Midway between Mendocino and the San Francisco Bay Area, the vacation-home community of Sea Ranch was laid out in the mid-1960s by a visionary group of architects and planners, including Lawrence Halprin and Charles Moore, who hoped to show that development need not destroy or negatively impact the natural beauty of the California coast. Strict design guidelines, preserving over half the 5,000 acres as open space and requiring the use of muted natural wood cladding and other barn-like features, made it an aesthetic success, which you can appreciate for yourself at the Sea Ranch Lodge (707/785-2371 or 800/732-7262, $219 and up), near the south end of the development.

The rest of Sea Ranch, however, is strictly private, which has raised the hackles of area activists, who after years of lawsuits finally forced through a few coastal access trails in the mid-1980s; these, such as Walk-On Beach at milepost 56.5, are marked by turnouts along Hwy-1.

Map of Pacific Coast through San Francisco.
Map of Pacific Coast through San Francisco.