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Timber Cove: The Perfect Sonoma Coast Getaway

My husband and I love getting away for the weekend in Mendocino, but that four-hour car ride up from the Peninsula—with all its twists and turns—can be a bit of a doozy, So after years of driving past Timber Cove Inn, located just north of Bodega Bay on the rugged Sonoma Coast, and thinking, “Why aren’t we just staying there”, (a la “If you lived here, you’d be home”), we finally had serious cause to pull over. In August, TIMBER COVE RESORT (note the slight name change) reopened after a dramatic seven-month, multi-million-dollar redesign. New owners Michael Barry and Jens Von Gierke made sure to keep the hotel’s iconic architectural bones—the Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired A-Frame structure—but enlisted the Los Angeles-based design firm Novogratz to update the interiors. All 46 rooms, including eight newly constructed suites, have been reimagined.Timber

In my opinion, one of the markers of a good hotel is whether you can know where in the world you are without drawing open the curtains. You want the insides to match the outsides—for the two to be “finishing each other’s sentences.”

The design team behind Timber Cove has done a great job on that count, successfully incorporating the surrounding landscape and local art scene throughout the hotel. The rooms are decorated in an earthy color palette and use lots of redwood and stone from the original design. Updated furnishings feature both modern and retro pieces, along with a hint of tribal textiles, white fabrics, worn leather, and preppy plaids. Variously described as “rustic modern” and “Hippie chic,” the end result is a brilliant realization of casual sophistication.

The new owners were concerned about the feelings of locals, who had a special affection for this long-standing structure, first built in 1963, but the response of coastal dwellers has been a universally thrilled one. This hotel has soul. It’s Californian, it’s retro, its woodsy, it’s cool. “We wanted to preserve the character of this historic property while creating an updated space for guests,” says owner Michael Barry ‘The new Timber Cove bridges the original 60s vibe and soul with a coastal contemporary update/1 As part of the hotel revamp, Timber Cove has unveiled a new restaurant called Coast Kitchen, with a micro-seasonal menu and a Sonoma-heavy wine list. Executive Chef Phillip Kaufman is a California native who specializes in local, seasonally inspired cuisine.

Highlights from his ever-changing menu embrace the coastal location. Try the Poke Duet, with ahi, salmon poke, and avocado mousse; or the Salt-Roasted Pei Muscles, with blistered tomatoes and parsley crostini; or the Seared Day Boat Scallops, with carrot puree and local mushrooms. Everything is delicious. (Psst—you needn’t be an overnight guest to dine here; passersby are welcome for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, too.) Timber Cove is a well-oiled machine with great service and attention to detail—but it’s very important to the owners and on-site managers that the property not feel too corporate. Coincidentally, it’s that very quality that make it such a popular destination for corporate retreats. There are activities and meeting spaces galore, but it never feels sterile or purpose-driven (unless the purpose is “to chill”). The resort sits on 23 acres of coastline between the towns of Bodega Bay and Sea Ranch.

Timber Cover
Timber Cover

There are over two miles of hiking trails on the property, or you could explore further afield via horseback. Guests can go fishing, kayaking, or wine tasting. It’s also a great place to just read and write and sit very still. The area has become a bit of a mecca for artists, including renowned photographer Ansel Adams, who returned to the site again and again as a source of inspiration. The guest rooms themselves are wonderfully versatile, equipped with decks for sunny weather, and fireplaces for when the fog rolls in. There are turntables and a record library to borrow from. You can play a bit of table tennis or whip out a deck of cards next to the three-story stone fireplace in the lodge-like “Great Room.” Timber Cove doesn’t rest on its laurels. Yes, its location right there on the coast (on the west side of the highway, no less) is top-of-the-line, but that hasn’t dampened its efforts to woo. Indeed, it feels like the hotel is always working hard to secure your favor. We may never drive past it again.

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