Ah, the sea. A few years ago, enjoying a wade through the Dwyryd Estuary at low tide while traveling in northern Wales, I declared that it was high time we planned an ocean-centric trip. While an estuary isn’t technically an ocean (it’s ocean-adjacent), it has that maritime feel to it—you know, briny sea air and noisy seagulls and such—leaving my inner Jacquetta Cousteau all riled up, a feeling that never quite dissipated.
This past June, once we secured the catsit in Santa Rosa, I could finally make good on my threat. Tacking on some seaside time wasn’t even up for discussion—it was going to happen. Thirty minutes’ drive from Santa Rosa, but a world away by feel, Bodega Bay boasts one of the few swimmable beaches in the area (if you dare to brave the cold water) and is a draw for urban escapees from the San Francisco Bay area, as well as the occasional traveler from much further afield.
Sitting atop a “tranquil bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean,” Bodega Bay Lodge was our home for the final four nights of our trip. Early mornings were spent on the balcony listening to the continuous soundtrack of foghorns and sealion grunts, the sources of the littoral chorus obscured by the ghostly, fog-filled marine layer. It was magical.
The fishing village of Bodega Bay hugs the northeast shore of Bodega Harbor. With a population of less than 700, it has a wonderfully low-key vibe. There isn’t a whole lot to do there except explore the striking headlands and beaches, but that was perfect because, with the exception of our final wine tasting and a visit to their weekly farmers market, that was pretty much all we planned to do.
In particular, Bodega Head, that spit of land you see jutting out from the mainland like an elephant’s trunk in the aerial photo above, is a stunning place to explore.
It was also the place where the husband and his cellphone parted ways in a daring escape that would make any Alcatraz prisoner proud. Unable to quell his inner 8-year-old, the husband pranced about in the violent surf, playing a game of Chicken with the crashing waves. During one ungainly sissone/petit jeté/pas de chat combo, his cellphone broke free from his breast pocket and dove to
freedom a watery grave.
Back at the hotel and still bewildered and in shock over the sudden, costly loss (oh no, wait, that was me), the husband engaged my phone’s “track my iphone” feature, the same function he used to locate me when I was lost but not lost in the French Alps. A little map appeared with a tiny circle flashing right where the brazen leap had occurred, but we reasoned that the app was just noting the last place the phone had been seen alive.
The next day, on the husband’s insistence, we returned to the scene of the incident on the incredibly remote chance that the sea had somehow coughed up the toxic interloper, but alas, it was not to be.
Not long after, we hiked to a remote beach full of rock-clinging sea creatures and squishy invertebrates. Here it became clear that the husband had not been chastened in the least. His moves had transformed from clumsy ballet hops into a more elegant triathlete run, but the previous day’s lesson had eluded him.
All this beach exploration, wave taunting, and ignoring of life lessons left us hungry, so we drove to the only “grocery store” (in reality, just a tiny general store) we could find, which was many miles inland. There, we were finally able to pay homage to Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, which, like John Carpenter’s The Fog, was filmed at Bodega Bay.
A few quick words about food, should you be of a mind to visit Bodega Bay yourself: First, you’re going to want to eat at Spud Point Crab Company. Everybody does. It was not crab season when we visited, so we had their clam chowder—New England style for the husband and Manhattan style for me. It was delicious, and I’m an avowed non-liker of clam chowder! But here’s the important point: go early. We essentially had our clam chowder for breakfast. When we drove past Spud Point a little later, about 10:30 am, the line was obnoxiously long.
And second, shops around here, including many restaurants, close up early . . . often by 6pm. That’s not a problem for the us, the King and Queen of Early Bird Specials, but if you prefer your dinners when New Yorkers (or God forbid, Spaniards) do, you’re going to have very few options in an already limited dining scene.
We’d love to return to Bodega Bay one day. In fact, we probably will. The drive back to San Francisco via scenic Highway 1 lived up to the hype and left me with a new Dust-Farm-Pail List goal: drive the entirety of that spectacular route (in chunks). We have several sections left to do, including the one from Bodega Bay to Eureka. Next time, though, we’re coming back during crab season.