Find Tranquility in Bodega Bay
Once you’re beyond California’s Highway 101 and headed west to Bodega Bay, the drive is through open farm and ranch land, orchards, and vineyards—serenity in every direction. Then it’s over the hills and to the coast. If you’re lucky, there’s no fog and you can see the harbor and the Pacific Ocean shimmering just beyond. Alternatively (and on a clear day) take Highway 1 up the coast for a stunning drive.
Bodega Bay is a picturesque enclave in western Sonoma County filled with sea lovers and family-owned restaurants and shops. Beaches, hiking trails, and an abundance of wildlife and bird watching prevail. This small town is the site of the first Russian construction in California in 1809. And if you’re a fan of Alfred Hitchcock, you know The Birds was filmed here.
At the Bodega Bay Lodge, find dramatic views and luxe accommodations set among seven lush acres. Gardens explode with drought-resistant plants. Set atop a bluff, the rooms and the restaurants face Bodega Head (a peninsula that protects the bay from the ocean), Bodega Bay, and the Pacific.
My husband and I stayed in the Great Blue Heron, a spacious oceanfront room; just across the way was the Long-Billed Curlew. (The names are a celebration of bird watching’s popularity.) The modern rooms have vaulted ceilings, private patios, top-notch amenities, and wood-burning fireplaces. Join the other guests for complimentary wine and cheese in the lobby at 5.
A short walk from the lodge, Doran Park has two beautiful miles of beach as well as hiking, biking, and horse trails. Have a picnic, fly a kite, fish, surf, or just relax. There’s also a boat launch and campgrounds.
Bodega Head is a marine reserve and conservation area. The area is known as the place to watch whales migrate and also as a feeding ground for great white sharks. It’s part of the Sonoma Coast State Park.
Golfers of all abilities will feel right at home at The Links at Bodega Harbour, a championship course that can also be enjoyed by duffers. Recently remodeled by famed architect Robert Trent Jones II, the course offers fabulous coastal vistas, daring approach shots, rolling greens, and a memorable journey from tee to green on every hole. Depending on where you put the peg in the ground, the course stretches from 4,801 yards (gold tees) to 6,290 yards (black tees). Don’t be fooled by the diminutive yardage; with substantial elevation changes and undulating fairways, it’s a challenge for everyone.
After a day of activity (or not doing much of anything!), there’s nothing more soothing than a visit to the Spa at the Bodega Bay Lodge. Choose from massages, body treatments, and facials and simply lay back and unwind. With the pressure that’s perfect for you, the Sonoma Coast Massage is guaranteed to help ease those aching muscles. Later, try the heated pool, outdoor whirlpool spa, and sauna.
Adjacent to the bay, find surf shops, galleries, markets, gift shops, and a candy and kite store. If you’re looking for a unique place to hold a special event, check out the secret gardens at Compass Rose.
Everything you’ve heard about the Spud Point Crab Company is absolutely true; they are simply the best. There is even a sign posted that states: “Caution: Our clam chowder can be addictive!” Located right across the street from the bay and a marina, this family-owned business is a gathering spot for locals, fishermen, and visitors alike. Their popular crab cakes are sold out in one hour. Every Sunday, only 50 orders are made, so you better plan on getting in line before they’re available at 1 p.m.
The menu has a variety of offerings, but we opted for a crab sandwich, the crab cakes we were lucky enough to score, and clam chowder. We enjoyed the bounty at the picnic tables out in front of the tiny 360-square-foot shop as we watched the comings and goings of the fishing boats in the marina.
The Duck Club Restaurant is located bayside at the Bodega Bay Lodge. It shares the same fantastic views as the lodge and offers a casual place to savor breakfast and dinner. The stone fireplace warms up the room morning and evening. Not only do the ingredients and the wines celebrate Sonoma, but also the restaurant only serves fish that are on the Seafood Watch list, which is compiled by the Monterey Bay Aquarium to educate consumers about the importance of sustainable seafood.
Generous portions are the rule at the restaurant, and the Rancho Bodega Bay omelet is no exception. Three eggs, avocado, chorizo, pepper jack cheese, and roasted tomato salsa are served with home-style potatoes. With piping hot Taylor Maid Farms Organic Goat Rock blend coffee, you are fueled and ready for the day’s adventures.
In the evening, the restaurant is the perfect location to watch the sunset and enjoy the local fare. We began with Liberty duck confit and River Dog Farms organic Little Gems lettuce cups served with crispy fried beets and sweet and hot soy vinaigrette. Bodega Bay salmon rillettes on brioche crostini and grilled smoked shrimp with avocado-lime purée were part of the Sonoma Coast seafood sampler. The Bodega Bay King salmon with a pesto crust was moist and juicy, and the grilled Angus rib eye steak with a blackening spice rub was wonderfully tender with the Point Reyes Blue butter melting on top.
Our Sonoma wine picks included two 2011s: the Dutton Estate “Dutton Ranch Karmen Isabella” Pinot Noir from the Russian River and the Papa’s All-Black Sonoma Zinfandel Blend. A word of caution: Try not to fill up on the incredible seeded sourdough bread from Sebastopol’s Village Bakery. For dessert we had the most luscious homemade wild honey ice cream. Completely satisfied, we strolled back to our room.
PATTY BURNESS can be found on Twitter at @pattygb.