The Sea Ranch, a privately owned community extending for 10 miles along a beautiful strip of Sonoma’s far northern coast, is known for its panoramic views of sea, sky, rocky ocean outcrops, and migrating whales. Since its construction in the mid-1960s, The Sea Ranch has been celebrated for its architectural significance, ecological approach toward land planning, and sheer beauty.
Most Sea Ranch roads and trails are closed to the public. However, visitors can rent vacation homes, book a room at Sea Ranch Lodge, play golf at The Sea Ranch Golf Links (see below), or dine at the Black Point Grill.
In addition, since all California beaches belong to the public, you can access the Sea Ranch beaches at certain points without trespassing on private property (see “Take a Beach Walk,” below).
While you’re in the area, here are five fun things you can do:
Fort Ross State Historic Park
Founded by Russian fur traders in 1812, Fort Ross is a National Historic Monument and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The fort’s weathered Russian-architecture buildings, windmills and wooden stockade are beautifully situated on the edge of a coastal bluff that offers exceptional views.
From 1812 to 1841, Fort Ross was tsarist Russia’s southernmost outpost in North America. It was an ambitious community, home to California’s first windmills and shipbuilding “yard” (boats were constructed from redwood and fir in the cove below Fort Ross). Only one building—the 1836 Rotchev House—is original; others have been restored or accurately rebuilt. The old Russian cemetery, on a bluff east of the fort, is relatively intact, and the historic orchard still contains fruit trees from the Russian era. On a visit you can learn about the fort’s history at the Visitor Center and Museum, tour the buildings, enjoy the beach and tidal pools, and get in plenty of hiking. Check the calendar for the Fort Ross Conservancy for upcoming festivals and the days and times the fort is open.
Fort Ross State Historic Park, 19005 Coast Highway 1, 707-847-3437.
Visit Sea Ranch Chapel
This stunning architectural gem—a non-denominational chapel topped by a winged roof that seems set to take flight—will amaze you inside and out. The exterior consists of redwood siding that’s been dried and molded in place to create a shell. Local stone is used on the exterior’s lower walls, on interior walls, and in the courtyard. The copper-accented roof is made of cedar shingles that conform to the winged shape; at the top, a bronze spire seems to point heavenward. Entering the serene interior, you’ll see hand-carved redwood benches, free-form structures, a white plaster sculptured ceiling embedded with sea shells and sea urchins, bright-colored stained glass windows in crafted stainless steel fittings, mosaics, a wrought iron prayer screen and chandelier, and countless artistic touches. Usually open 365 days per year, 8 a.m.-sunset, although at times it may be closed for special events.
Sea Ranch Chapel, 40033 Highway 1, 707-785-2444.
Take a Beach Walk
Six public access trails within The Sea Ranch are open to the public, and lead directly to the beach. Maintained by Sonoma County Regional Parks, the trails start at Highway 1 parking areas and cut across bluffs to panoramic views of the coast. You can descend to the beach below via pathways or staircases, and picnic, go tide pooling, or watch sea birds.
Or take a hike. A wonderful trail is Walk On Beach, which connects you to the southern starting point for the three-mile (one way) Bluff Top Trail, heading north into the 195-acre Gualala Point Regional Park and the mouth of the Gualala River. The Walk On Beach trailhead is located at 40101 Highway 1, in a clearly marked parking area. Follow the forested trail west for .3-miles to the junction with the Bluff Top Trail, and turn north. For details about the six Sea Ranch Access Trails, download the trail map.
Play Golf on a Coastal Bluff
The Sea Ranch Golf Links, an 18-hole, par 72, 6,649-yard course designed by Robert Muir Graves, offers golfers Scottish links-style architecture in a setting of fabulous ocean views, redwood trees, and natural sea grass rough. A fully-equipped golf shop, a practice putting green, pitching/bunker green, full grass driving range, and snack bar are also available.
The Sea Ranch Golf Links, 42000 Highway 1, 707-785-2468.
Spend Time with a Famous Sculpture
Perched on an isolated cliff from which it commands spectacular views, the Timber Cove Resort is adorned with a sculpture to match: Benjamino Bufano’s “Peace Obelisk.” The 93-foot sculpture so dominates the cliff that it can be seen from far down the highway. Bufano started working on the obelisk in May, 1962, a few months before the Cuban missile crisis. The reality of Soviet and American ballistic missiles poised for global war doubtless influenced the look of the sculpture (which resembles a huge missile and is made of concrete, mosaic tile, redwood and lead). You don’t have to be a guest of Timber Cove Resort to visit Bufano’s work; park in the gravel lot north of the inn and follow the short path leading to the obelisk.
Timber Cove Resort, 21780 North Coast Highway 1, 707-847-3231.
Written by Sonoma Insider Suzie Rodriguez.