With the ocean at your doorstep, fresh seafood at your fingertips, and a peaceful, laid-back vibe, it’s no wonder why Bodega Bay has long remained a popular Sonoma County getaway for both tourists and locals alike. Known around the world as the setting for Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, this small fishing community along California’s famed Highway 1 has much to offer, from beautiful ocean views to tasty seafood joints, quirky shops to art galleries, and plenty of activities for outdoor enthusiasts of every level.
Whether you’re looking for fun in the sun, to eat and drink to your heart’s content, or to simply enjoy the area’s unspoiled natural beauty, here are the top things to do in Bodega Bay.
COVID-19 Note: Please be sure to check with each business in advance to confirm service and hours of operation, as things may have changed since being posted.
No visit to Bodega Bay is complete without indulging in some fresh seafood, and luckily there are plenty of options. Specializing in fresh catches and coastal-inspired American cuisine, The Tides Wharf & Restaurant draws visitors for great seafood, yes, but the food is made even better by the restaurant’s spectacular ocean view setting. For more casual fare like fish & chips and barbecued oysters, check out The Boathouse (currently open for takeout) or head to Spud Point Crab Company, widely known for fresh crab and their award-winning clam chowder (also currently open for takeout only).
Art galleries abound throughout Bodega and Bodega Bay, where you’ll find unique collections of works from local and worldwide artists. At Bodega Bay Heritage Gallery, a large collection of California historic art is shown in a variety of traditions and styles. At Pacific Bay Gallery, art comes in the form of original paintings, sculptures, etchings, and relic art by regional and global artists, while at Bodega Landmark Studio, you can browse more one-of-a-kind art works by local artists, including pottery, jewelry, and stained glass.
There’s no better way to explore the beauty of Bodega Bay than by getting out on the water. Bodega Bay Kayak offers kayak and SUP rentals and lessons for all ages — no experience necessary. Customized guided kayak tours are also available, which cover info on wildlife and the history of the area, and is a no-stress way to cruise around the bay.
At the waterside wine bar and bottle shop that is Gourmet au Bay, a variety of small-production California wines are available to taste by the flight, which are served atop mini surfboards handcrafted in Bodega Bay. In addition to “wine surfing,” they also offer a selection of beers on tap and wood-fired cuisine. For a more traditional wine tasting experience, head to Sonoma Coast Vineyards, where you can sip their Sonoma Coast pinot noir and chardonnay wines from the outdoor patio of the tasting room or picnic on the expansive knoll overlooking Bodega Bay. Looking to venture out for a day of wine tasting? Get in the car and head 20 – 25 minutes inland to visit the wineries around Freestone, Occidental, and Sebastopol, where you’ll find plenty of chardonnay, pinot noir, and other cool-climate wines.
Bodega Bay is a great spot for whale watching as it’s positioned along the annual gray whale migration route. One of the premier whale watching spots is the Bodega Head peninsula, which juts out into the Pacific. While there are opportunities for whale watching year-round, the best time of year for spotting whales from the bluffs of Bodega Head is during their northbound migration, around January through May. During October and November, the whales make their way down south but are typically further from shore, so a whale watching expedition is the best way to go.
A picturesque horseback ride on the beach doesn’t just happen in the movies… Chanslor Stables can make those dreams a reality, thanks to their guided trail rides along the beach, wetlands, creeks, and, for more adventurous riders, atop the canyon hills of the Sonoma Coast. Private rides are also available, as well as pony rides for the kids under 6. Also willing to make your beach ride visions come to life is Horse N Around Trail Rides, which offers private and group rides along the trails and beaches of a picturesque cattle ranch on the coast, with rides suitable for beginners to more experienced riders.
Create your own adventure at Doran Regional Park, where you can walk, hike, fish, picnic, bird-watch, and even camp. Located directly on the bay, the park offers a two-mile stretch of beach that is ideal for flying a kite or walking along the shoreline, while a rock jetty on the west end is a popular spot for fishing and exploring sea life. A recently renovated boat launch at Doran Beach provides access to Bodega Harbor and Bodega Bay, ideal for sport-fishing and kite surfing. Accessible from Doran Regional Park is the Bird Walk Coastal Access Trail, a 1.19-mile path that offers excellent bird-watching. Across from the Bodega Harbor Golf Course is the Pinnacle Gulch Coastal Access Trail, a half-mile path that leads to a small, but beautiful beach on Bodega Bay, dotted with tide pools and photo-worthy rock formations.