Bodega Bay, a sleepy fishing village about two hours north of San Francisco, is well known among movie buffs as the filming location for the Alfred Hitchcock classic The Birds. But this coastal enclave also makes for a great getaway for active types, with excellent kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding, hiking, and even rock-climbing – with uber-fresh seafood as a reward. RootsRated offers suggestions for adventure (that doesn’t involve running from murderous winged wildlife).
Friday, 3 p.m:
Savor the views of the rugged coast up California 1, one of the country’s most scenic highways, on your way to Bodega Bay. Depending on traffic, the route takes a little longer than U.S. 101, but it's plenty more photo-worthy. Stop at the Point Reyes National Seashore and stretch your legs with a half-mile walk from the parking lot to the lighthouse, which is located at the base of a series of 300 steps – the equivalent of 30 stories. History buffs won’t want to miss a peek into the lighthouse’s lens room, which houses the circa-1870 original clockworks and first-order Fresnel lens.
Saturday, 9 a.m:
Start your day with a paddle around the wildlife-rich waters of Bodega Bay. At Bodega Bay Kayak , owner Bob Miller will point you in the right direction depending on skill level and interests, from 2½-hour guided tours ideal for novice paddlers to four- or eight-hour self-guided ventures suited for experienced kayakers. Choose from several routes, keep an eye out for wildlife including sea lions, harbor seals, bat rays, leopard sharks, and osprey, and pack a lunch to enjoy while savoring the solitude.
Miller’s shop, which has been operating in Bodega Bay for more than 12 years, also rents stand-up paddleboards (wetsuits and booties are included). Other thoughtful extras include waterproof phone cases and dry bags.
Bringing your own kayak? Be sure to get your paddle in before 2 p.m., as wind and fog can whip up in the afternoon.
Queue up for lip-smackingly superb clam chowder and crab sandwiches at Spud Point Crab Company, which has a cult following among locals and savvy visitors. If the restaurant’s picnic tables are full (and on weekends, they’ll likely be), grab your grub and head across the street to one of the benches near the boat docks. And trust us on this: You’ll definitely want your own pint of clam chowder, an award-winning concoction of fresh clams, potatoes, and just a hint of heat that, as the sign warns, is indeed addictive.
Walk off lunch with an easy hike at nearby Bodega Head, a wild bluff with several trail options that deliver spectacular views of the Pacific. Parking is easy and usually available, and windswept trails weave all over the area – watch your step, as there are no guard rails and some seriously steep drops to the cliffs below. (If you’re traveling with the family, this is one spot that’s not advisable for little ones, unless you plan on putting them in a harness).
During the winter, Bodega Head is popular with whale watchers – bring binoculars to spot spouts from the higher trails. Bird watching is popular, too: The area has been named by the National Audubon Society as one of the nation’s top birding spots (but it’s unknown exactly how many visitors come in search of the horrifying, Hitchcockian kind).
Later in the day, savor the sunset at Gourmet Au Bay , a cozy wine bar right on the water. The clever Wine Surf is a surfboard-shaped tray that holds your choice of three daily wine selections, which are all small-production and rank 90 points or better. There’s also Lagunitas on tap and California cheeses. The deck is perfect for al fresco sipping – it offers an open-air section and an enclosed spot for bad weather. Grab a bottle of wine on your way out – several local restaurants offer a no corkage fee for wine purchased from the shop.
Hop in the car and head north from Bodega Bay along California 1, which runs alongside the 17 miles of spectacular shoreline of Sonoma Coast State Park . The park, which starts at Bodega Head, runs past the tiny coastal town of Jenner, and you can take your pick of dozens of spots along the way for beach access. Some highlights: Goat Rock Beach, which has a colony of harbor seals (and was a filming site for the 1980s fan favorite The Goonies ), and Shell Beach, which is aptly named for its abundance of seashells.
Another point of interest for rock climbers: at Goat Rock State Park, there are several spots, including the Sunset Boulders, that offer great top-rope routes.