Exploring Bodega Bay, California

Bodega Bay
Bodega Bay

Off the coast of Northern California, lies Bodega Bay, a beautiful town and bay, both with the same name.  The rocky, shallow bay and town is about an hour’s drive from Sonoma, about an hour and a half from San Francisco, and will wow you with its amazing views.

Russian settlers first established the town of Bodega Bay in 1809, after searching for the right climate to grow crops for their Alaskan settlements. The bay also became a popular place to hunt otters, and eventually Bodega Bay later found itself in the shipping business, as many lumber manufacturers preferred sailing lumber south rather than finding suitable routes on land. In recent times, Bodega Bay has earned its reputation as a place with fresh, delicious seafood, and a friendly seaside town with small shops, restaurants, and plenty of outdoor activities.

We stopped at the popular Fishetarian Fish Market in Bodega Bay. Fortunately for me, they had vegetarian options, but I heard their fish and chips were amazing! (although a bit on the pricier side)

The town of Bodega Bay has a population of around 1,000 people and sees an influx of tourists throughout the year. Most of the area around the town is rugged, uninhabited, and a large area south of Bodega Bay makes up the Estero de San Antonio State Marine Recreational Management Area.

Bodega Bay
Bodega Harbor and the town of Bodega Bay

Many visitors to Bodega Bay head to Doran Regional Park. This Sonoma County park is a small strip of land that separates Bodega Harbor and Bodega Bay. Doran Regional Park also has a two mile public beach, boat launch, over 100 campsites, and hiking trails. There is a $7 fee to enter. On the day we visited, there were many people fishing from the jetty in Doran Regional Park. We even spotted sea lions in the water, along with plenty of seabirds in the park. (You too, could head out to sea on your very own boat if you pass the CA boating exam.)

Doran Regional Park
A popular fishing spot for Bodega Bay is off the jetty at Doran Regional Park.

But truly the best part of the area was Bodega Head. Bodega Head is a small peninsula of raised land that offers spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean and the entire Bodega Bay area. You can drive to the top of this bluff (it’s an easy, non winding road) to hike around, watch wildlife, or take in the view. On top, the parking is free, there are pit toilets, as well as picnic tables. There is also beach access on Bodega Head at Campbell Cove Beach and near the parking lot at the top. (This is an unnamed beach and has rocky access.)

Bodega Bay

We drove up to Bodega Head and started hiking the loop trail that goes around the top. The hiking is easy as there is no elevation gain or loss, but the trails are not paved. Due to time, we didn’t do the entire loop hike, but it’s about 1.7 miles long. Expect it to take longer than planned if you plan to stop, look around, and take photos.

As someone from the Midwest, I still get awestruck when I see the ocean. The views of Bodega Bay and the Pacific Ocean are just gorgeous from this location.

Interestingly, I learned that the San Andreas Fault is located under the water of Bodega Bay, putting the city and the peninsula of Bodega Head on different tectonic plates. The town of Bodega Bay lies on the North American Plate and Bodega Head lies on the Pacific Plate. As a result, rocks from Bodega Head are igneous (created from magma or lava that cools and solidifies) and those in town are from an oceanic origin and are completely different.

Bodega Bay
Looking south down the California Coast from Bodega Head

Bodega Head is a fantastic location to spot migrating whales in the ocean. Every year during the winter months, people trek out here to try and spot gray whales during their north to south migration. You can also see seals, seabirds, wildflowers, and plenty of sea fig plants. We even saw a small group of deer grazing on the hillside on Bodega Head.

Bodega Head
Sea fig plants cover a lot of the land on Bodega Head
beach california
Natural beach on Bodega Head

Keep in mind that as this is a natural area, there are no protective railings at the edge so keep a close eye on small kids. Expect the environment on Bodega Head to be windy as well, so plan accordingly for picnics and other gatherings.

Bodega Bay
Beach near the parking lot on top of Bodega Head. You can see the path to the beach in the lower center of the photo.

Before we left Bodega Head, we checked out the beach that’s below the parking lot.  There is a “path” to get down to the beach but it is rocky. As the sun was setting, it proved to be a magnificent time to snap a shot of the amazing landscape.

bodega bay

If you’re interested in beaches near Bodega Bay, there is also Bodega Dunes Beach, just a bit north of Bodega Head, which offers a very large beach and campsites.

Unfortunately, I only spent a few hours in Bodega Bay, so it wasn’t enough time to grade it as a destination. However, from what I saw and experienced in the area, I would definitely say it’s a great place to spend a weekend, head out for a hike, and spend some time out in Mother Nature.

Happy Travels!


sources: wikipedia.org, sonomacounty.com

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