Tell your kids you’re headed to Sea Ranch, and they might envision a SpongeBob SquarePants circus of sorts, full of seahorse cowboys and underwater rodeos. But a visit to Sea Ranch will be one of the most restful sojourns you’ll ever take as a family.
Sonoma County’s Sea Ranch was a pioneering eco-community, began in the late 60’s and early 70’s. The connection between the landscape and the architecture is masterful and certainly contributes to the serenity of the place. The sometimes simple, sometimes elaborate wood-frame structures were inspired by the local ranches and are designed to cope with the weather while meshing with the topography.
How to get there: One hundred miles north of San Francisco, the drive takes a good three hours if you take time to gawk at the coastline. Stop in Bodega Bay for fish and chips or clam chowder for lunch to break up the drive. Fair warning: it’s not a great trip for those who get easily car sick.
Where to stay: The well-equipped rental houses, many of which have hot tubs with a view of the ocean (take a dip with morning coffee in tow before the kids wake up). Prices on rentals range from about $200-$500 a night depending on location, size and amenities. It is a perfect venue for family reunions, romantic getaways or multi-family trips.
What to bring: Bikes, yoga mats, board games, books, food, baking projects, and lots of reading material.
What to see: If you are game there is plenty to do around Sea Ranch. Hikes, kayaking, golf, breweries and wineries and a lighthouse in Point Arena can fill out your relaxing days walking along the coast. You may catch some migrating whales and many seals hang out on the rocks so bring your binoculars. You might try making a driftwood fort on the beach and hanging out inside it.
Eateries: Bodega Bay offers some great seafood options like chowder in a bread bowl or a full elegant meal. A big surprise is Sizzling Tandoor; the crowds get there early and it is quite an anachronism to find such popular Indian fare in the small town of Jenner. Bones Road House in Gualala is a biker spot and you can get ribs, chicken or other BBQ meals. The ambiance keeps the kids riveted, and there is lots of local color.
Bonus: There is an elegant pool that is kept heated year-round. The dry sauna makes the pool all the more enticing, particularly after an invigorating bike ride against the wind.
How to dress: Always dress for blustery winter weather, a hat, gloves and a windbreaker are de-rigueur. Sunscreen is a must but it doesn’t help against windburn. Make sure you have solid walking shoes.