From birth in 1965, Sea Ranch, 110 miles north of San Francisco near Gualala, has been a utopian experiment: top-drawer architects building low-key homes -- and a 20-room lodge -- in harmony with a stretch of rugged Northern California coast. Fences, lawns and ostentation are basically banned (although the chapel, pictured, is pretty wild), allowing the landscape to prevail. Hike, bike, ride a horse, play the resort's links-style golf course or kayak.
Info: Sea Ranch, Rooms at the 20-unit Sea Ranch Lodge run $169 to $395 nightly ( 732-7262, visit online. Six agencies handle rental houses, at rates of about $170 to $715 nightly (taxes and cleaning fees included, two-night minimum): Rams Head Realty & Rentals, (800) 785-3455; Coasting Home, (800) 773-8648; Ocean View Properties, (707) 884-3538; Sea Ranch Escape Vacation Home Rentals, (888) 732-7262.
-- Christopher Reynolds