Sea Ranch

I guess you could call it up-scale. It sort of lookes like Frank Lloyd Wright vacations there.

Some divers have known of it for a long time, but there is a problem getting to the water there. It's the next main area that offers the diver access to the shore north of Fort Ross, but it is private and jealously guarded. What happened is that many moons ago, the Sea Ranch Corporation bought the northern most 10 miles of Sonoma County shore line. It was for expensive summer homes and get aways for Bay Area folks. Diving Riff-Raff were certainly not welcome. Even when the California Coastal Commission was formed to guarantee access to the beaches and shores, they were held off by lawyers and the fact that the coastal area of Sea Ranch had been so well preserved and protected. The houses are restricted to strategically selected parts of the total area. The architecture is reglated so that all buildings have to blend in. There are sod roofs there even. Many of the houses are recognizably Frank Lloyd Wright inspired. Many houses there have very interesting designs, but they all blend into the land.

While the North Coast is very often cool and foggy, I think I understand what a local full time resident told me when he said that the area was a small banana belt that on average had better weather than a lot of the nearby shores. There was a bit less fog and rain.

Then the Coastal Commission said there must be access. So now there are at least 5 accesses where you can park your car and walk to the shore. By law, you must be allowed to walk along the shore. Don't park anywhere else but there or you can get a boot on your tire. They still protect their turf jealously.

The fun thing is if you can afford to rent a cottage or house there. There is good dining, but it is not really a great destination for night life. If that is the kind of vacation you like, it is great. All the North Coast beauty and only 100 yards between the shore and your jacuzzi. The houses are usually well appointed for a vacation and most of the owners have an artistic sense that goes beyond the house itself. Visiting can be an exploration of books, art, wood work, sculpture and other things. Then you also have a parking pass for the entire Sea Ranch and even parking for your dive friends. At the lodge is a 5 star restraunt. There is very good dining around the area and wineries. At the north end of the ranch is the town of Gualala. One of the small super markets there caters to the Ranch clientele. They carry stuff you don't see in many small town markets. At the True Value hardware store there they have air fills, some gear for sale and a full rental shop. Inside is a collection of 10 inch plus abalone shells taken over the years by many different people.

Diving there is a lot of things. Potentially it is 10 miles worth along beautifully scenic shorelines. Much of the shore is actually easy to get to. More of it is accessable with some climbing. It's on average probably the easiest access on the North Coast. It's a place to explore. It's a place to go through skinny cracks between rocks and through narrow paths through the kelp. It's a place where not so many abalone divers have gone. Get off shore some and you might find a big one. There is enough diving there that you can find the calmest areas like Smugglers Cove or go to the north end where things are exposed and the diving more chancy. You can look at the geology and the form of the rocks to get an idea of what will be under the water. A lot of it has vertical rock walls, sometimes not to far apart.You would have a hard time running out of diving there.

Here are some links to stories about diving at the Sea Ranch.

  • Sea Ranch 2000 Editors Trip ***
  • Sea Ranch 2002 - Dive 1 - Evening In The Slot
  • Sea Ranch 2002 - Dive 2 - Abs At Van Damme
  • Sea Ranch 2002 - Dive 3 - Colby Reef
  • Sea Ranch 2002 - Dive 4 - Smuggler's Cove