If you’re looking for the best things to do in Sea Ranch, California, you’ve landed in the right spot. Our past guests and friends who love to stay in this remarkable coastal enclave on the Sonoma Coast helped us create this remarkable list of the best things to do in this unique community. The Sea Ranch is best known for its distinctive architecture, community’s sensitivity of land planning and its community-based stewardship of the natural environment. Its breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and the surrounding landscape, make it a tranquil and picturesque setting.
Why Visit Sea Ranch?
Sea Ranch is known for its 10 miles of rustic ocean vistas, rugged beaches, meadows of waving grasses and stately redwood trees in the hills. However, for many, the environmentally-minded dwellings originally developed in the early 1960’s draw many to the privately owned community. Their timber-frame structures designed to preserve the area’s natural beauty continue to honor the original architects’ desire to live lightly on the land. Joseph Becker and Jennifer Dunlop Fletcher in The Sea Ranch: Architecture, Environment, and Idealism describe its style as “a hybrid modernist and regionalist architectural style” that “blended social interest and ecological sensitivity” which continues today.
Recent guests made it clear they love the location for its “stunning foggy morning that settle on sweeping carpets of golden grass and craggy rocks. The sound of the sea is the backdrop for ethereal light that calms the mind and body.” Other guests come to experience nature at their doorstep. Their experiences include observing the seals or exploring the tide pools. The surrounding natural beauty gives our visitors great joy and good reason for returning year after year.
Where is Sea Ranch, California?
Your road trip to Sea Ranch takes you far from the city ruckus into the tranquility that the community is renown for. Sea Ranch, nestled between the rocky Pacific Coast and hillside covered with redwoods is about 100 mi (160 km) north of San Francisco and 120 mi (190 km) west of Sacramento.
To arrive make your way north of the Golden Gate Bridge where California’s most the famous Highway 1 changes its name to Shoreline Highway 1.
As the road winds along through Marin County, it eventually brings you to the wildly rocky shoreline. The rugged northern coast’s geographical features of the shoreline distinguishes it from the sandy coast of the Pacific Coast Highway.
Shoreline Highway then weaves its way into Sonoma County passing along some of the most dramatic coastlines vaulting high in the air in many spots. In fact, its winding hairpin turns, steep drop-offs on one side, and in-your-face grassy hills rising up on the other may make you think twice about this trip.
Getting to Sea Ranch, California
Flying into newly updated and remodeled Charles M. Schulz (yes, Snoopy’s creator) Sonoma County Airport (STS) is the easiest way to begin your traveling adventure. This small community airport has eleven non-stop destinations that link directly with it.
We use it all the time when flying from the John Wayne Airport in Orange County. Picking up a rental car is a snap as they await you just steps away from the front doors.
From the the Sonoma County Airport the drive to Sea Ranch is about 1 hr 30 min. When flying into San Francisco or Oakland Airports you can expect your trip to be at least 3 hr 30 min (130.5 mi) via US-101 N and CA-1 N.
TLDR: Our Favorites in Sea Ranch
Need quick answers about the best places in The Sea Ranch, California? We’ve got them right here!
- Best Vacation Rental in Sea Ranch: Abalone Bay
- Best Place To Rent Bikes:Sea Ranch Supply
- Best Outdoor Activity in Sea Ranch: Hiking the trails
- Best Dog-friendly activity in Sea Ranch: Run off leash in the Sea Ranch Dog Park
- Best -and only – Restaurant in Sea Ranch – Dining Room at The Sea Ranch Lodge
- Best Wines to Enjoy at Sea Ranch
- Most Well-Known Attraction in Sea Ranch: Sea Ranch Chapel
- Best Family-Friendly Activity in Sea Ranch: Explore the tide pools and play at One Eyed Jacks
Best Things to do in Sea Ranch
1. Relax Along …
the oceanfront bluff in front of your vacation rental home, Abalone Bay.
The bluff trail is an easy to walk trail that follows along the coastline edge. It is hands down the favorite activity of everyone who comes to The Sea Ranch. Take a moment and exhale as you watch the waves leap up the coastal cliff, the deer saunter by, or pelicans dive into the sea as harbor seals roll over to continue sunning on the rocky shelf below.
Or perhaps you’ll enjoy a dip in the hot tub right outside of your bedroom door.
Once submerged you enjoy the views extending to the horizon.
And if it rains…so what! You’re already wet.
2. Hike or Bike the trails of Sea Ranch
For the general public there are six access points to the ocean that provide a pleasant day-visit opportunity. In addition to hiking, these public access points offer opportunities for diving, fishing, boating, and wildlife viewing.
Miles of Trails for Guests
With 50 miles of hiking trails in the Sea Ranch you’ll have plenty explore while visiting Sea Ranch. However, given Sea Ranch is a private community only guests who rent a short term rental or book a stay at The Sea Ranch Lodge may have access to all the trails.
The challenge for you is to decide if you will hike the ocean bluff trail…
Explore ponds and waterfalls…
Weave your way through the meadow grasses
Or wander among the giant redwoods.
Self-guided tours available online guide you along the walking trails of The Sea Ranch to gain a distinctive sense of place. They do not provide you a house tour per se and does not include visits to the interiors of homes or condominiums. Rather the audio tour is a celebration of the larger landscape and the ways in which architecture and its placement can combine with the landscape to create a very distinctive sense of place.
Annual Architectural Tours
The Architectural Tour and Wine Tasting, fundraiser for the Soroptimist International of Mendocino-Sonoma Coast occurs annually on Saturday during Mother’s Day weekend. This self-guided tour allows you to view inside and out the new, newly remodeled and historically significant homes on the northern Sonoma Coast at The Sea Ranch. Wine Tasting & Silent Auction at Gualala Arts follows from 3:00 to 5:30 p.m.
In 2023 we were honored to have Abalone Bay as one of the homes on the first tour after being closed for two years for COVID. Other good press for Sea Ranch Abalone Bay includes articles from San Francisco Chronicle blogs, and other media reviews
We recommend you bring the audio tour along with you when you participate in the annual Sea Ranch Architectural Tour and Wine Tasting that These tours provide you access to visit the inside of selected homes. Docents greet you at each house to point out its highlights for you. Homes also frequently have the architect, designer, and/or builder there as well! Sea Ranch Abalone Bay was selected 2023 as one such home opened to the public.
Biking the Trails
Guests who stay at Sea Ranch may also wish to pack their bikes and enjoy them on the specially designated trails.
If you wish to save packing space in your car consider renting them. However, Sea Ranch Supply only rents adult sized bikes. Helmets are included. You will still need to pack bikes for your children, however.
Sea Ranch Supply delivers your bikes to your front door then retrieves them after your time is completed.
3. Don’t Forget Your Dog, or two!
The best thing to do in Sea Ranch is to include your dog too! With so many vacation rentals that are dog friendly how do you not!
There’s just so many new smells to enjoy!
Sea Ranch Dog Park
It is important to know that Sea Ranch requires all dogs to be leashed. But what to do when Fido just wants to have a little off leash fun?
We recommend a visit to The Sea Ranch Dog Park where both you and your pet can relax and mingle.
4. Dine at the Dining Room at The Sea Ranch Lodge
Newly remodeled Sea Ranch Lodge’s Dining Room offers impeccably prepared dishes made of in-season, locally sourced with quality ingredients It once again becomes a gathering place for the community and guests in a fresh and new space that honors the legacy of the Lodge.
Tantalizing flavors that celebrate the bounty that the area has to offer – from lush produce to the freshest catch makes it a special occasion each time you dine. It prices itself on fair and approachable pricing. Both locals and visitors alike enjoy sharing meals with the same warmth and care of being in someone’s home.
To learn more about their special dining events, please visit our Community Events page.
Dinner: Thursday-Monday 5pm-9pm
Lunch: Saturday & Sunday 11am-2pm
Make your dining reservation on Open Table
More Restaurants in The Sea Ranch and Region
There is one more option for dining and entertainment in The Sea Ranch. That’s Shindig, a pop up event location at 35590 Verdant View, Sea Ranch. Shindig offers small plates and entertainment usually on the weekends. We recommend you follow them on Facebook to learn when they’ll be popping up next!
To learn of other Restaurant favorites visit our Restaurants Page here.
5. Sip Sonoma’s Best Vino
The Sonoma County Terroir includes nineteen AVAs (American Viticultural Area) which define the diversity of this renowned wine region. You’ll be amazed by the extensive variety of wine styles and grapes within our premium wine area.
On your way to Sea Ranch we recommend you schedule time to stop at the various wineries along the way. Do check before hand if they require reservations for tours and/or tastings as do the two we recommend here.
Korbel Champagne Cellars
As you travel from Santa Rosa to the coast along the River Road you’ll encounter many wineries along the way that comprise the Russian River Valley AVA. Our favorite stop-over on the redwood lined River Road is at Korbel’s Champagne Cellars. We love stopping here for a quick lunch or snack with a glass of their bubbly. It’s such a marvelous feeling to be nestled in among the redwoods on their outdoor patio at the winery’s Delicatessen and Market. After a quick rest and full tummies, we’re ready for the rest of our trip to or from Sea Ranch.
Fort Ross Vineyard and Winery
Farther north along the coast’s sinewy thread of asphalt that is Highway 1, you’ll wind upwards towards historical Fort Ross, a former Russian-era fort compound now California State Historic Park and National Historic Landmark.
But rather than continuing on that route to the fort, we suggest you turn east at Meyer’s Grade Road to travel into the hills overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Here seemingly floating above the coastal fog and surrounded by forests and meadows you’ll encounter the remarkable Fort Ross-Seaview AVA. This “coastal cool” maritime climate is idea for its Pinot Noir and Chardonnay growing in the soaring elevation and remote, rugged location between Jenner and Sea Ranch. Fort Ross Vineyard and Winery is well known for its 90-minute seated wine and food tasting experience. Remember though to reserve your spot before you take off to enjoy this gustatory adventure or return later during your Sea Ranch vacation.
As you continue onward over the hills, you’ll once again meet up with Highway 1 to arrive at your Sea Ranch destination.
West Sonoma Coast AVA
The West Sonoma Coast, is the 19th and newest AVA in Sonoma County. Only recently approved as an AVA in May 2022, West Sonoma is located within the westernmost portion of Sonoma County, hugging the steep, wild terrain of the Sonoma coastline.
The West Sonoma Coast AVA holds approximately 50 vineyards planted with several varieties, mostly Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Syrah. Its association of wineries and growers are passionate about farming along the mountainous coastline of western Sonoma County.
Visit Annapolis Winery
We recommend a quick day trip to near by family owned, Annapolis Winery that bottles a rarity: Sonoma Coast Cabernet Sauvignon.
Just an 8 mile drive from Hwy 1 at The Sea Ranch and the Pacific Ocean, at an elevation of about 1000ft, the winery is nestled on a sunny hilltop and surrounded by redwood forests. Its views are as beautiful as they are breathtaking. We produce small amounts of locally grown, hand-crafted wines.
Open 12noon to 5pm.
Large outdoor picnic area.
Some covered/umbrella areas.
NOTE: Summer time open daily 12noon to 5pm. Winter hours, call for appointment.
Wine Shop In The Sea Ranch
If you are not up to touring our Sonoma County wineries then we recommend a quick visit to The Sea Ranch’s Wine Shop. Located at 1000 Annapolis Road in The Sea Ranch it offers a wide selection of local wines and wine tastings.
Then be sure to visit the LyndonDesign Gallery next door. In conjunction with The Sea Ranch Lodge the art the gallery exhibits local art works for sale.
Save Some Wine for the Trip Home
Of course you’ll want to purchase a few bottles for your stay at Sea Ranch. But be sure to also save some for your flight back home on Alaska Airlines. The airline offers a free checked wine program to Alaska Airlines Mileage Plus members. Passengers may check one case of wine (12 bottles), as checked baggage at no extra charge on flights departing from Sonoma County. The wine must be packaged to courier standards.
One Last Recommendation
We strongly recommend that you designate a responsible, non-drinking driver should you wish to explore the AVAs of Sonoma. This is especially critical given the hairpin winding roads to and from Sea Ranch.
6. Meditate in The Sea Ranch Chapel
As you drive through The Sea Ranch on Highway 1 be watchful for a most remarkable building tucked away on the eastern side of the road at mile marker 5.5. There you’ll discover a curiously whimsical building that at first glance could be the lost cap of some magical wizard.
The Sea Ranch Chapel, an architectural gem, features a stunning design that showcases its unique character. It boasts a captivating blend of wood and glass, with soaring timbers that frame the structure and enormous windows that flood the interior with natural light. The chapel was designed by renowned architect James Hubbell and built in the early 1980s.
The chapel’s interior exudes warmth and serenity, characterized by its curving, hand-crafted wooden forms, crafted wooden pews and intricate stained glass windows that adorn the space.
Outside, the chapel is surrounded by a peaceful landscape of coastal flora and offers breathtaking views of the ocean, making it a tranquil place for contemplation and reflection. Overall, the Sea Ranch Chapel’s design harmoniously integrates nature and architecture, creating a space of profound beauty and spirituality.
7. Have Fun with the Family
Even the kids love Sea Ranch!
Sea Ranch provides your children with an unplugged adventure. With so much to explore in nature as well as activities provided in the vacation rental, your kids will want to return year after year. Some even continue the tradition with their own children years later.
Whether they are off exploring the oceanfront trails on a chilly day,
…or climbing the structures at One Eyed Jacks Playground,
Or counting all the new born harbor seal pups, families love The Sea Ranch!
The Sea Ranch boasts several miles of pristine coastline with numerous rocky tide pools and sandy beaches. Children can spend hours exploring the shoreline, searching for seashells, driftwood, and interesting marine life like crabs and sea anemones.
There’s always a new adventure awaiting them around the corner.
For the young teen there’s even more adventure from hiking to biking, and even to kayaking along the Gualala River.
While the sea may be chilly there’s always the pools at the three recreation centers, tennis/paddle ball courts, basketball and volley ball courts.
The Sea Ranch is home to a diverse range of bird species. Spotting birds like herons, ospreys, pelicans, and cormorants while learning about local wildlife provides children an excellent way to experience nature at their doorstep.
We encourage parents to allow their children stay up late for the opportunity to stargaze under Sea Ranch’s dark skies to see who can count the most and perhaps to make a wish on one or two falling stars.
And for those times when everyone is together, many homes like our Abalone Bay, provide an assortment of family oriented activities, including a collection of puzzles, board games, a library of books leveled for just about all readers from short stories, to full novels and books on local natural history.