I stopped to stay at the Westport Hotel for a night and like many guests passing through, I wished I could have stayed longer.
Built in 1890 and handsomely restored, the six-room inn is an unexpected gem on Highway One. When they bought the inn seven years ago, the owners, Lee Tepper and Dorine Real, sought to preserve the Victorian architecture and recreate some of the character had been stripped away over the years. But they also sought to create airy, light-filled rooms that would appeal to a modern aesthetic. The care they took with restoring the inn is evident in the details.
The transom windows above each of the guest room doors feature swirl-pattered frosted glass. The tall windows and doors are trimmed in period-perfect woodwork. The rooms’ high, beadboard ceilings are edged with white crown molding and offset with smooth walls painted in soothing, natural colors. The private baths feature beadboard wainscoting, beautiful tile work, and textured glass shower doors.
|The Rose Room overlooks Highway One and the ocean|
|View from the balcony of the Rose Room|
Later that night, I sat on the balcony and watched the gray sky slowly fade in the darker gray of the sea until the two became indistinguishable. The air was still, and even the ocean seemed languid. For a long time, I could still make out the silhouette of the headlands and the rocks and the slow, undulating ribbons of white sea foam.
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|Fo'c'stle Room at the Westport Hotel|
|Arches Room at the Westport Hotel|
When Tepper and Real moved to Westport in 1974, their first jobs were cooking in the restaurant of the inn they now own. “It was the back-to-the-land era,” explained Real. “We had moved from San Francisco, and our ambition was to buy land and build a cabin, but first we needed jobs.”
Back then, the restaurant was called the Cobweb Palace. It had a full bar, but the pub’s license depended upon serving food. The owner’s only direction to them was to “just offer food,” and so they did.
Tepper and Real later moved on to other work, and the hotel and restaurant has changed hands and names a few times since the 1970s. After the Cobweb Palace, it became the Pelican Lodge, and later, the Lost Coast Inn. When the inn went back on the market in 2004, the realtor was trying to sell it as a vacation home.
|Hallway at the Westport Hotel|
Real was initially shy about running the hotel and having to deal with strangers. But seven years in, she loves it. She says the inn’s remote location creates a bit of self-selection among guests, who are often Lost Coast backpackers or cyclists or motorcyclists making their bucket trip ride along Highway One. “They’re interesting people come from interesting places, and they’re very nice,” said Real. “I like having the opportunity to touch that moment in people’s lives when they’re living a dream.”
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Two couples in their late 40s rode up on a pair of rented motorcycles and pulled into the hotel’s parking lot. They looked tired and windblown from the ride. They were also disappointed to learn that the closest restaurant was miles away in the direction from which they had just ridden. “I’ve been driving all day,” said one of the men. “I don’t want to get back on the bike and drive further.”
|Dining room at the Westport Hotel|
|Patio and succulent garden at Westport Hotel|
The woman explained that the four of them were from the East Coast. They had flown to Los Angeles, where they had rented motorcycles, and were riding up the coast to Oregon. She said the trip had been amazing, but that tonight she was cold. The others came back in better spirits with bags of loot from the store: wine, beer, chips, and dip. They had also ordered a couple of pizzas. One of them opened a wine bottle with a loud pop.
I walked across the road to the grassy headlands looking out over the ocean. All was quiet save for a couple of sea gulls. At one point, I watched the young shopkeeper from the country store trot over to the inn carrying two steaming pizza boxes. I crossed a small bridge where wild fuchsias were growing in mass and then down a set of stairs to an empty beach where a gentle tide was lapping at the shore.
When I came back, the inn felt warm and cozy and smelled of freshly-baked pizza. The two couples were seated in the dining room next to the glow of the fireplace. The debris from their dinner was scattered across the table: empty pizza boxes, empty beer bottles, empty wine bottles, opened containers of half-eaten dip, and bags of chips. Their conversation had drifted to dessert and they were mulling going back to the store to get cookies or possibly even a giant cinnamon roll. I went back upstairs enjoy a bit of time in the sauna and then back to my room to watch the sea.
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|Breakfast tray delivered to the room|
|Act two of breakfast at the Westport Hotel|
With a clatter of voices and footsteps, the motorcyclists came downstairs for breakfast. Looking refreshed and recharged, they were packed and excited for the ride ahead of them. They dove into breakfast, exclaiming how wonderful everything was. Then they climbed onto their bikes, started up the engines, and rode north, the purr of the engines soon fading away.
Then the silence rushed back in and settled over the town.
38921 Highway 1
Westport, CA 95488