Categorized | Northern California

Sea Ranch, California

A seagull surveys the crashing waves at Sea Ranch

A seagull surveys the crashing waves at Sea Ranch

The Sea Ranch is a community of private homes, sited with careful attention to the natural landscape along a 10-mile stretch of the Sonoma County coast in Northern California.  (The Sea Ranch Association)

It had been a long time since I had been to Sea Ranch.  Many years ago, a friend had access to a family house there and a group of us went there periodically to escape our young children and household responsibilities. We would enjoy the great hikes, the beautiful views, the peace, the quiet, and – above all – uninterrupted adult conversations and meals!

The coast at Sea Ranch is both rough and beautiful

The coast at Sea Ranch is both rough and beautiful

A good 20 years have passed since then, and Sea Ranch had become just another nice memory until some family members invited me to join them for a long weekend at Sea Ranch recently.

Sea Ranch is located on Highway 1, a circuitous, winding two lane road that goes along the California coast. Getting to Sea Ranch from our location two hours south involved driving past farms and pastures, small towns, forests, along cliffs and paralleling the coast as it rises in elevation – passing through areas of both sunlight and heavy fog.  It’s a beautiful trip, but I was glad I wasn’t driving. On our way up, a cow appeared out of the foggy nowhere clinging to the side of a hill directly alongside the road.

The homes at Sea Ranch blend unobtrusively into the coastal fog and landscape

The homes at Sea Ranch blend unobtrusively into the coastal fog and landscape

Sea Ranch is a planned community of several thousand homes that have been built over the last 30 plus years. The homes are spread out and designed in a manner that encourages personal privacy with long driveways and enclosed entrances, There is no perimeter fencing and all of the homes are built in the same low key housing style with a stained, weathered exterior. The idea was to allow the community to blend into its coastal surroundings. It also can make it hard to find your way home if you are unfamiliar with the area. Everything looks alike. Although there is a core group of full time residents, many of the homes are for vacation or second home use, and there are a large variety of options for short term rentals. Our rental was three bedrooms, two baths, fully furnished except for linens, which we brought with us. It was beautifully and comfortably appointed, with every amenity possible, including a hot tub.

Gualala Picnic

Our long weekend at Sea Ranch started with a coastal picnic in Gualala

On our trip up, we overshot Sea Ranch and went straight to Gualala, the next town north.  We bought some groceries and sat in a small park by the water and had lunch.  Then it was back to Sea Ranch for four days and three nights of relaxation and beautiful beach hikes.

Sea Ranch has several community resources. The sports complex has a pool, a lodge and meeting room, and a recreation room. Some of us took Zumba our first day there and I took a yoga class the next morning. Not expecting to be doing yoga at Sea Ranch, I hadn’t brought a yoga mat with me, but not to worry, they had extras for visitors, which was very nice. This sports complex is open to both residents and renters for use and it’s worth going there just to check out the beautiful and immaculately landscaped gardens.

The Sea Ranch Lodge looks directly at the ocean and you can too. The restaurant has plenty of window seats and for the more hardy, Adirondack Loungers get you even closer.

The Sea Ranch Lodge looks directly at the ocean and you can too. The restaurant has plenty of window seats and for the more hardy, Adirondack Loungers get you even closer.

Spectacularly located on a bluff overlooking the ocean, the Sea Ranch Lodge is open to the public, with hotel and a restaurant. The morning we visited there, the restaurant was full of brunch customers – evidently recovering from a Sea Ranch wedding the night before. Near the entrance is a cozy sitting room with overstuffed furniture and a big fire – very appealing, especially on a foggy morning.  For the more ambitious, the walking path from the back of the lodge leads to the bluffs directly over the ocean.

Sticky buns are one of Twofish Bakery's specialities

Sticky buns are one of Twofish Bakery's specialties

One of the many highlights of our trip was to the Twofish Baking Company, located in Sea Ranch’s miniature “commercial district” on Annapolis Road. What can I say? This busy, inviting bakery wrote the book on baked goods.Others in our group swear by Twofishes’ hot chocolate, chai, lattes, and baked goods but I never got that far. I couldn’t get past the sandwiches. I had an Italian sandwich one day and the turkey stuffed with cranberry the next day, both served on the freshest, best bread I have ever eaten. I have tried to replicate both those sandwiches at home, but no dice. Not the same! Definitely a can’t miss experience.

Next door to Twofish is the Al Forster Gallery where one of our party bought two pictures she had admired there on an earlier trip. A real estate office and a tiny tea room / massage studio round out the “shopping center”.  Up the road a little bit is Sea Ranch Supply with a surprisingly pretty little nursery and lots of tools, gardening supplies, and basic housewares.

Stained glass window at the Sea Ranch Chapel

The natural building materials, the view outside, and the whimsical shape of the Sea Ranch Chapel lends itself to quiet reflection

Another can’t miss experience is the non-denominational Sea Ranch Chapel.  Located north of Annapolis Road along Highway 1,  this whimsical little building looks like a troll house or a elfin hat. Inside it is cozy and uniquely shaped with a soaring ceiling, curving walls and pretty stained glass windows tucked into alcoves. We stopped and sat inside the chapel for awhile. There is something about natural materials – wood, glass,stone – the windows looking out at the landscape – that lends itself to serenity.

Sea Ranch Heron

A lone heron wanders the bluff above the ocean at Sea Ranch

We enjoyed many beautiful walks around Sea Ranch.  All roads lead to the ocean in all of its rough, rocky. savage Northern California glory. On two occasions we saw massive sea lions sunning themselves on the rocks below and a variety of birds and other wildlife, including a graceful lone heron. The walking paths are well maintained, safe and picturesque.  Back at the house, deer wandered past the back door and one evening we spotted a fox scurrying across the nearby golf course.

A fat and happy sea lion suns himself on the rocks at Sea Ranch

A fat and happy sea lion suns himself on the rocks at Sea Ranch

After dark I would sit in the hot tub at the house and look at the stars as they appeared and disappeared behind the coastal fog.

While we were there, the weather was foggy and overcast, except for the first day, when the fog burned off for a few hours and temperatures soared into the 80’s. It was not particularly cold during the day, even with the fog, and it made for perfect walking weather.  Evenings cooled down quite a bit.  It is my understanding that this is fairly typical weather for Sea Ranch.

Sea Ranch is a place of retreat, from stress, from over stimulation, from traffic and from noise.  It’s a place to renew and refresh. We had a great time and I know that you will, too.


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  1. […] a short road trip up there since a bunch of us were already up there in the beautiful community of Sea Ranch  (located on the northernmost tip of the Sonoma County coastline, along Highway […]


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