One Fine Weekend on the Sonoma Coast
History and nature intertwine along the rugged oceanfront stretch between Jenner and Timber Cove.
Fog adds an air of intrigue to the Sonoma Coast’s dramatic cliffs.
Photos courtesy of Timber Cove Resort
To trade East Bay heat for coastal cool, hit Highway 1 and drive north through Sonoma County to get a breath of fresh sea air—and a glimpse of California’s pioneer past. This is the region where fishermen trolled the ocean to net fish and cash, loggers felled towering redwoods for construction lumber, and Russian settlers established outposts for a strategic foothold. You’ll also find modern enchantments along with the natural bounty stretching from Jenner, to Fort Ross, to Timber Cove.
More than a few travelers have been surprised to discover a Russian fort stationed alongside the highway 11 miles north of Jenner’s tiny town center. A thriving settlement from 1812 to 1841, Fort Ross was the southernmost outpost in the Russian colonization of North America. (Russian scientists based there were among the first to document the state’s cultural and natural history, which included the area’s indigenous Kashaya community.) Fort Ross State Historic Park features some reconstructed buildings—including a chapel, stockade, and barracks—that hint at what life must have been like here in the 1800s. fortross.org.
To appreciate the thundering surf; sweeping beaches; and colossal bishop pines, redwoods, and Douglas fir trees, plan for some cliffside scrambles and hillside climbs. A favorite spot for locals: the honeycombed bluffs at Salt Point State Park. (Sandstone from the now-protected Salt Point was used to construct the streets and buildings of San Francisco in the mid-1800s.) After hiking some of the park’s 20 miles of trails, fortify yourself with a picnic at one of its beaches, such as Fisk Mill Cove, Stump Beach, or South Gerstle Cove. You can also arrange for guided, fact-packed tours up and down the coast with Unbeaten Path Tours. parks.ca.gov, unbeatenpathtours.com.
By the time you reach the Timber Cove Resort, you will be ready for a welcome drink and a roaring fire to warm you up in the lodge’s Great Room. Afterward, take a stroll around the grounds of the stately property while marveling at the outdoor sculptures by artist Beniamino Bufano. His landmark obelisk The Expanding Universe (also known as Madonna of Peace) stands like a benevolent sentry on the cliffs above the ocean.
For dinner, head to the hotel’s farm-to-table restaurant, Coast Kitchen, which offers delicious and stylishly presented fare ranging from freshly caught seafood, to braised beef short ribs, to fried chicken. With your appetite sated, let the peaceful sounds of the waves lull you to sleep. timbercoveresort.com.