A Sonoma Coast Resort Built in Harmony with Nature
It’s a silent night on the Sonoma Coast. Long after the sunset, I’m sitting on the cliffs above the ocean, bundled up beside the fire pit, staring out at a blaze of stars over the water. The sea is calm, and the only sound is the gentle undulation of the water against the rocks below. To my left, a 93-foot obelisk rises from a rocky promontory, glowing in the night sky as a symbol of peace.
Driving up Highway 1 earlier in the afternoon, the obelisk was my first glimpse of this stunning resort. Perched on 25 acres of breathtaking coastline, Timber Cove Resort was built in 1963 as a destination for meditation and tranquility. Designed by architect and owner Richard Clements, Jr., the resort incorporates redwood and natural stone as an homage to the property’s rugged landscapes. Over the years, the resort became a gathering place for artists and intellectuals.
Early on, Clements commissioned a friend, the pacifist sculptor Beniamino Bufano, to create a monument to peace at Timber Cove. Construction of the obelisk, which Bufano named “The Expanding Universe,” began just weeks before the Cuban Missile Crisis. Countering its missile-influenced shape, the sculpture features motifs of the Madonna and child and is topped by an open, welcoming hand. The sculpture was the largest of Bufano’s work and took seven years to complete. Decades later, with wars still raging around the world, it stands as an enduring aspiration.
In 2016, Timber Cove’s new owners undertook a massive renovation to bestow the comforts and amenities of a modern resort while retaining Timber Cove’s architectural soul and midcentury vibe. In the dramatic great room, the original three-story stone fireplace rises through the exposed wood timbers and presides over cozy seating areas and a full bar. The adjacent oceanfront restaurant, Coast Kitchen, features original stone walls, a vintage steel fireplace, and wood finishes. The extensive use of wood extends to the guest rooms, which offer a sophisticated mix of modern and retro furnishings.
Empty wine glass in hand, I wander back inside from the fire pit. The roaring fireplace in the great room is a cozy, welcoming respite from winter’s chill. A smattering of guests gathered around tables and at the bar are listening to a local singer-songwriter’s soothing tunes. One couple is working on a puzzle by the windows. Outside, another fire pit glows in the outdoor living room, casting its light on the empty billiard and ping pong tables. I order a nightcap and settle in on one of the couches to enjoy the music.
Timber Cove hosts live music every Wednesday night and complimentary wine tastings featuring Sonoma County winemakers on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Through December, the resort takes on a festive air with holiday decorations and events, including visits with Santa and a gingerbread house-making class. On December 24, 2023, the resort will host its annual Christmas Eve dinner. To ring in the new year, guests can celebrate with Timber Cove’s long-standing New Year’s Eve Dinner & Party on December 31, 2023, and its New Year’s Day Brunch on January 1, 2024.
After the musician wraps up her set, I collect a few albums from the resort’s collection of vinyl records and head back to my room. The resort offers 46 revamped guest rooms that combine modern design with midcentury accents. All the rooms offer ocean or forest views, and most have Nest-controlled fireplaces. In-room tea kettles and French-press coffeemakers allow guests to craft their own pour-over coffee, while retro-styled Smeg refrigerators are stocked with munchies and libations. But among the most unique in-room amenities are the vintage-inspired Crosley record players. I drop the needle on a classic Etta James album, set the fireplace aglow, and snuggle beneath the down duvet.
In the morning, I wake up to panoramic ocean views with sunlight glinting off the water. I see what I think is a whale spout. Grabbing a pair of binoculars, I step out onto the deck and scan the horizon. After a few minutes, I catch sight of a pair of whales surfacing before diving back down into the ocean’s depths. Giddy at the sight, I head outside to hike the trails along the bluffs and take in more of this coastal wonderland.