(Courtesy of Fort Ross Vineyards & Winery)

Ocean Views for Days: A Modern Guide to the Sonoma Coast

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The Sonoma Coast is not made for sunbathing, but you can eat all the crab and become one with nature along 55 miles of gorgeous, rugged coastline.

Just make sure you pack layers.


Hikes + Beaches on the Sonoma Coast

(c1.staticflickr.com)

Hiking

There's no shortage of hiking trails on the Sonoma Coast that wind through redwood forests and along ocean cliffs. Bodega Head (Westshore Road, Bodega Bay) is one of the heaviest-trafficked spots for a quick and easy jaunt paired with panoramic ocean views. Take either the roughly 1.5-mile Bodega Head Trail loop or the three-mile overlook trail. // Salt Point State Park (25050 California 1, Jenner) offers 20 miles of hiking trails, including eight miles of coastline, a pygmy forest, and an underwater park made up of lively tide pools. During the rainy season, catch the Phillips Gulch beach waterfall. // Sonoma Coast State Park (CA-1, Bodega Bay) stretches 17 miles up the coast from Bodega Bay to Jenner. The Kortum Trail is an easy 3.5 miles, while the Pomo Canyon Red Hill Trail will get your heart rate up along a 6-mile trek. // If you're willing to head farther north, Sea Ranch is home to the area's most undiscovered hiking paths. The six Sea Ranch Coastal Access Trails are all under two miles, but each leads to a quiet stretch of sand.

The best time to hike is during the spring, when many of these trails are spectacularly transformed by wildflowers. Wherever you're headed, pack your binoculars and keep an eye out for whale tails and spouts and seals snoozing on the rocks. Goat Rock Beach (Highway 1 and Goat Rock Rd., Jenner) is a hot bed for seal activity, but if you want to get even closer, rent a kayak or stand-up paddle board from Bodega Bay Kayak.

Beach Combing

Sonoma Coast is dotted with beaches and coves along 55 miles of coastline. The two-mile long Doran Beach (201 Doran Beach Road, Bodega Bay) is the most popular stop for tourists, while Salmon Creek (3095 CA-1, Bodega Bay) is much quieter and frequented by surfers. But really, all you have to do is pull over to discover your own slice of sand. Just make sure it's not private property.

Where to Eat & Drink Along the Sonoma Coast

(Courtesy of Rocker Oyterfeller's)

Wine Tasting

Most Sonoma Coast wineries are situated inland, but there are a few, and they come with views. Fort Ross Vineyard (15725 Meyers Grade Road, Jenner) takes some effort to get to, but at the end of a windy, wooded drive is a spectacular terrace from which you can practically taste the sea. They specialize in pinot noir and chardonnay that they grow only a few miles from the Pacific, but also produce a varietal that you'll be hard pressed to find anywhere else; Pinotage, grown mostly in South Africa, is bigger and bolder than any Napa cab you've tasted. // Located right in town in Bodega Bay, the Sonoma Coast Vineyards tasting room (555 CA-1, Bodega Bay) is simple and understated, but that's because it's all about the ocean views from their picture windows (if you go in wintertime, you can catch the sunset at the end of the day). The winery produces the usual chardonnay and pinot noir that the Sonoma Coast is known for, but also a sauvignon blanc and sparkling wine.


Meals

Get your seafood fix at hyper-local shacks Spud Point Crab Company (1910 Westshore Road, Bodega Bay) and Fisherman's Cove (1850 Bay Flat Rd., Bodega Bay). Bodega Bay is especially known for its crab and clam chowder—they literally have an annual Clam Chowder Day, where local eateries compete for title of Best Chowder—so you can't go wrong with either order anywhere you go. // Rocker Oysterfeller's (14415 Highway OneValley Ford) serves up Tomales Bay oysters five ways, including The Rocker Oysterfeller, their twist on the Oysters Rockefeller featuring arugula, bacon, cream cheese, and cornbread crust. Wash them down with a classic Rocktail. // Or, go Wine Surfing at Bodega Bay classic, Gourmet au Bay (1412 Bay Flat Rd, Bodega Bay). Much less adventurous than it sounds, Wine Surfing entails selecting a flight of three wines, presented in a wooden surfboard. Pair them with a Clamtastic flatbread (chopped clams, smoked bacon, garlic, olive oil, parsley, Pecorino Romano, Parmesan), oysters, or a crab sandwich and grab a few local bottles at the wine shop on your way out. You'll be glad you have them at your room later, for there's no nightlife here. // Most Sonoma coastal dining is super casual, but if you're seeking more of a fine dining experience complete with ocean views, check out River's End (1048 Highwy 1, Jenner). Four words: Dungeness Crab tasting menu.

Where to Stay on the Sonoma Coast

(Courtesy of Chanslor Ranch)

Timber Cove Resort

Snag an oceanview suite—trust us, you'll be bummed if you're looking out at the parking lot come sunset—at the hippy-chic Timber Cove Resort. There's not much to do in its vicinity, but the recently renovated, Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired, 1960s lodge has plenty to keep you busy and off your cell phone, from the Coast Kitchen restaurant and lobby bar to on-site hiking trails, communal fire pits, games (analog board games, billiards, ping pong, and more), in-room record players, and Saturday morning Yoga classes. Timber Cove is also kid and dog friendly. Book your room through Kind Traveler to unlock special rates and a $10/night donation will be made to Russian Riverkeeper, which supports the conservation and protection of the nearby Russian River. // Rates start at $239/night; Timber Cove Resort, 21780 North Coast Highway 1 (Jenner), timbercoveresort.com

Bodega Bay Lodge

Don't let the word "lodge" fool you, this is actually a luxury resort. Bodega Bay Lodge offers cozy and contemporary rooms with a private balcony or patio (and completed a major update in 2018). Set on the edge of the quiet and peaceful bay, simply relax and watch the fishing boats journey out to sea. While you may take some time to explore downtown Bodega Bay (grab a free electric cruiser from the lobby) or walk a nearby beach, we suggest taking full advantage of the resort's amenities: a full-service spa—get the Warm Shell Massage featuring actual seashells—and infinity hot tub, the best spot for soaking in the sunset, literally. Reserve a table at Drakes Sonoma and enjoy a romantic seafood dinner just steps from your room, or keep it casual at the Fireside Lounge. The lounge menu features only Sonoma County wines and beers, craft cocktails, and bites, like Dungeness Crab mac-n-cheese. // Rates start at $289/night; Bodega Bay Lodge, 103 CA-1 (Bodega Bay), bodegabaylodge.com

Chanslor Ranch

This 400-acre nature preserve and working horse ranch offers many ways to stay. Choose from luxury glamping tents, airstreams, and our favorite option: tipis. Accessed via a 1-2 mile hike, The Miwok Tipi Village is truly a one-of-a-kind experience; aiming for authenticity over luxury, each tent is equipped with a few cots and an indoor fire pit, plus each site has an outdoor fire ring and picnic table. You can also book a room in the ranch house or bring your own tent and park it at one of their campsites. Chanslor Ranch also boasts miles of hiking and biking trails and leads guided horseback rides along the coast. // 2660 Hightway 1 (Bodega Bay), chanslor.com

Camping

During warmer months—keep in mind that warm on the Sonoma Coast is 65 during the day—beach campsites can be reserved at spots like Doran Beach (they have the most sites available) and Bodega Dunes in Bodega Bay or Stillwater Cove and Gualala Point further up the coast.

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