Visiting Sea Ranch
What about renting a few houses up at Sea Ranch and designating one of them as the homebase? There are all different sizes of houses at Sea Ranch and prices for every budget, and you'd all be within a few minutes drive of each other in the worst case. There is a restaurant with a nice lounge overlooking the Pacific Ocean at Sea Ranch proper, and there are also a bunch of restaurants in nearby Gualala that could accommodate a group your size, everything from pretty good take-out pizza, to cute waterside dining at Trinks, to a whimsical fancy dinner and/or cocktails at St. Orres. There is also a fantastic market in Gualala called Surf Market that has pretty darn good prepared food and sandwiches not to mention fresh local seafood to take home and cook. We've stayed several times at a particular 4BR house at Sea Ranch that could work as a home base - beautiful large open cook's kitchen with a livingroom & fireplace, plus a giant separate den, plus outside seating on the deck around the hot tub. I always use https://www.vacasa.com for Sea Ranch - they manage a lot of rentals there and have an office in Gualala, so if something goes wrong, there is someone local to help you.
What about a house rental in Sea Ranch? Many are one level and have lovely decks and views of fields and ocean. Guests can access the community pools. You may need to investigate which paths are wheelchair friendly and it may feel tricky to not have your dad able to get into beaches (though some may be possible? But it’s inherently uneven terrain). But I think it’s a nice enough spot that sitting around and looking at the view while playing cards or doing a puzzle is also a good vacation. Biking, walking, beach, kayaking are all possible as well for the rest of you.
So, the weather in the Bay Area is so pleasant that people don't really escape for a month to cooler parts - there's too much fun stuff to do here in the summer. But there are a bunch of places that are popular for a week of vacation with the fam where you'll find other kids running around.
1. Family Camps: A lot of people I know go to family camps at the same time every summer and see the same families year after year. This is probably the closest thing we have to the Catskills. The cities of Berkeley, Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose, as well as UC Berkeley and others all built camps in the early 1900's during the "back to nature" movement. They are mostly in the beautiful Sierras and near Yosemite. Some of them are so popular you have to sign up almost a year ahead of time. These range from fairly rustic tent cabins to more modern abodes and typically serve 3 meals, have a river or pool, and optional activities for kids and for adults. These camps are open to all, not just residents or alumni. We used to go to Berkeley Tuolumne camp until it burned, sadly, in the Rim Fire a few years ago. (But it will be back, and so will we!) Look on BPN for reviews of some of these camps.
2. Sea Ranch on the Sonoma Coast: We also really like to go to Sea Ranch, but there, it's more like comfortable houses with hot tubs and fireplaces nestled in the cedar trees and spaced far apart, so it's a great place for quiet and solitude, not so much for communing with your fellow Bay Areans. But it's fun for kids. There are swimming pools, playgrounds, beaches, and flat empty roads for bike riding.
3. The Seaside: Some people do a week near the ocean. Inverness has been a popular getaway for more than a century, and is very beautiful and ideally situated near Pt. Reyes and Tomales Bay (oysters, kayaking, etc.)- look on AirB&B or similar. It's more adult oriented in the sense that it's all about food, wine, fog, and views but it's close to the ocean for the kids. Then there are the more beachy spots popular with families where you rent a house for a week, like Stinson Beach, Dillon Beach, further south near Monterey and Santa Cruz, like Aptos and Capitola, Pajaro, Pismo, etc.
Lots of options!
I think with young kids on a week-long trip it's nice to be near a body of water, but in Northern California it's cold in April! Santa Barbara is nice, San Diego has LOTS to do, and of course LA has endless entertainment options such Disneyland. Driving to Southern California is not so bad, depending where you're headed. You could even turn it into a 2-day drive and stay overnight someplace on the Central Coast. The kids might enjoy staying in a cave room at the Madonna Inn near San Luis Obispo! Monterey Aquarium is really great for little ones too (but only for a day), and there are a ton of elephant seals to look at near San Simeon,though unless you're touring Hearst Castle, not great for little kids, there is not much there.
For a getaway a bit closer, I like Sea Ranch, which is 2-3 hours drive north in Sonoma County on Highway 1. You can rent a nice house with a view of the ocean, or not, if you're on a budget! There is a variety of sizes and costs, and all the houses are very nice, many with hot tubs and fireplaces, and they are spaced far apart with trees around them so you don't feel like you're in suburbs-by-the-sea. There is a large playground for the kiddies, lots of easy flat walking trails through the cedar trees and along the coast where you can see seals, a couple of walk-on beaches with hardly any other people on them, and some swimming pools you can use. It's very relaxing, and we go up there at least once a year. Food-wise, you are better off cooking most meals at your house. There is a restaurant in the Sea Ranch lodge for lunch and dinner, but it's a little pricey and more adult-oriented. Up the road about 10 minutes in Gualala there are various restaurants, take-out pizza and Mexican, and my favorite, Surf Market, which has a great deli as well as produce and meat and seafood that make you want to cook.
Archived Q&A and Reviews
Best route to Sea Ranch?
We go up to Sea Ranch a couple times a year, and are looking for the least twisty route, as our kids get carsick. We have been taking a pretty farm route from Petaluma to Jenner, and taking Rt. 1 up to Sea Ranch. It's super twisty. Has anyone taken Skaggs Springs Rd. over from Geyserville to Stewart's Point? It looks twisty on the map, but if it's the same as Route 1, but shorter, we'll try it...any recommendations? We're willing to drive a few extra miles to avoid some nausea! Thanks. heidilee
I live in Sonoma County and when I go to Sea Ranch I like to take River Road to Jenner and then turn north. Drive on 101 through Santa Rosa and exit at River Road and drive west. It's also very scenic. You won't have all the turns from Bodega to Jenner. Skaggs Springs Road is not recommended-very twisty and turning! Connie
We've tried both routes to and Sea Ranch. The Skaggs Rd./Stewart Pt. route is much windier that Highway 1 from Jenner. The curves are sharper and the duration of curvy roads is longer. It also adds 30 minutes to the drive. Good luck! Love Sea Ranch
Baby/ Dog friendly rental in Sea Ranch
We are planning to take a much needed week's vacation in Sea Ranch in October with our sweet 65 lb labrador and our almost walking 10 month old son. We have checked out various websites about rentals at Sea Ranch and are a bit overwhelmed. Can anyone recommend a specific Sea Ranch rental with 2 bedrooms and a hot tub? Thanks (we'll toast you from the hot tub while our baby sleeps) Catherine
I have used Ocean View Properties numerous times over the years. I have, and this is off the record, stayed in homes where I have told them about my dog, and stayed in homes where I have not been so forthright (I knew my dog would not be a problem). Anyway, you can look on their website and it will give you a description and photo of each home including amenities, price, whether pets are allowed, etc. If your dog is a wanderer you can call the office direct and ask which homes are enclosed. I usually stay in the Meadows area, as the beach is too costly for me and the hills are too far. There are a number of homes in the meadow area that are close enough to walk to the beach. All the homes are pretty nice and open. Weather is like SF so be prepared. If Ocean View Properties doesn't work, try Ram's Head Realty. Both agencies are good. Remember to toast me- dana
We've stayed at a great place the last 2 years. its called the Garden House and I think its through sea ranch rentals. 2 bedrooms and its 1 story. Has a hot tub and allows dogs (our dog is smaller but I dont think it matters). The master has a king bed and the other has 2 twins, but we just bring the pack and play. Great location. Also good because front yard is enclosed (good for baby and dog and rare at Sea Ranch). I think you would enjoy it. anon
Child Friendly Rental at Sea Ranch?
We want to rent a house at Sea Ranch next summer. Our kids will be 3 and 5, and we will most likely invite another couple, so we need a home that has at least 3 bedrooms. Our kids are not so young that they will run dangerously over the cliffs, but we would still prefer to rent a place that has a great view but either has a fenced in yard or is far enough away that we won't have to be constantly watching them. Anyone ever rented a home up there with our requirements? anon
First, I don't think the properties that are part of Sea Ranch are allowed to have fenced-in yards. They are all built under extremely tight restrictions, and I don't believe I have ever seen one with a fenced yard. However, you could get a property on the hillside or in the forest area (on the other side of the road), as opposed to near the beach, if the water is your main concern. These tend to be cheaper, too. My suggestion to you is to go with a rental agency. They can answer your questions about specific properties. For example, try http://www.searanchrentals.com/index.html; call the folks there and they can probably help you. Karen
For Sea Ranch rentals try Beach Rentals in Gualala--they have a website of all their properties. We have stayed at ''Clisham'' upper loft and walk to the beach, and ''Amoretto'' one story up the hill from the beach. Both houses have two bedroom with den and hot tub. We liked Amoretto best. Ocean View rentals is good too. Check the websites and then call the agents for advice, book early for best selection. The pools are great, bring your bikes for the riding on the Sea Ranch roads. Like it on the coast
We've used Rams Head Realty several times to rent Sea Ranch houses. They have always been very helpful in recommending a good house for kids. Usually I just browse on the website but often I have phoned them for suggestions and we've always been happy with the house they recommended. Their website is useful and gives a lot of information about which houses allow kids and dogs, where they are, what's nearby, and whether they are available. There are areas of Sea Ranch that more convenient for kids - near a pool, near the playgorund, etc. See http://www.ramshead.com. G.
Re: A quiet couple days away with kids (Nov 2005)
Go no further than Sea Ranch. It is 2 1/2-3 hours up Hwy 1. You can rent an entire house. Most houses have hot tubs, and you'll have use of several pools, yoga classes, tennis courts, and beautiful trails along the coast. You can explore the charming little towns of Gualala and Pt. Arena. Contact Beach Rentals at http://www.searanchrentals.com/ Re: A quiet couple days away with kids (Nov 2005)
Sea ranch is lovely, peaceful, has many vacation rentals-look on google under sea ranch. The ocean is right there, and there are rec centers with pools, etc. Most houses have hot tubs. It is our favorite place to go to relax. It's about 3 hours away.
Re: Family Getaway within 2hr of SF (Feb 2005)
I don't have a lead on a specific house, but Sea Ranch is absolutely fabulous for families, and super-close to the Bay Area but still offers amazing redwoods and Pacific beaches for your visiting relatives. I know http://www.ramshead-realty.com handles rentals; you can probably find others via Google. JP
We are thinking of renting a beach cabin for a week this summer, in the Sea Ranch vicinity. We've never done this before, and would like recommendations for how to go about this. What realtors have people found reliable? What's the approx. cost? Recommendations for restaurants in the area? And so forth. The website recommends Sea Ranch generally, but I didn't see any specifics. Thanks. Wendy
We stay in Sea Ranch a couple of times a year and always rent through Rams Head Realty. They are really nice and efficient, and we've been very happy with all the houses we've stayed in through them. The website has all the houses with pictures, but if you have specific questions, they are happy to answer them by phone.
About 10 years ago we rented houses in/around Gualala through a smaller company called Serenisea. The lady was a bit of a character, and the houses more rustic, but we were happy. However, many of her places don't allow kids, which is why we started staying in Sea Ranch once our kids were born. It's very convenient in lots of ways--there's a couple of pools, river access, great walking trails, and even a minimal but sort of cool playground called One-eyed Jack's.
We do our own cooking there, so I can't recommend restaurants. I hear that in the past few months a bakery has opened up on Annapolis Road in Sea Ranch and that it is terrific.
Sea Ranch Escapes is a good company, and has 3 nights for the price of 2 during the winter (till March I think?).
I love Sea Ranch! Friends of our own a home in Sea Ranch. It's called Ocean Knoll. Here is the website: http://www.searanchrentals.com/ We have stayed there several times and it's gorgeous, comfortable, and in a prime location. I can't speak to restaurants as we pretty much cooked there most meals, but if you have more specific questions, please feel free to e-mail me and I'd be happy to chat. Lori
We plan to rent a house in Sea Ranch in February with two other couples. All total, we will be 6 adults, three babies and one toddler. We've selected Sea Ranch mostly for its proximity to the Bay Area, but I've never been and I don't know much about it. I'd appreciate any recommendations for local activities (great trails, restaurants, etc.). Also, any recommendations regarding renting a house would be appreciated (websites, agents, location). Thanks. Amy
My parents own a home in Sea Ranch that they rent via Rams Head Realty. I'd point you to their house, but it's too small for your group. The website: http://www.ramshead-realty.com/ has a decent search feature so hopefully you can find something you're happy with. I've stayed at other Rams Head rental (beyond my parents) and found them clean with well supplied kitchens and as described. Sea Ranch itself is wonderful - lots of long walks to view the ocean and spot meadow wildlife, the little town of Gualala has lots of neat shops and galleries to browse, Mendocino is not too far away if you want a day trip (I never have, I stay put!). Get your bakery goods at Twofish Bakery off Annapolis Road (same as RamsHead office) and do your shopping at the Surf Super in Gualala (sea side grocery, not land side). At this time of year you can often buy fresh crab from fisherman at roadside in the afternoon when they come in with their catch. cynthia
My inlaws own and rent out a house at Sea Ranch. It is a great place to visit, especially in the winter months. Their house has 2 full bedrooms and a loft if you're interested. It's called the Brown-Hansen house and is available through Beach Rentals (707) 884-4235. It has a spectacular location. It depends on how much privacy you want with such a big group and babies. I might recommend a larger house with more one more bedroom. In any case, Beach Rentals should be able to accomodate you. As far as things to do. Great hikes along the bluffs and beaches. Bring baby bjorns and/or backpacks for kids. Good tidepools along the coast. 3 rec centers with heated pools. Yoga, tennis, etc. Food: Pangaea in Gualala is excellent. Good Mexican food in the little town that is 1/2 way between GUalala and Pt. ARena (north up Hwy 1). There is a great bakery in Pt. Arena too. The Food Company on the NOrth end of Gualala on left side of Hwy 1 has great gourmet take out. The ginger snap cookies are amazing. We usually cook big dinners there and shop at Surf Super in Gualala. Food there is fresh and you can find lots of organic produce. Great meat department too. Have fun. sdalbey
Re: Mulitple family getaway destination (April 2004)
Try renting a house at Sea Ranch -- there are beautiful houses there on the ocean, and you will have full access to everything (kitchen included), so you can cook all your own meals. Many of the houses have two master suites, so it is a good place for mulitple families. Lots of beautiful natural scenery for walking/biking/beachcombing, the little town of Gualala is close with a few nice restaurants and some cute little shops, there's a golf course that's OK. Only (potential) downside is that it's pretty quiet (for us that's a plus); what I described above is pretty much all there is to do. But we LOVE it there! Karen
Re: Inexpensive comfortable place for a reunion (Nov 2003)
Try Sea Ranch. There are a lot of rental houses up there within walking distance of the beach. Great trails. It's close to the town of Gualala. About an hour from Bodega Bay and an hour from Mendocino. Beach Rentals in Gualala handles a lot of the rental properties. Sara
Re: Family getaway in a beautiful location (Oct 2003)
Sounds to me like you are describing The Sea Ranch. You can easily find rental agencies on the web. Most houses have a hot tub, so that shouldn't be a problem. It's a private community, so you can't enjoy their facilities unless you stay there. There are at least 3 recreation areas (pools, sauna, tennis), miles of beaches and hiking, and incredible scenery. It's also a perfect get away for a family. We often go there with our daughter (now 3) and she loves it. The Sea Ranch is a very unique community, both architecturally and by design. Read up on the history, as the creators had a great vision way back in the 1960's. I'm sure you will like it. Lisa
While looking for a romantic getaway for me and my husband, I stumbled upon house rentals up north at Sea Ranch. A couple good websites... http://www.ramshead-realty.com/
With this one, you can actually search for rentals that allow pets. http://www.donberard.com/
This is who we rented from. Most of these rentals have an ocean view and hot tub and many allow children and pets. Prices drop Oct. 1 due to low demand and you can get one night free with 2 or more paid days. Good luck! Dawn
I have a word of warning regarding the recent recommendation for Don Berard Realty near Sea Ranch. My friends and I (all of whom are reasonably fastidious and neat) have rented in the Sea Ranch area for about 30 years. Some years ago, Don Berard Realty began charging a cleaning fee for homes requiring cleaning, whether or not the home was thoroughly cleaned or not. In one instance, following an especially thorough cleaning of the rental on our part, they charged for a hot tub whose ''chemical balance had been altered.'' As we didn't use the hot tub, we presumed the charge reflected Don Berard Realty's inability to find anything else to charge for. Sea Ranch Rentals is much more reasonable, in our experience. Michael
We have always enjoyed renting a house at Sea Ranch, especially with little kids. It's a beautiful spot, quiet, nice houses, you can enjoy the out of doors without going far. Nice recreation areas with pool, tennis courts, kid's play area...The weather will be less foggy in Sept./Oct., so it's a good time to go. Lots of house rental options to check out online. pat
Re: Weekend getaways near water
Try Sea Cliff Ranch for a good family getaway. Lots of cabins to choose from -- some in woods, some near ocean. Some allow pets, too. We're going to try this cabin (see link below) in a couple weeks. http://www.mcn.org/searanch/Autumn_Mist.html Good luck! Katrina
Re: Beach rental for a long weekend
This recommendation may already be on the website, but I thought I'd mention it. There are very nice places in Sea Ranch, some of them not terribly expensive, and whatever size you want -- you're sure to find something that can accomodate several adults plus children. It's a few hours away, but there are lots of beaches, a cute little town, a golf course, some wineries, and it's beautiful quiet country. Karen
Re: multi-family vacation rental
Try Sea Ranch, just over the Mendocino border right on the Pacific ocean. It's pretty reasonable, especially if you share a place. There are lots of rental resources. One is http://www.searanchrentals.com/ . They might be able to help you get a group of places together. -- Ilana
RE: getaway with an infant
You might want to check out the Sea Ranch http://www.888searanch.com/ and also see www.donberard.com/ Go to it and look at the Vacation Rental link. Located on the Sonoma coast near Gualala. We recently rented a home there for a week and it was great! The homes range from very posh(and expensive) to cozy and comfortable(much less expensive.) You'll need to bring your own food, linens, etc. Rental prices vary with location and size of home--the closer you are to the ocean the more $$$ you'll pay. it sounds like you won't be needing a large house which will make it that much more affordable. It's farther than your less than 2 hour drive requirement though--for us it was 2+ hours from Marin--but worth every minute of the incredibly beautiful drive. When you rent at Sea Ranch, you have access to 10 miles of beaches to explore--we didn't do much swimming but did a lot of walking, tidepooling and just sittin' on the rocks watching the pelicans fly by. Many of our friends have gone with their little ones, aged 4 months and up, and enjoyed getting away to peace and quiet--and I mean peace and quiet. There's no resort nightlife, no major metropolitan city closeby, no hum of traffic--a nice change from the hectic pace of life in the Bay Area. You can get groceries in nearby Gualala. On our trip we met many families with young ones in jog strollers or hoisted into a back pack. I'd do it again in an instant. Mary
Two families totalling 3 adults and 3 kids (ages 10-12), want to rent a house for a long weekend (midweek or weekend) this summer just to veg out and get away from it all (e.g., a place to read books, lie in the sun, let the kids ride bikes, play board games and just relax- TV *not* necessary).
In April, we spent a wonderful weekend in a rental house at Sea Ranch, which is just south of Gualala. I had driven by the development on Highway 1 several times, but never felt particularly attracted to it, since we tend to like more secluded, rustic sort of places. Friends invited us for a weekend, and we found it to be great. It's a planned development, but the planning seems quite well-considered and designed to harmonize with the environment. We were three couples and a baby, and stayed in a large, attractively furnished and well-appointed house with a great hot tub, giant wrap-around deck, just a short walk from the ocean. There are many trails and paths, and you can walk for miles along the water. East of the highway are miles of wooded trails. (I don't know that bikes are permitted on all the trails, but there are a lot of roads within the complex.) There is a grocery and some small shops up the highway a bit. There is also a big outdoor pool and some other recreational amenities, although we didn't use them. Despite the proximity to other homes, our house and experience felt quite private. The friends we were with had rented homes on the beach in Mendocino, and said they thought the Sea Ranch house much nicer. The cost for three nights (Thursday-Saturday) was under $500 (total, not per couple). We visited off season, so rates may be somewhat higher. Kristina