Thirty minutes from bustling Santa Rosa and 90 minutes from the Bay Area, coastal Bodega Bay is an escape pod, a place to unplug, unwind, and immerse in nature.
Bodega Bay, California, is a tiny fishing village in Sonoma County. It flaunts an untamed coastline, towering Pacific headlands, secret coves, and hidden beaches. Wildlife fills the water, air, and coastal mountains. It has a reputation for R&R and is especially popular with San Francisco Bay residents as a coastal escape where life is slower-paced and nature is off the hook.
Getting to Bodega Bay is easy. I suggest a car or car service. The closest airport, about 30 miles away, Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport (STS). It has direct service to and from Seattle, San Diego, Portland, Phoenix, Orange County, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Denver, and Dallas. San Francisco and Oakland airports are about 80 miles from Bodega Bay.
Here are 11 of my favorite things to do in coastal Bodega Bay.
1. Sonoma Coast Wineries
Sonoma Coast Vineyards is an essential first stop when you get to Bodega Bay. The friendly and comfortable tasting room is the best place to get in the Bodega state of mind while trying the distinctive wines grown in Sonoma Coast vineyards. Winegrowers on the coast farm in cold-climate wine country west of the Russian River Valley. Some vineyards are only 5 miles from the Pacific. The climate is challenging, the yield can be small, and the deer hungry. Still, the results are sublime and unique to this part of California.
Your tasting host will help you choose a flight of local wines. Get your first taste of Bodega Bay from the grape, then select a bottle or two for a sunset picnic or fireside nightcap.
2. Doran Beach
Doran Regional Park is a sampler of the Bodega Bay environs and wildlife. The 127-acre park has a 2-mile sand beach where you can stroll, fly a kite, surf, build a sandcastle, listen for barking seals, or just watch the waves roll in.
Walk among grassy dunes or find a picnic spot. A boat launch and parking are available. In addition, the park has biking and walking trails, equestrian trails, fishing, birding, and accessible areas.
Pro Tips: Easy-going kayaking, paddle boarding, and wetland discovery can be enjoyed inside the harbor. A good place for gear is Bodega Bay Kayak. They offer free lessons with equipment rentals if you’re not bringing your own.
If you’re interested in surfing, head to South Salmon Creek Beach in Sonoma Coast State Park when conditions are right.
3. Bodega Bay Seafood
Bodega Bay is one of the last remaining small fishing villages on the California Coast. At one time, it hosted a thriving fishing industry for fresh and canned seafood. Dotting the docks were companies with slogans like, “If it swims, we have it.” The fleet’s catch was purchased and distributed to restaurants, hotels, and markets in San Francisco.
A small fleet of fishing vessels is still sheltered in Bodega Harbor, seasonally bringing in salmon, lingcod, rockfish, albacore, halibut, and of course, Dungeness crab. You’ll find the fruits of the fisherfolks’ labor all over Bodega Bay. It’s hook- and net-to-mouth freshness unlike any other.
There are many eateries in Bodega Bay appealing to all tastes and budgets. It’s hard to go wrong with any of them. Here are two of my favorites.
Drakes Sonoma Coast is focused on the Sonoma coast’s abundant fresh food. The Executive Chef excels in finding local, sustainably sourced ingredients. A large stone fireplace and panoramic views of Bodega Bay and the ocean set a warm, casual ambiance. Wines from Sonoma County, craft beers, and enticing cocktails are served in the dining room, bar, and around the firepit outdoors. Drakes is at Bodega Bay Lodge and is open for breakfast and dinner.
Spud Point Crab Company is a crab shack, and crabs are always on the boil. Spud’s also serves red and white clam chowder, crab cakes, seafood cocktails, sandwiches, and whole-cooked crabs. This is a casual place where you order at the window and take your delights to one of the picnic tables in front or across the street to the marina docks.
For more eateries, check out this list of the top seafood restaurants in Bodega Bay.
4. Pelican Plaza Market
Pelican Plaza Market, Delicatessen, Wine and Cheese Shop carries locally produced fish, meat, dairy, wine, beer, and more gourmet food selections than I can list. Stop in when you first arrive and stock up for a beach picnic or fill the mini-fridge at your lodging. The deli counter has delicious house-made salads and sandwiches. The coffee pot is never empty, beginning at 7 a.m. daily.
5. Osmosis Spa
Osmosis Spa and the relaxing Zen Gardens are quietly awaiting your arrival. Let the stress of the day melt away with a Cedar Enzyme Bath followed by a 75-minute Swedish-Esalen massage. This popular modality includes long strokes and therapeutic stretches.
After your treatment, spend time in one of five exquisite gardens: the Meditation Garden, the Japanese Tea Garden, the Field of Hammocks, a secluded pagoda, creekside, or in a group space.
6. Hunting For Alfred Hitchcock In Bodega Bay
If you are a Hitchcock fan, you know the famous thriller The Birds was filmed in Bodega Bay and Bodega. Many of the film locations are easy to find. One of the most recognizable is in the inland village of Bodega. Potter School House was used as the schoolhouse in the movie. Learn more about the film and its shooting locations in and around Bodega Bay on the city’s website.
Pro Tip: Stop in at Casino Bar & Grill in Bodega. It’s the place to meet locals for a burger and a cold beer.
7. Bird Walk Coastal Access Trail
With its location on the Pacific Flyway, Bodega Bay has exceptional birding opportunities.
Bird Walk Coastal Access Trail is the place to find local and migrating birds. The 1.19-mile pathway meanders along a saltwater marsh and circles two freshwater ponds along the harbor. The area provides year-round habitat for songbirds, waterfowl, and shorebirds. I especially loved the pelicans. They fly and swim in groups with the choreography of a dance troupe.
The track is flat and made of gravel. It is moderately accessible for wheelchairs, and a pedestrian bridge connects the Bird Walk to Doran Regional Park.
Pro Tip: Find more birding locations on Sonoma County Regional Parks’ Find a Park page.
8. Bodega Head
A granite monolith protruding into the Pacific, 4-mile-long and 1-mile-wide Bodega Head protects Bodega Bay from the powerful forces of the Pacific. The 360-degree panoramic view of the Pacific and inland Bodega is a photographer’s nirvana.
On the Pacific side, hold onto your hat. This always-windy setting is one of the best whale-spotting locales in the area. There are trails, beach access, picnic tables, and toilets available. Wildlife in the vicinity includes seals, whales, and seabirds.
On the harbor side of the head, try your hand at fishing, crabbing, or getting in the water for kayaking or paddleboarding.
Pro Tip: From January through May, volunteers are present to help you spot the migrating giants. They have spotting scopes, binoculars, and answers to your whale-watching questions.
9. Bodega Marina Laboratory
The Bodega Marine Laboratory (BML) is a UC Davis research and educational facility providing science for today’s complicated environmental challenges. BML studies the impact of residential, recreational, and commercial activity on the coast.
Aquariums and displays show local aquatic life in its natural habitat, including a kelp forest and a tidepool. In addition, docent-led and group tours are offered.
10. The Links At Bodega Harbour
The Links at Bodega Harbour are a Scottish-style course. Fairways and greens are combined with jaw-dropping Pacific views and natural coastal rough. From January to May, you may see whales from any of the 18 ocean view holes.
11. The Lodge At Bodega Bay
The Lodge at Bodega Bay is a destination in itself. Sitting between Highway 1 and the Pacific Ocean, the setting is dazzling. Guest rooms have fireplaces and private balconies with vistas overlooking the wetlands, Bodega Bay, and the Pacific. The property is beautifully landscaped, with walking paths connecting to Doren Park and the Bird Walk Coastal Access Trail.
Indulge yourself with a visit to the spa, with its menu of massages, body treatments, and facials. Then spoil yourself with recreational amenities, including a spa tub, sauna, and fitness center. Finally, meet other travelers at sunset with a glass of bubbly by a firepit before dinner.
Enjoy breakfast or dinner at Drakes or take advantage of the hotel’s room service during your stay. Try a late breakfast on your balcony. For your first morning, it is ideal for getting into the Bodega frame of mind.
If vacation rentals are more your style, Bodega Bay is your happy place. Oceanfront, mountain view, golf course access, or mountain cabins are available in all sizes. So whether it’s a romantic escape for two or a family reunion that requires 10 bedrooms to sleep up to 22 guests, there is a home-away-from-home to fill your needs.
Coastal Bodega Bay is a bit off the beaten path but worth the drive through California farmland, vineyards, ranches, and wetlands if you are arriving from the east. When coming from the north or south, you’ll meander along Highway 1, the Coast Highway. This is the take-it-slow route. The narrow road skirts along the absolute edge of the Pacific, showing off rocky coasts and soaring headlands. The scenery frequently changes as the fog moves in and out offshore. It’s spectacular no matter what the weather.
This Sonoma County fishing village is embraced by the natural world. It’s slow-paced and friendly, with plenty to explore. Wildlife, waves, wilderness, and wine just begin to define a Bodega Bay getaway. What more could you need?