(Photo credit by local photographer-artist Phil Wendt)
The Top 5 Beaches in The Sea Ranch
The Sea Ranch is a privately-owned California community located along 10 miles of the northern Sonoma County coast. The community with a population of 1,305 is an environmentally-planned community consisting of private homes and vacation rentals. The community has a golf course, tennis courts, and other amenities available to guests in a vacation rental or the community lodge.
There are five public beaches with public parking lots along the coastline. All beaches are supervised by the Sonoma County Parks Department and are available for anyone to use. Public access to the beaches includes the waterfront up to the foot of the bluff or the tree line. Public access trails are marked, and all other paths and roads private and are not for public use. A map of the hiking trails is available on the Sonoma County Parks Department website. Beach hours are from 6 a.m. to sunset in summer, 8 a.m. to sunset in winter. Fees for parking are $7.00 per vehicle or $1.00 per person for vehicles with more than 9 people. In all areas, dogs must be kept on leash at all times.
1. Black Point
Black Point Beach is named for its dramatic black sand. Steep rocky cliffs surround the entire ¼ mile long beach. Beach access is via a trail which winds through a meadow and ends at a steep staircase that descends to the beach. The water can have strong currents which are dramatically picturesque but not suitable for swimming. Black Point juts in the ocean to the south of the beach. When you finish enjoying the beach, you can have dinner at the adjacent lodge restaurant located within walking distance of the beach. Parking is available on the west side of Highway 1. Restrooms are located at the parking lot.
2. Pebble Beach
Pebble Beach gets its name for the pebbly sand that makes up the beach. The beach is a small sheltered cove dotted with tidepools frequented by hikers, anglers and bird watchers. The beach is reached by walking a 1/4 milelong trail which winds through a meadow and then descends by stairs down to the beach. Parking is available south of the Navigators Reach entrance road on the ocean side of Highway 1. Restrooms are located at the parking lot.
3. Shell Beach
Shell Beach consists of two sandy coves surrounding a rocky point. The views are picturesque, but the ocean is not suitable for swimming. A 2/3-mile hike connects the parking lot to the beach. Parking is available just south of Whale Bone Reach Road along Highway 1. Restrooms are available at the parking lot.
4. Stengel Beach
Stengel Beach is a small cove surrounded by rocky bluffs with dramatic views of waves breaking on offshore rocks. A small waterfall plummets from the rocks to the beach below. Strong currents make the water unsafe for swimming. Stengel Beach is the easiest to access because the trail to the beach is only about 1/8 mile. Stairs provide access to the beach from the trail. Parking is available on Wild Iris Road just off Highway 1. Restrooms are located in the parking area.
5. Walk-On Beach
The approximately ½ mile long trail to the beach meanders through a grove of Monterey cypress trees and then descends via stairways down to the beach. The beach consists of two coves, and the northern cove is smaller than the southern cove. Separate stairways descend to each cove. The trail is wheelchair and stroller accessible, but the sandy beach is less conducive to wheeled vehicles. Strong currents make the water unsafe for swimming. Parking is available between at Deer Trail and Leeward Spur just off Highway 1. Restrooms are available at the parking lot. An enjoyable public access hiking trail along the coast from Walk-On Beach connects to Bluff Top Trail to Gualala Point Regional Park. Gualala Point Regional Park includes a paved walkway from the parking lot and trails that provide access to a popular whale watching spot. The park is a popular spot for kayaking and fishing.
Stroll along one of Sea Ranch’s beaches for spectacular ocean vistas, beautiful sunsets, bird and whale watching, or just relaxing and enjoying nature in this picturesque strip of the Sonoma California coast.