Located just 65 miles north from San Francisco, Bodega Bay, California offers an adventure-filled getaway on the stunning Sonoma coast. And despite what Alfred Hitchcock’s film The Birds might have suggested, Bodega Bay, where the horror film was famously set, is the perfect destination for a peaceful, beachside trip, and bird attacks are highly unlikely (we promise).
Bodega Bay is a 90-minute drive up Highway 1 from San Francisco, but if you’re flying into the Bay Area, there are three airports to look into: San Francisco (SFO), Oakland (OAK), and Sonoma County (STS). Situated in the middle of Wine Country, Sonoma County is by far the most convenient option and just a 45-minute car ride from the coast.
Layers, layers, layers. Even on the rare, 90-degree summer day in San Francisco, locals rush to the Sonoma coast where the cool Pacific breeze is forever present. This isn’t Southern California; it’s quite unusual to sunbathe in a bikini in Bodega Bay.
You’ll never want to leave The Inn at the Tides, where your visit is more like a retreat. They’ve got everything you could ever need: bay-view rooms, two restaurants, a pool, hot tub, and sauna, in-room massage treatments, and a fresh fish market. The Mediterranean meets the Northern California coast at the Italian-inspired Sonoma Coast Villa Hotel. You won’t want to skip the spa, where you can indulge in rejuvenating treatments like the Computer De-Compress – something that we all could probably use.
If you’re not afraid of roughing it and prefer to fall asleep to the hypnotizing sounds of the crashing waves, pack your tent and go camping. Beach campsites can be reserved at spots like Doran Regional Park, Wright’s Beach, and the Dunes Campground. Step things up a notch and go glamping at Chanslor Ranch, where you can enjoy the comforts of home (a plush bed and wood-burning stove) while still sleeping inside a tent.
If you’re already staying at the Inn at the Tides, you’ve got two of the Sonoma coast’s most fabulous restaurants steps from your room though non-hotel guests flock to them too. A favorite of locals and tourists alike for more than 50 years, The Tides Wharf & Restaurant was a backdrop for many scenes in The Birds. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, it combines spectacular ocean views with a diverse menu that includes five types of chowders, seven types of Seafood & Chips, steaks, pasta, and more. As its name suggests, the Bay View Restaurant and Lounge (Restaurant is Closed Until Further notice) looks out at the bay and serves up authentic Italian dishes featuring locally-sourced and often organic ingredients. On Saturday’s, the place transforms into a piano bar.
Grab a casual lunch at Spud Point Crab Company, a Bodega Bay staple for more than a decade, or fill up on comfort food at the popular neighborhood cafe Terrapin Creek. Gourmet au Bay, a waterfront wine bar with a food-fired oven, is the place to be for Happy Hour.
This quiet, Northern California coastal town beckons visitors to simply be – to relax, read a book, and stare aimlessly out at the ocean, lost in thought. But adventure is also calling, and there’s plenty of it in Bodega Bay by both land and sea.
Bring your golf game to The Links at Bodega Harbour. You’ll take in Pacific views from all 18 holes of this beautiful, Scottish-style links course, but the final three are especially panoramic, staged right on the edge of the ocean. Spring is the perfect time to catch the wildflowers along the Bodega Head hiking trail, an easy, three-mile jaunt through the headlands. It’s also the best spot in Bodega for whale watching, especially March through June (so pack your binoculars). Explore the coastal landscape by horseback with Chanslor Stables.
For more leisurely activities, peruse the town’s eclectic shops, like Artisan’s Co-op, full of locally-made goods like soap and jewelry, and Candy and Kites, where you can get saltwater taffy and a new kite to fly on Doran Beach all in one place. Visit the many art galleries, like the Ren Brown Collection, the largest collection of Japanese prints in California. When you’ve finished shopping, take a wine break at the oceanview tasting room of Sonoma Coast Vineyards to sip coastal pinot noir and chardonnay.
In addition to dining at The Tides Wharf & Restaurant, Hitchcock enthusiasts will want a photo opp outside the Potter Schoolhouse, featured in an iconic scene from The Birds, and can seek out movie memorabilia at Seagull Antiques Gifts & Collectibles.
If you’re feeling ambitious, you can catch your own dinner. Team up with Bodega Bay Sport Fishing Center to go crabbing or to reel in lingcod or salmon. Fish for rainbow trout in the pond at the Hagemann Ranch Trout Farm and make friends with the seals aboard a kayak or stand up paddle board from Bodega Bay Kayak.
Bodega Bay has many, many beaches, so you may want to hop from one to another, whenever a stretch of California sand beckons. Doran Beach is the most popular beach for tourists in Bodega Bay (it’s two miles long), perfect for beachcombing, kite flying, or reading a good book. Starting from Bodega Head, the beach of Sonoma Coast State Park stretches out a long 17 miles and is a great spot for spotting harbour seals, while Salmon Creek is a favorite beach among surfers and skimboarders.
If you have an extra day or two in Bodega Bay, head out of town to explore another part of Sonoma County. The quirky town of Sebastopol is a 25-minute drive inland, and you could spend an entire day at The Barlow, an open-air market full of art galleries, wine tasting rooms, breweries, restaurants, and more. Visit towering sequoias aged up to 2,000 years at Armstrong Redwoods in Guerneville, roughly 40 minutes from Bodega Bay, or trek further up the Sonoma coast along Highway 1’s panoramic switchbacks. You’ll pass through other small, seaside towns like Timber Cove and Gualala.
Cover image courtesy of Sonoma Coast Vineyards