Fort Ross is a historic stop along Highway 1 on the Sonoma Coast. It has several buildings and a windmill surrounded by fort walls that are leftover from it’s Russian roots. At least one of the buildings is original, but others have been reconstructed in the same Russian Orthodox architecture. From 1812 to 1841 the fort was a working commercial company that employed Russians, Californians, and Alaskans. This site was the southernmost settlement of the Russian colonies and served to provide an agricultural base for their northern settlements in Alaska. After the Russian era, the property was used as a ranch for well over 100 years. These two periods are the reason Fort Ross is protected as a state historic park.
In the beautiful visitor center you’ll find artifacts from when the old fort was in action. Exhibits explain how the settlers lived, what they farmed, goods they sold, and even how they loaded ships. From the visitor center it is a pleasant walk to the fort and then down to ocean vistas and even beaches.
The park has one sandy beach (at Fort Ross Cove) and several other shoreline access points. One is at the Fort Ross Campground and one is at Fort Ross Reef which is a popular spot for scuba divers. Another one, Clam Beach, is hard to find and difficult to access but offers a cove to explore for the adventurous.
If you want to stay near Fort Ross to have a few days to explore the park and the nearby coastline, there are a couple options. The Fort Ross Lodge is just outside the park and offers affordable and comfortable rooms. The park has it’s own campground for those with tents or RV’s.