Sea Ranch Chapel - Atlas Obscura

Sea Ranch Chapel

Sea Ranch, California

This whimsical seashell-shaped place of worship was designed to blend into its surroundings.  


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

Built from local copper and redwood by local carpenters and builders, the chapel was modeled 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 a nondenominational refuge for people of any faith to use for meditation and prayer. Robert and Betty Buffum, both residents of Sea Ranch, donated 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 together art, architecture, and nature in his work, designed the chapel in 1984 based on Ditzler’s drawings. 

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” makes the structure 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 to the public from sunrise to sunset daily except during private events.

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