When you’re feeling restless and stressed like the world is pushing you in uninvited, then it might be Mendonoma time — time to drive up the California coast, top down, in search of a chill escape. Destination: The Sea Ranch in Sonoma County, California. Fresh salty air, dreamy views, calming and magnificent ocean, unique wildlife and calm climate.
I’ve been travelled a lot of beautiful places in California but the Sea Ranch would always be my number one destination in the list. This is a must visit place if you want to recharge your soul batteries, unplug from the whole world, and reconnect with a nature.
There is even a specific word “Mind on Mendonoma” which is a made-up term for a magical place in the middle between Sonoma and Mendocino counties, about 100 miles north of San Francisco. That’s where you’ll find The Sea Ranch, an unincorporated area of coastline perfect for seekers of Pacific peace and serenity.
Whatever you do here, the idea is to just breath deep, chill out, and get into The Sea Ranch state of mind.
HISTORY OF THE SEA RANCH
The Sea Ranch was the brainchild of American architect and developer Al Boeke, who enlisted landscape architect Lawrence Halprin and a group of Bay Area architects to build new type of neighborhood on the rugged plot.
A former employee of modernist architect Richard Neutra, Boeke’s ambition was to create an affordable neighborhood, rich in architectural flourish and community spirt. While The Sea Ranch, he noted, was such an interesting property, the initial idea was to not do a new town, but first start with a second-home opportunity for the creative class – as they called it – from professors to plumbers.
Over time, the community has seasoned from an early population of artsy bohemians and intellectuals into a graying community of educated, accomplished and affluent people, both retirees and weekenders (the median age is nearly 64) who traded urban excitement for quiet isolation and a lifestyle based on the outdoors and volunteerism. Residents have ranged from the late Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman to renowned psychologist and writer Philip Zimbardo, to CBS News correspondent Barry Petersen.
Walk, walk and again walk. It is a must while you are at the Sea Ranch. This marvelous place offers such a huge variety of hikes that you can find everyday the new hiking trail with a stunning ocean views. There are six public access trails which 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 sea mammals.
THE SEA RANCH CHAPEL – PLACE TO MEDITATE
All in good fun, say the locals sitting on redwood benches beside me. Everyone looks amazing bathed in the golden light pouring through the chapel’s colorful stained glass. Look up and you’ll see the sculpted floral ceiling embedded with sea shells. The floor is natural stone inlaid with a floral mosaic. A beloved local attraction, the chapel is a favorite stop for visitors looking for a quiet place to pray or meditate. 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.
SALT POINT STATE PARK
Do you want a lot of likes on Instagram or Facebook? Then this place is a must see! A wild and beautiful meeting of land and sea, Salt Point State Park encompasses 6,000 acres along the Sonoma coast. Tide pools and kelp beds teem with marine life; in fact, the park’s offshore waters are protected as one of California’s first underwater parks: Salt Point State Marine Conservation Area.
Bisected by Highway 1, this beautiful coastal park, 17 miles north of the mouth of the Russian River and the hamlet of Jenner, gives you plenty of reasons to pull over and start Instagramming. Better yet, get out and explore: choose from some 20 miles of trails leading to sights such as wind and water-carved tafoni, or honeycombed sandstone formations.
GUALALA POINT REGIONAL PARK
If you’re staying in The Sea Ranch, going to Gualala is a given. Gualala is an artists’ community just a few pleasant miles up the coast in Mendocino County. If you have a day to kill, check out Gualala Point Regional Park. On Gualala Point at the mouth of the Gualala River in Sonoma County (south of Gualala between The Sea Ranch and Gualala) this 195-acre park boasts a campground, trail system, ocean views and beaches worth visiting.
You can also go kayaking on the Gualala River, which also runs though The Sea Ranch. The Gualala River is a fun place to go kayaking or canoeing, no matter what your activity level.
Gualala also has a vibrant little local art scene. Start at the 15,000 square foot Gualala Arts Center. Walk the sculpture garden, visit the gallery, or attend an event. You’ll also find man independent galleries around town.
FORT ROSS STATE HISTORIC PARK
Just a 30-minute drive from the Sea Ranch, you will find a place that, like a time machine, will take you back two hundred years. Fort Ross is a tribute to the history and culture of the first Russian colonizers who, by a happy coincidence, landed in California. If you want to get a truly unique experience, then order online at the www.fortross.org personal tour (this VIP experience costs a ridiculously small amount of money – only $40) and plunge into the depths of history, traditions, and habits of the times when California was still owned by Mexico.
Fort Ross State Historic Park, 19005 Coast Highway 1, 707-847-3437.
IT’S A READING TIME
What could be better than reading books? Only reading books with ocean views and the soothing sound of wood crackling in the fireplace. Brew a cup of strong and flavorful coffee, take a chocolate muffin, and go on a fascinating journey with your favorite characters in books. Also, you can borrow different books from the Sea Ranch Library which is open daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
WHERE TO STAY IN THE SEA RANCH
This is the place for vacation rentals rather than hotel chains. Many homes are available for rent via Airbnb or through the agency Grand Welcome. The majority of the homes offer panoramic ocean views, hot tubs, and access to local amenities, including the community pool.