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The Wild Sonoma Coast
California's Ghost Beaches

February 2005

Want to escape to a place that is as mystical as the Scottish Highlands but don't have the time to travel to Europe? Then head for the wild Sonoma Coast. It begins along the famous Hwy 1 about 40 miles north of San Francisco near Bodega Bay. There you'll find a 16 mile stretch of beach known as the Sonoma Coast State Beach. But this isn't a beach like you'll find in Southern California. Parke Puterbaugh and Alan Bisbort in their book "California Beaches"refers to the beaches of the Sonoma Coast as "ghost beaches." I quote them here:

"You've heard of ghost towns. Well, Sonoma is a ghost county. Travellers who are sick of crowds, development, and predictable vacations will find the Sonoma coast appealing, but the beaches here can be a bit, well, ghostly. They exist, to be sure, but these lonely and wild stretches of sand are as pleasurable to ponder from a bluff top as they are to wander down and see up close and personal."

This is not a long stretch of sandy beach. It's a series of coves flanked with tree covered headlands jutting out into the Pacific. There are 23 access points to this 16 mile stretch of beach. However, you have to be careful once on a beach because rogue waves can sweep in and knock you from the rock you're perched on.

30 miles up Hwy 1 which twists, turns, drops, and climbs through country that can only be called legendary, you arrive at Jenner. This humble hamlet of 300 people clings to the hillsides of the undamned Russian River. Before continuing up Hwy 1 to Fort Ross and the Timber Cove Inn spend a little time in Jenner. There are a handful of fine restaurants to discover.

Fort Ross is 11 miles north of Jenner. The fort was built by Russian traders in 1812 and kept active until 1841. It's purpose was to provide a sanctuary while it's builders trapped sea otters for their fur and grew wheat to supply Russian colonies in Alaska. Today it is maintained as a state historic park.


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