and fishing community of Westport.
The tiny town has more than you might expect, including a cozy 1970s motel and deli on the ocean side of Hwy-1, called the Westport Inn (707/964-5135, $80 and up), and the newer and more upscale Westport Hotel & Old Abalone Pub (707/964-3688 or 877/964-3688, Feb.-Nov.) two blocks south, which has a sauna and a restaurant and welcoming pub with frequent live music. (Be warned: when the restaurant is closed, it’s a half-hour drive to the nearest places to eat, in Fort Bragg.)
The small and informal Howard Creek Ranch Inn (707/964-6725, $90 and up), three miles north of Westport, offers comfortable B&B rooms, an outdoor hot tub, and easy access to the driftwood-laden beach. Like Westport Hotel, it’s a half-hour drive to the nearest restaurants.
Farther south, MacKerricher State Park protects seven miles of rocky coast and waterfront pine forest. An old logging railroad right-of-way, called Ten-Mile Haul Road, has been brought back into use as a hiking and cycling path that covers most of the eight miles between the north end of MacKerricher and the town of Fort Bragg, crossing over Pudding Creek on a recently renovated railroad trestle. The park offers the chance to see harbor seals and migrating gray whales (in winter). Ongoing efforts are reclaiming the remnants of the old North Coast logging industry by reconstructing natural dunes and removing nonnative plantlife. There’s also a nice campground (800/444-7275).