Timber Cove is a peaceful retreat
Timber Cove is a peaceful retreat

Timber Cove hotel review: The ultimate log cabin in the middle of the woods

Escape the hustle of San Francisco at this California retreat surrounded by redwoods

Hazel Sheffield
Thursday 10 August 2017 16:20

The sculptor Beniamino Bufano designed the obelisk that stands between Timber Cove and the Pacific Ocean the summer after the Cuban Missile Crisis as a symbol of peace.

Peacefulness still runs through the exquisite resort, designed by the celebrated architect Richard Clements in the early Sixties. It started as an artists’ colony, running from the Pacific Coast into the redwood forests. Clements dreamed of a retreat in harmony with the landscape and tucked the great hall at the centre of the resort into the coastline, recessed into the land. He held workshops for amateur photographers at the site, slipping black and white photographs by Ansel Adams inside property sales brochures to tempt them to stay.

Clements’ dream has recently been revitalised with a full renovation of the site by Cortney and Robert Novogratz. Timber Cove has once again emerged as a retreat – this time for San Francisco’s tech elite, who take the leisurely two and a half hour drive north of the city to unplug.

Novogratz has stayed true to the natural beauty of the A-frame structure with antler chandeliers, wooden headboards, mid-century sideboards and leather chairs. A wide chimney guides the eye to a huge roaring fireplace at one end of the great hall. The gloomy depths give it all the glamour of Bond’s lair.

Timber Cove has a scenic coastline

The lair proves a magnetic hideout from the stormy springtime weather during our stay, offering a bar menu of burgers to be eaten curled up on tasteful modernist sofas, swaddled in blankets.

For formal dining the Coast Kitchen, run by chef Phillip Kaufman, is tucked below the bar in a sunken dining room. The menu is modern American, peppered with local seafood, including tuna tartare, served with wontons and jalapenos, and seared scallops fetched on a day boat and served with squash purée.


Timber Cove is just far enough north of San Fran that it still feels like a genuine retreat for the moneyed San Franciscans who have become regular guests. Those from further afield will need to fly into San Francisco and hire a car. Take the scenic route out of the city over the Golden Gate Bridge and drive up route 1, remembering to stop at Bodega Bay to see if you can catch the grey whales migrating.

Once at Timber Cove, guests can explore the natural wonders of the area with Margaret Lindgren and her Unbeaten Path Tours.

More than 90 per cent of the famous northern Californian redwoods have been felled since lumbermen and gold miners arrived in the mid-19th century. The remainder are protected by the National Parks, which make for excellent trekking.

Lindgren picks up guests from the resort for two-hour guided hikes of Salt Point Park, with its diverse flora, fauna and rock formations and rich Native American history.

Even if the grey whales are shy, hikers might see seals birthing, mountain lions exploring the cold sandy beaches and all manner of birds, including eagles, soaring overhead.

This is also Sonoma wine country, known for its pinot noirs and chardonnays. Grapes were planted at Fort Ross as early as 1812. Today the Fort Ross Vineyard consists of 32 small mountain blocks on a sunny ridge more than 1,200ft above sea level. A tasting room floats above the fog, a 10-minute drive uphill through a misty pinewood forest from Timber Cove, with samples available for a small fee that is waived if visitors go on to make a purchase of two bottles or more.


Part of the glory of Timber Cove is its modular design, so each room feels private and contained around the belly of the entrance hall. It feels like being on a sturdy, handsome ship.

The 46 rooms are decked out like posh holiday cabins, with views ranging from forest to wide beaches. The eight premium suites are particularly magnificent. Room two reveals itself down a long corridor bathed in natural light: a slate bathroom on the left, a low-lit bedroom in the middle with a raw wooden headboard pockmarked by natural grain.

The suite opens to a bright lounge area with a bar, Crosley record player and a fireplace with a bright green flue. Double doors open onto a balcony with a view of dense ferns speckled with Easter egg-coloured flowers leading down to the moody ocean.


Timber Cove is off Highway 1, Jenner, California.

001 707 847 3231; timbercoveresort.com

Doubles from £188, room only.

Unbeaten Path Tours (001 707 888 6121; unbeatenpathtours.com) offers a two-hour Seascapes Tour from $50 per person.

Fort Ross tastings from $25, but waived when buying two bottles or more (001 707 847-3460; fortrossvineyard.com).

Wi-fi: free

Parking: free

Pets: dogs of 30lb (13.6kg) or less are welcome, one pet per stay, for $55

Access: two wheelchair-friendly rooms

Rooms: *****

Service: ****

Value: ***

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