The Reopened Sea Ranch Lodge Is a Must-Visit Stop in This Iconic Northern California Coastal Community

The reborn hotel and gathering space brings newly unveiled guest rooms, a fine dining restaurant, bar, exhibits, and live events to this scenic stretch of design-forward architecture on the Sonoma coast.

The simple, modern wood courtyard at Sea Ranch Lodge, with a large tree

The courtyard at Sea Ranch Lodge is an example of the community’s unintrusive architecture.

Photo by Adam Potts

Driving along California’s Highway 1, some 100 miles north of San Francisco, you can’t miss the bright white supergraphic ram’s head that signals you have entered the legendary Sea Ranch. Founded in the mid-1960s, this coastal community has developed into a collection of 2,200 homes nestled into the wild cliffs, grassy meadows, and forested hills of northern Sonoma County.

The early vision for the Sea Ranch was one of shared ideals and beautifully designed modernist houses, all built with unpainted cedar and redwood exteriors that could blend seamlessly into their natural surroundings. The Sea Ranch ethos was squarely about being in harmony with nature and living lightly on the land.

Restoring an architectural icon

Three empty tables and six chairs next tp wall of windows at Sea Ranch Lodge overlooking Pacific Ocean

Visitors can sip coffee or cocktails in the Sea Ranch Lodge solarium and fireside lounge.

Photo by Adam Potts

In 2021, the Sea Ranch Lodge reopened after an extensive three-year renovation, offering Sea Ranchers and visitors a gathering place once again. In July 2023, the property completed the final phase of restoration, reopening 17 guest rooms for booking—each of which has been beautifully restored according to the community’s architectural guidelines. Set on dramatic coastal bluffs, the main building at the lodge houses a restaurant, café, bar, lounge, general store, and post office. It all sits within the original 10,000 square-foot rustic structure, which has been thoughtfully revamped in a way that preserves the original modern vernacular design aesthetic.

The restoration of the Sea Ranch Lodge, one of the oldest buildings at the Ranch, intentionally honors the vision of the original Sea Ranch planners, including developer Al Boeke, landscape mastermind Lawrence Halprin, and the design firm Moore Lyndon Turnbull Whitaker, according to Kristina Jetton, general manager of the Sea Ranch Lodge. She recently showed me around the reopened lodge.

A welcoming, central place to gather

Exterior of lodge viewed from green lawn at twilight, with tall trees in background

The public space at the lodge includes a restaurant, café, bar, and deck filled with Adirondack chairs perfect for watching the sunset.

Photo by Adam Potts

During a recent visit, it became clear how inviting and informative the Sea Ranch Lodge can be for all those who pass through or stay overnight. One morning, my family and I grabbed cappuccinos and cold brew along with a breakfast sandwich, frittata, and strawberry shortcake (the latter being the runaway hit) in the café and sat in the solarium with sweeping ocean views before heading off to one of the community pools. We also popped into the general store more than once for drinks and snacks to bring with us to the beach and to buy some tasteful Sea Ranch memorabilia for ourselves and friends. And we explored the history of Sea Ranch through the Sea Ranch Beginnings exhibit currently on display on the “great wall” of the lodge (near the café).

Martini on a window sill at Sea Ranch Lodge

Grab a cocktail and get cozy by the fire or watch the sunset from the deck.

Photo by Stephanie Russo

In the evening, we headed back for well-executed cocktails from the lodge bar that we sipped from the comfort of the fireside lounge. At sunset, the adjacent patio is also a popular spot for guests to enjoy their drinks alfresco.

The Dining Room serves dinner on Thursdays through Mondays, and the menu focuses on locally sourced ingredients (think chicken with pommes frites and wild salmon with greens). We dined there with our young kids and while the food and service are elevated, it was relaxed enough that we didn’t feel self-conscious being there with a toddler.

At the lodge, visitors can also peruse the event calendar for happenings here and at the northern end of the Sea Ranch at the Links, a golf course that also has a casual eatery and store. Other events hosted by the lodge include live music performances, Saturday morning yoga, guided hikes, writers workshops, knitting classes, and winetastings.

Sea Ranch rooms and vacation rentals

Room at the Sea Ranch Lodge with window seats, pillows, and large corner windows

The newly reopened rooms at the Sea Ranch Lodge include beautifully framed views of the Pacific Ocean.

Photo by Adam Potts

Thanks to the reopening of the lodge rooms, visitors who want to spend the night at Sea Ranch can now choose to either book one of the 17 newly redesigned rooms at the Sea Ranch Lodge or opt for a vacation rental home. Favorite Sea Ranch homes among AFAR staff include Siren Song, the Esherick Mini-Mod, and Moore Condo #9. As for the lodge? It’s hard to go wrong with any of its rooms—all include ocean-facing views, king beds, and a kitchenette.

“If you want a kitchen where you can cook meals or are traveling with a big group, I still think a house rental is the way to go,” says Jessie Beck, associate director of SEO and video at AFAR, who recently experienced the new Sea Ranch Lodge rooms. “But I love having the lodge as an option when it’s just me and my husband. The rooms are quiet, spacious, and comfortable. But my favorite parts were the fireplace and these large, comfortable window seats where you can just sit all day and admire the view. Both are really classically Sea Ranch features to me and add to that feeling of being a part of, not apart from, the surrounding nature.”

The lodge also has a glamping program in partnership with Shelter Co. that allows groups to book luxury tent accommodations complete with beds and portable restrooms that can be set up on the lodge’s oceanfront property to host weddings, reunions, and retreats.

Finding harmony with nature

Aerial view of Sea Ranch Lodge on striking oceanfront property

Sea Ranch Lodge sits on 53 acres of striking oceanfront property.

Courtesy of Sea Ranch Lodge

While the Sea Ranch is very much about finding peace and harmony with nature, the new lodge offers a warm and welcoming option to interrupt the solitude with some appealing food, socializing, music, and art.

As for the supergraphic ram’s head on the lodge sign, the unmistakable Sea Ranch logo was designed by Barbara Stauffacher Solomon and is, in her words, “two simplified seashells, back-to-back and connected into a ram’s head, in memory of the sheep that used to live on this land.” In the past decade, sheep have been brought back to help naturally graze the ranch. Highly recommended is a scenic walk from the lodge, across the meadow and past the sheep to explore the property’s historic barn, and along the Bluff Trail—a vivid reminder of how this wonderful vision of a place all began.

This article was originally published in 2022 and most recently updated on February 2, 2024 with current information.

Michelle Baran is a deputy editor at Afar where she oversees breaking news, travel intel, airline, cruise, and consumer travel news. Baran joined Afar in August 2018 after an 11-year run as a senior editor and reporter at leading travel industry newspaper Travel Weekly.
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