Built in 1870, a visit to the Hotel Ivanhoe is a trip back in time. Originally named the Roberts Hotel after the original owner, it has since been renamed the Ferndale Hotel, Italian Swiss Hotel and finally Hotel Ivanhoe in the early 1900’s. The Ivanhoe once served as an official stagecoach stop and still welcomes visitors today with a 4-room hotel, lively bar and popular Italian restaurant. It holds the distinction as the oldest most westerly hotel in the lower 48. The owners have quite obviously put their hearts and souls into the restoration of the Ivanhoe in replicating a turn of the century hotel complete with antique furnishings, clawfoot tubs, period light fixtures and an original dual staircase. No expense was spared from the oversized base mouldings to the colorful ceiling medallions that add to its impressive elegance.
A stay at the Hotel Ivanhoe begins with an entrance into their rich Victorian lobby. Deep maroons and hardwoods are the backdrop for antique furnishings and gold accents. Historic pictures of the hotel adorn the wall behind the check-in counter where there’s an antique cash register. A white dual staircase is the focal point of the room which leads to the guest rooms on the second story. Like we do on many of our trips, we arrived without reservations so we could find the perfect place to stay without obligation. We were encouraged to view the available rooms before making our decision. As soon as we saw the first room we knew this was where we were staying. We only needed to find the one that suited us best. The room we chose faced the front of the hotel and included access to a street view balcony (the only hotel with this option on Main Street). The balcony would be a great option to have during popular Ferndale events like Victorian Christmas, the Kinetic Sculpture Race, parades and street fairs. Our room was spacious and featured all antique furnishings, high ceilings, sash weighted windows and beautiful floral quilt bedding. The walls were lavishly covered with Victorian wallpapers accented by dark, rich mouldings. Our private bathroom had plenty of room for a clawfoot tub, large armoire/vanity, pedestal sink and toilet. Modern room amenities included a flat screen TV, telephone, WiFi, coffeemaker and heater. All four guest rooms at the Ivanhoe are spacious and feature private baths.
From the hotel lobby, Old West swinging doors lead to a lively, upscale bar. The magnet of the room is an expansive 1875 redwood bar where we found some of the friendliest locals we’ve ever encountered. The walls of the bar are covered with historic pictures, antique firearms and other interesting knick knacks. The bar serves refreshing micro brews, an extensive wine selection and mixed drinks. Entertainment includes a big screen TV, resident juke box and occasional live entertainment on select nights. Another set of swinging doors leads to one of the best Italian restaurants in the county, if not the entire North Coast. The Hotel Ivanhoe Restaurant is the most popular dinner destination in town and fills with locals and visitors alike. This elegant restaurant welcomes patrons casually dressed in jeans to those in slacks and dresses. Many traditional Italian dishes are served including specialties like Chicken Cacciatore and Rissotto. We ordered two of the day’s specials; Steelhead with Penne Pasta and Chicken stuffed with Ricatta Cheese and Spinach. I was hooked by the side salad and reeled in by the Penne Pasta. This was the best Italian food we’ve encountered since North Beach in San Francisco. We couldn’t help but over indulge and eat just about everything on our plates. Fortunately, we were able to walk the town before returning to share a Hazelnut Cheesecake with port wine in the bar. As the restaurant closed down we found ourselves sharing the bar with most of the hotel staff including an owner, cook, bartender and servers from the restaurant. They were all gathered like family, laughing and chatting, discussing the day before heading off their separate ways for the night. Most have worked at the hotel for many years and had interesting backgrounds from being raised in Ferndale to transplants from the Bay Area and Los Angeles. The Hotel Ivanhoe Restaurant is only open for dinner but we found several great places for breakfast and lunch within easy walking distance.
Ferndale is located on the Lost Coast less than 30 minutes south of Eureka and 4.5 hours north of San Francisco. Also known as ‘The Victorian Village of Ferndale’, the town itself is a unique destination because of its large concentration of Victorian homes and businesses. Main Street offers several boutique shops, cafes and a community theatre. Nearby attractions include Centerville Beach, Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park, Avenue of the Giants in Humboldt Redwoods State Park, the Eel River Brewery and Loleta Cheese Factory. We’ve stayed at many historic hotels over the years including those in Gold Country. The Hotel Ivanhoe was definitely the most comfortable we’ve experienced in terms of cleanliness, convenience, friendliness and authenticity. Ferndale is our top pick for ‘must see’ town from Fort Bragg to the Oregon border and the Hotel Ivanhoe is our top pick for place to stay and dine in Ferndale.