With the near-perfect weather that spans Northern California spring through early winter, it’s always a good time to head to the great outdoors. Little is more thrilling than the coast, with its endless stretches of quiet beaches, towering bluffs, peaceful bays and thundering waves. Here are some suggestions on where to enjoy to the fullest:
Just north of Bodega Bay, this is one of the most easily accessible sandy beaches tucked amid the cliffs. The partial cove is also a superb area for wildlife watching, where the Russian River meets the sea. Hike the trails around the high surrounding cliffs to watch migrating gray whales, or claim a prime perch on the beach, which is home to a colony of frolicking harbor seals.
Ocean air stirs the appetite, and this bistro is a charming roadside retreat for a casual meal and a hot cup of coffee, plus there is often live music to keep your toes tapping. The deck overlooks the water, with its resident ducks, pelicans, otters, seagulls and more. During seal pupping season, you’ll usually see the playful animals as they poke their curious heads out of the water. Soaking up the sun in such a spectacular setting makes the simple fare all the more delicious, too. Go for gooey grilled cheese, a steaming bowl of made-fresh-daily clam chowder, tempting breakfast pastries, cookies still warm from the oven, clam chowder, salmon melts, and overstuffed burritos.
10439 Hwy. 1, Jenner, 707-865-2251, cafeaquatica.com.
Wine Tasting of Sonoma County
Take a quick drive a few minutes east from the ocean to this quaint wonderland of fine wines from family owned Sonoma producers. Specialties include small production wines (often the personal picks of the winemakers), limited new releases, and fun, fanciful bottles. Check out the “cult” secrets of highly allocated wines such as Merry Edwards, Rochioli and Williams Selyem. Enjoy your wine and cheese on the deck, or by the fire with a game of backgammon, then pick up some artisan groceries to go, like sea salts, olive oils, chocolates and mustards.
25179 California 116, Duncan Mills, 707-865-0565, winetastingofsonoma.com.
Owner Suki Waters is a local Native American descendant, guide and kayak instructor, specializing in wildlife, Sonoma history and ecology tours. From beginner boaters to skilled sports enthusiasts, there’s an adventure for all, staged along the amazing coast. Explore the quiet estuary or tackle the dancing sea, and keep your eyes peeled for area residents like sea lions, harbor seals, otters, birds and maybe even a whale.
Doran Beach Regional Park
Fido will adore you even more than he already does. This two-mile stretch of sandy beach is quiet, secluded, and dog friendly (leashed, please, for the abundant wildlife). Protected by the bay, the water is calm, perfect for dipping toes, and there’s a rock jetty at the harbor mouth for fishing and crabbing under gentle wind-scudded clouds dancing across the sky. Bring your picnic basket, your camping gear, and even your boat.
201 Doran Beach Road, Bodega Bay, sonoma-county.org/parks/pk_doran.htm.
Right at the curve around the northern Bodega bend, you’ll see bustles of people year-round, converging on a tiny little shack on the side of the road. That’s because The Boathouse serves some of the freshest, most delicious seafood anywhere, from the Dungeness crab cake sandwich, to the briny oysters, to the legendary fish-n-chips made with rock cod the restaurant owners catch themselves. It’s so popular that getting a table can be difficult. Here’s the trick. Place your order at the counter, get it to-go, then clamber back in your car and head to the beach for an al fresco feast. Just beware the seagulls - they’re not shy about dive-bombing to steal those delicious chips.
1445 N. Hwy. 1, Bodega Bay, 707-875-3495.
Local Color Gallery
It doesn’t get more inspired than this collection of gorgeous art, designed by established Sonoma County artists as well as emerging local talent. Pieces showcase the beautiful coastal village and waters of Bodega Bay, in charming original paintings, fine prints and photography, plus luminous fused glass, decorative pottery and turned wood alongside handcrafted jewelry and hand-painted scarves.
1580 Eastshore Road, Bodega Bay, 707-875-2744, localcolorgallery.com.
When you see the big, gentle eyes of this fine herd of horses, you know the creatures are well loved. Combine happy animals with stunning open range, vistas, cliffs and beaches, and you know you’re in for a one-of-a-kind encounter. There are ocean view, trail, and dazzling sunset rides, all as relaxing or exhilarating as your experience level allows. Ask about river rides, too, for viewing the magnificent bobcat, fox, red tail hawks and many species of waterfowl that can be seen along the rivers and creeks of Sonoma County.
Tip: One of the best ways to explore the coast is on an all-day adventure, where you don’t have to drive the often-winding seaside roads. Reserve your Pure Luxury Transportation Town Car or limo, and we’ll even pack it with your favorite wine to sip and savor!