The picturesque drive north to Timber Cove winds along Highway 1. Each twist and turn reveals jagged cliffs, majestic redwood trees, and a wide-open sky that alternates climates from overcast to sunny and blue. Looking out over the Pacific Ocean waves spray and sputter. While standing at one of the many lookouts on the cliffs a spurt of water just might be a grey whale making its journey from Alaska to Mexico in the Spring before returning back again in the fall. Driving this breathtaking coastline provides the perfect prologue to a Sonoma Coast adventure. Some 14 miles north of Jenner, an obelisk becomes visible in the distance. The Timber Cove resort sign comes into view. Take a left into the parking lot to enter the bare wood A-frame structure. A first glance the lobby reveals high ceilings, and the kind of imposing and massive fireplace Richard Clements Jr buildings are known for.
Richard Clements designed the Timber Cove resort in 1963 and recently restored by Novogratz with Gensler Architects. The original design was completed by Clements in the sheep ranch community know for producing wool during the wars. Clements a fourth generation Bay Area resident from a family of real estate developers had studied philosophy, journalism, and earned a PHD in economics from Oxford. He designed buildings in the Bay Area and Big Sur. A tour of coastline in the ’60s sparked Clements’ interest in the area. He had come to the area to look for a piece of property for a second home. There was a rancher who was going to release the land. Clements found investors and created what is known today as Timber Cove.
Margaret Lindgren of Unbeaten Path Tours gives nature and architecture tours of the area. She explains the inspiration for the rustic design. “These buildings are really a modernization of the original livestock barns. Cattle were the primary agricultural need at the time. This coast was not about growing grains, it was about feeding loggers,” says Lindgren. “The livestock barns were designed to respond to the conditions. Hearty, simplistically rustic, post and beam. No complicated milling. That made those original barn structures very modular. You could take parts and replace them easily.” Clements devised structures that modernized the ranch style architecture. He was committed to sourcing local materials and handpicked the massive Douglas fir posts and Redwood elements.
Clements chose to build Timber Cove tucked it into a sandstone outcropping. The low profile honors the beauty of the coastline. The exterior mirrors the robust original board on board agricultural structures built to keep the elements out. The region attracted bohemian artists and intellectuals including Ansel Adams, Henry Miller, and Clements good friend sculptor Beniamino Bufano, who created the obelisk that, have become a cherished landmark of the area. Timber Cove’s original owner commissioned the 93-foot-tall Peace Statue monument, originally known as “The Expanding Universe.” The idea was to promote consciously living lightly on the land. They aimed to build structures that represented the whole community, honoring the ideal of ’60s community building and pacifism.
Next to the main gathering space at Timber Cove inn, a patio with a white marble Bufano sculpture, anchors an area for rest and recreation with a pool table, foosball and ping-pong. The hotel owner’s daughter has created a treasure hunt to explore the property. Inside under that fireplace, the bar has become a respite for travelers and locals to sip wine, cocktails and coffee and savor the slower pace of life on the coast. Guests can walk the bluffs over the Pacific Ocean by day and sit by the fire pit at night near the Bocce court.Guest rooms and suites are appointed in warm woods and have luxuriously comfortable beds with Pendleton blankets. Many rooms of the 46 rooms, with eight suites, look out over the Pacific Ocean. Guests are greeted with a record spinning on a turntable, and the in-room collection ranges from Frank Sinatra to Warpaint.
A visit to Salt Point just North of Timber Cove reveals geological wonders and miles of trails along the ocean. Unbeaten Path Tours offers yoga classes and private tours of the area catered to any fitness level and interest. Lindgren shares her depth of knowledge about the history of Timber cove, architect Clements work, and the art of Bufano. The 25-acre property is a stunner. Lindgren explained during a walk in Salt Point water that spouts visible from the shore were teenage grey whale waiting for their parents to return to the area. Harbor seals frolic in the rocky inlets. Osprey, Western gulls, Great Blue Herons, and Egrets fly overhead. Wild blue irises along with many vibrant yellow wildflowers fill the meadows by the cliffs over the ocean.
More local adventures include wine tasting and kayaking. Just four miles from Timber Cove, the much sought-after Flowers pinot noirs and chardonnays are grown along the picturesque hillsides with views of some neighboring vineyards. The steep terrain requires each vine to be farmed by hand. When the grapes are ripe and ready to pick, the staff at Flowers wear helmet lamps to harvest the fruit in the cool night air. Guides from Getaway Adventure Tours lead guided kayaking adventures at the mouth of the Russian River in Jenner filled with marine life and birds. They also lead tours at other river locations and bicycle tours throughput the wine country region>.
Back at Timber Cove, chef Paulo Mendoza of Coast Kitchen has been busy with his team cooking up smoked trout chowder, steak with chimichurri sauce, crispy Petaluma fried chicken, broccolini with fresh burrata, carrots with ancho chile, and spring snap peas. For dessert, Mendoza makes a dutch baby topped with marinated grapes, a nod to the local wine country. The copper fireplace in the dining room glows; an apt symbol of Timber Cove hospitality.
This cozy retreat provides an environment to relax, log off, and witness the beauty of the Northern California coastline. Not to mention, experience what it feels like to live lightly on the land.
Hero and room interior images courtesy of Timber Cove, all others by Cool Hunting