James Cameron Lists His California Coastal Ranch For $33 Million
Oscar-winning director James Cameron has listed his sweeping ranch set along California’s Gaviota Coast for $33 million––parting with otherworldly Pacific Ocean views that inspired his five-part Avatar film franchise.
The 8,000-square-foot home he and his wife, Suzy Amis Cameron, purchased 24 years ago is sited on an oceanfront 102-acre parcel in a biodiverse haven that’s among the world’s richest.
Cameron’s favored writing retreats as he conjured Pandora, Avatar’s blue-hued world, were an upper library in the five-bedroom home and a 2,000-square-foot guest house set on a rise to maximize the ineffable coastal expanse.
“I would just bounce up there and sequester myself for months on end,” says Cameron of writing most of the first Avatar script and about half of the next two installments. “Actually, right through four and five because all those scripts are done.”
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Within two years after purchasing the ranch for $4.375 million, Cameron listed his Malibu compound for $25 million, preferring the Santa Barbara County acreage that has produced 90% of what the Cameron family consumes.
The family switched to a plant-based diet in 2012 and, as environmental advocates, the couple employs experimental techniques when farming thousands of New Zealand acreage they own, along with about 10,000 acres in Saskatchewan. They’ve founded a holistic school and have been vanguards in numerous ecological ventures.
The pioneering couple’s ocean-adjacent land is among 136 parcels within the 14,400-acre gated Hollister Ranch, established in 1971 as a nature preserve shouldered by 8.5 miles of pristine shoreline. Residential development is restricted to 2 acres on each of the land’s approximate 100-acre parcels. A 250-year tradition of cattle ranching continues on virtually all of the preserve’s coastal spread with up to one-half million pounds of Angus beef shipped annually.
The Camerons’ wood and glass home opens to soaring beam ceilings and includes two executive offices, a gym, media room and game room. Set along the south-facing Gaviota Coast, the sunset-drenched residence cradles a lagoon-style pool and lounge area wreathed by curved palms that recalls the tropics. Off-grid-ready, the solar-powered home is both water and food autonomous, given its three-quarter acre garden.
“The bare bones of the house are California rustic,” says Cameron, citing Hollister Ranch master builder Bob Curtis who erected the structures in the 1980s. “It feels rural, but it’s also quite bold, architecturally. It’s very comfortable. It’s not precious.”
Upon purchase, the couple ripped out carpeting and installed irregular slabs of Rocky Mountain quartzite, patterning floors with cream, gold and rust hues. The great room’s Brazilian hardwood beams were stripped of stain and paint and then restored to a natural burnished finish. The expansive sweep of timber ascends to clerestory windows and then angles over the dining room and kitchen, which is inset with a vaulted peak.
The two-story home’s bold angles frame views of coastal bluffs and scenes of migrating whales, dolphin pods and rafts of sea otters. The straight-ahead view is of San Miguel Island, the westernmost of the Channel Islands.
The kitchen’s sugar maple butcher-block table has hosted the bulk of Cameron family meals. “The dining room seats 14 and, when we really need space, we come out onto a big landing where we can seat 30,” Cameron says.
The angled beams continue in the primary suite and are matched by oak plank flooring. The rooms, which include a fireplace, are swaged with Balinese fabric, furthering the tropical view beyond the windows.
“We have a lot of Balinese sculptures and woodwork around, an overlay of Indonesian motifs,” says Cameron. There’s one Greco-Roman nod in the great room: a colossal 800-pound stone head depicting Dionysius, its elvish look a match for a Cameron film.
“It’s from a facade of a hotel in New York,” Cameron says. “A gift from Bill Paxton.”
The ranch’s untamed land also includes a 4,795-square-foot equestrian facility with paddocks and ranch offices outfitted with a caretaker’s quarters and four apartments.
There are two barns. “I’ve kept helicopters there,” says Cameron of the larger 24,000-square-foot barn. The barn was also a proving ground, he adds, “used when I was working on my subs and robotic equipment for expeditions,” which include 33 trips the intrepid “Titanic” director has made to the RMS Titanic and a solo descent he mastered to the lowest portion of the Mariana Trench.
The property also has a tennis court and permitted helipad.
The Camerons were reached at the tail end of a five-day 30-member family reunion held at the ranch. “We’re down to two nephews,” says Suzy Amis Cameron, speaking from the ranch. Post-gathering, her husband was working from his 100,000-square-foot Manhattan Beach studio where he was patched in before flying to New Zealand that evening.
Family has been central to the Camerons during their two-decade-plus stay at the ranch and it’s partly why they’re selling. The couple’s three children are “all pretty much out on their own now,” the Canadian-born director says. “And on Avatar, I’m working in Wellington and Los Angeles. And on the new Alita: Battle Angel films, I’ll be working in Austin, so it just didn’t make sense for us anymore.”
Adds Suzy Amis Cameron: “Our hope is that someone will come in with young children or decide to have children and enjoy it.”
The couple warmly recalls their children’s adventures: Checking tide tables; learning names of multitudinous creatures in the coastal ecosystem; foraging; taking mountain treks; riding horses named Tex, Monkey and Okie; and caring for donkeys, goats and a pig.
“They were always coming home with some kind of critter, including a baby bobcat we named Rex,” James Cameron says. “They raised him and then released him back into the wild––he came back when he was an adult and ate Simon, our turkey.”
The couple’s garden, which harbors 150 crops, has been a family enterprise.
“You could feed 40, 50 people out of the gardens,” says Cameron, adding that the home’s large pantry is well-stocked. “The ranch runs on solar and wind, so it can be completely off-grid for as long as necessary. It’s got built-in battery storage that’s extensive enough to support the entire hundred-kilowatt system. There’s a sense of security and sanctuary here.”
Drakes Beach, with its world-renowned surf break, is less than a quarter of a mile from the house. “There’s nothing between us and the beach,” Cameron says. “You go down, look left and right and there’s just nobody. It’s very, very rare.”
Hollister Ranch operates three cabañas along the sandy stretch that residents can reserve. Amenities include showers, restrooms and barbecue facilities.
Santa Barbara County’s 76-mile Gaviota Coast is Southern California’s largest stretch of undeveloped coastline. Bordered by the Channel Islands National Park, termed the “Galápagos of North America,” the fragile wildlife corridor provides a safe harbor for numerous rare and endangered species.
The astounding array of interconnected ecosystems––intertidal habitats, estuaries, grasslands, coastal scrub and striking bluffs––were favored by the Chumash Native Americans who settled the land nearly 10,000 years ago.
“It was sacred land,” Cameron says. “The Chumash called the whole area the Western Gate because it was where their souls departed across the ocean at the end of their lives. And you kind of feel that. It affects you at a subconscious level.”
The Camerons’ Hollister Ranch property is co-listed by Emily Kellenberger of Village Properties and Jeff Kruthers of Hollister Ranch Realty.
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