The Pacific Coast is an adventurer's playground. There are over 55 miles of absolutely enchanting California shoreline, plus more than 60 state and regional parks in Sonoma County. Add in countless wineries, loads of farm-to-table restaurants, and plenty outdoor adventure around every corner, and you've got a vacation dream come true. This bucolic corner of the Golden State is a world unto itself, and once you visit you may never want to leave. Here are a few of the best ways to experience the adventurous side of Sonoma...
With a population of only 220, many might not look twice at Bodega, California... but the town is chock-full of hidden treasures waiting for you to explore! Make sure to check out the historic Bodega Country Store, where you can shop for Alfred Hitchcock memorabilia ("The Birds" was filmed here) and enjoy a bowl of the store’s famous clam chowder. If your appetite still hasn't been satisfied, make sure to check out Colleen's Coffee Shop, where you can pick up a variety of baked goods and one of their ever-popular iced Mexican mochas! The shop has a great view of the lovely St. Teresa of Avila Church, which was also featured in "The Birds.”
Once you're ready to get your shop on, head over to the Artisan's Co-op, where you can find traditional handmade goods from over fifty local artists. Another must-see is the Northern Lights Surf Shop, which was voted the #1 surf shop in Sonoma County. If you're looking to learn how to hang ten on your adventurous trip to the Cali coast, this is your spot!
Right outside Bodega is Bodega Bay, a seaside town that has tons of adventures waiting. A great place to stay is the Inn at the Tides hotel, where you'll have a beautiful view of the surrounding harbor as well as elegant rooms for a luxurious stay. Once you're ready to leave the comfort of your room, head over to the Pinnacle Gulch Coastal Access Trail for even more gorgeous seaside scenery. The trail is about 2 miles long and takes you through views of hidden rock formations and coves on the way to a quiet beach.
After your hike, you'll definitely be ready for some food. Make sure to check out Patrick's Salt Water Taffy to indulge your sweet tooth. The shop has the best prices in Bodega Bay-- you can get a small bag of taffy for only $1.50!
A popular place for surfing, Doran Regional Park is another place you won't want to miss in Sonoma County. The park has two miles of beach for picnicking and playing in the sand, as well as a boat launch in Bodega Harbor, in case you want to try kitesurfing or paddleboarding. For a more laid-back trip on the water, be sure to check out Spud Point Marina for a whale watching boat tour.
If you're ready for the ultimate adventure, camp out at Doran Regional Park for a night. The park has over 120 tent and RV camping sites available year-round. Reservations can be made in advance on the park’s website. Or just stay next door at the beautiful Bodega Bay Lodge.
Just off the Pacific Coast Highway lies North Salmon Creek Beach. The beach has endless opportunities for watching surfers, or even surfing yourself! The beach is also a great place to look for adorable sea lions and other marine life. Walk along the beach's beautiful sand dunes to discover other narrower beaches that also run along the highway, including Miwok and Coleman Beaches.
For a unique experience, check out the Chanslor Guest Ranch, Stables and Preserve’s horseback rides on the beach. The ranch has 378 acres of coast that allow for an amazing and totally unforgettable trail ride along the shore.
One of the most popular attractions in Sonoma is Sonoma Coast State Park. The park has 17 miles of coastline, with a series of beaches that are separated by beautiful rock formations. The park can be accessed from the Pacific Coast Highway, and on the drive here, you're in for stunning views of natural arches, hidden coves, and beautiful sandy beaches. The park also has great points from which to view gray whales swimming in the water.
If you want to spend the night, stay at Wright's Beach Campground adjacent to the beach. The campground has 27 sites to choose from. They all have fire rings, so remember to bring your s'mores ingredients! Pro Tip: Make your reservation on the website ahead of time, as sites book pretty fast. Jenner Inn and River’s End are great non-camping options with gorgeous ocean views and amazing sunsets.
Fort Ross State Historic Park is one of the oldest parks in California, and it's filled with history and beauty. The park is a great opportunity to learn about California's long and storied past. The fort was established by Russian settlers in 1812, the southernmost of a series of forts the Russians built across North America. It is now home to a variety of activities, including marine conservation projects, as well as a museum display about what it was like to live on a coastal ranch. Timber Cove Resort is a great overnight option in the area.
It is almost impossible to describe Salt Point State Park's beauty. The park contains glittering coves, panoramic ocean views, grasslands and forests, stretching across six miles of coastline. Salt Point has endless opportunities for enjoyment, including hiking, fishing, picnicking and scuba diving.
Perhaps the most popular and unique activity at this park is the ability to go whale and seal watching at Gerstle Cove. Marine life is abundant at the park, and you can also find tons of marine organisms hidden in the tide pools. Remember... look, but don't touch!
Adjacent to Salt Point lies Kruse Rhododendron State Natural Reserve in Jenner. The park was originally part of a ranch from 1880, but is now the site of sprawling redwood and fir forests, and of course, plenty of rhododendrons. These flowers were the result of a natural plant succession following a terrible forest fire, and are a sign of growth and diversity in the park. The reserve has five miles of hiking rails, with a short loop that leads you through clusters of the flowering wooded plants. This park is a beautiful and relaxing way to finish up your journey!
With beautiful views galore, your Pacific Coast trip will be full of opportunities for unforgettable adventure. Spend your days hiking along the coast, cruising the ocean looking for wildlife, surfing killer waves, and enjoying the laid back culture. Then fall asleep to the sound of the ocean in a tent on the beach. It really doesn't get any better than that!
Sonoma County offers an authentic Northern California experience: world-class wine region, miles of breathtaking Pacific coastline, towering redwood forests and over 60 state and regional parks. Unique adventures await. Enjoy farm-to-table dining, stunning sunsets and wine country lifestyle.