Sea Ranch Chapel – Sea Ranch, California - Atlas Obscura
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Sea Ranch, California

Sea Ranch Chapel

A whimsical church based on a seashell. 

Inspired by the waves of the nearby Pacific and the nature of the coast, this spiritual outpost makes visitors feel like they’ve fallen into a fairy tale.

The Sea Ranch Chapel is a nondenominational refuge for people of any faith for meditation and prayer. Robert and Betty Buffum, both residents of Sea Ranch, gave this chapel to the community in memory of Kirk Ditzler, a local navy pilot and artist.

The San Diego-based architect James T. Hubbell, who is known for blending art, architecture and nature together, designed the chapel in 1984 based on Ditzler’s drawings. It was built out of local copper and redwood by local carpenters and builders. It appears the church was based on the form of a murex shell, though others have compared it to a mushroom or a conquistador’s helmet.

The Sea Ranch Chapel is easy to miss when traveling along Highway 1. Hubbell’s expression of the “windswept coast in forms of earth, sea, and flight” in his design makes it blend into its surroundings. But those who stop to pay a visit to the chapel will step into a serene world full of whimsical design and intricate details.

Know Before You Go

The Sea Ranch Chapel is located about 50 miles (80 km) north of Jenner along Highway 1, on the right side across the road from the street Bosun's Reach. The chapel is open for the public from sunrise to sunset daily except during private events.