Once you’re off Highway 101 and headed west to Bodega Bay, the drive is through open farm and ranch land filled with orchards and vineyards. Then it’s over the hills to the coast. When there’s no fog, you can see the harbor and the Pacific Ocean shimmering just beyond. If you have more time, consider taking 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 was 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. Bodega Bay is easily accessible for an overnight stay.
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 suite. Just across the way was the Long-Billed Curlew (the names celebrate the popularity of bird watching). The modern rooms have vaulted ceilings, private patios, top-notch amenities, and wood-burning fireplaces. Join other guests for complimentary wine and cheese in the lobby at 5 p.m. (707-875-3525, bodegabaylodge.com).
PLAY & SHOP
A short walk from the lodge, Doran Park has two beautiful miles of beach as well as hiking, biking, and horse trails. The lodge even offers complimentary Electra cruiser bikes to its guests. Have a picnic, fly a kite, fish, surf, or just relax. There’salso a boat launch and campgrounds (707-875-3540, parks.sonomacounty.ca.gov/Get_Outdoors/Parks/Doran_Regional_Park.aspx).
Bodega Head, part of the Sonoma Coast State Park, is a marine reserve and conservation area. It’s also a feeding ground for great white sharks and the place to watch whales migrate (707-875-3483, parks.ca.gov/?page_id=451).
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. Remodeled by famed architect Robert Trent Jones II, the course offers fabulous coastal vistas, daring approach shots, rolling greens, and a memorable trip from tee to green on every hole. Depending on the distance you choose, the course stretches from 4,801 yards (gold tees) to 6,290 yards (black tees). Don’t be fooled by the shorter play: With substantial elevation changes and undulating fairways, it’s a challenge for everyone (707-875-3538, bodegaharbourgolf.com).
After an active day (or not doing much of anything!), there’s nothing more soothing that a visit to the Spa at the lodge. Choose from massages, body treatments, and facials such as the Sonoma Coast Massage, guaranteed to help ease those aching muscles. There’s also a heated pool, hot tub, and sauna (707-875-3525, bodegabaylodge.com/spa).
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 (406-581-4814, bodegabaysecretgardens.com/).
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 them), and clam chowder. We enjoyed the bounty at the picnic tables in front of the tiny 360-square-foot shop as we watched the comings and goings of the fishing boats in the marina (707-875-9472, spudpointcrab.com).
Drakes Sonoma Kitchen 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 they only serve fish that are on the Seafood Watch list (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 omelet is no exception. Eggs, avocado, chorizo, pepper jack cheese, and roasted tomato salsa are served with home-style potatoes. With piping hot Taylor Made 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 sun set and enjoy local fare. Choose from starters like oysters and Dungeness crab cakes or New England-style clam chowder and roasted beet salad. Entrées include pan-roasted wild king salmon with an array of vegetables (peas, carrots, criminis, and more); dry-rubbed grilled Angus rib-eye steak with a sun-dried tomato Cabernet jus; and ricotta, arugula, and sun-dried tomato ravioli. Our Sonoma wine picks included two 2014s: The Radio-Coteau Russian River “Laguna” Pinot Noir and the County Line Russian River Zinfandel. A word of caution: Try not to get filled up on the incredible seeded sourdough bread from Sebastopol’s Village Bakery. For dessert we had the most luscious butterscotch crème brûlée, then strolled back to our room.
Drakes Fireside Lounge serves both casual fare and dining room entrées inside by the fire or outside on the patio by fire pits. Use the binoculars to track the seaside action (707-875-3525, bodegabaylodge.com/dining).
Sonoma County Tourism: sonomacounty.com