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Guys Getaway: Outdoor Adventures Itinerary

Bodega Bay

Guys’ getaways are all the rage for the modern gentleman, and one of the best places for some top-quality male bonding time is, you guessed, it, Sonoma County, California. Also, this is the perfect trip for a long Father's Day weekend.

Why? Because with one million-plus acres to explore from ocean to mountains, there are endless opportunities for macho outdoor activities like kayaking, hiking, zip lining, and fishing. Sonoma County is known for its wines, certainly, but is also home to many world-class beer breweries. And did someone say golf?

Even the most manly men appreciate food, glorious food, of course, and the Wine Country region thrills with everything from oysters for slurping, hearty steaks, and a delightful find of gourmet cuisine in a pool hall tavern in the tiny rural town of Bodega.

So get your motor running, take our tips for a three-day adventure, and solidify that brotherly love with your best pals.

Written by Sonoma Insider Carey Sweet.

Bodega Bay and Fishing on the Sonoma Coast

Gear up for serious fun with a filling breakfast at The Tides Wharf Restaurant & Bar in Bodega Bay (800 Highway 1, Bodega Bay). Known as the backdrop for scary scenes in Alfred Hitchcock's horror classic, The Birds, this oceanfront eatery takes on the most aggressive appetites, bringing butter-drenched breakfasts of grilled snapper, eggs, and hash browns; a monster Hangtown Fry of fried oysters, eggs, and bacon; or a juicy steak with three eggs and home fries.

This coastal town is home to wonderful hiking trails, and one of the most invigorating is the 17-mile path of rugged coastline that stretches north from Bodega Head at the mouth of Bodega Bay to a few miles beyond Jenner. Put that breakfast fuel to use and explore a mixed landscape of natural arches, secluded coves, bluff-top views and pristine beaches, enjoying the cool ocean breezes and morning fog that burns off to gentle sun by midday.

During whale migration season (January through May, but still visible during much of the year), the Ocean Overlook at Bodega Head is prime for watching gray and blue whales traveling south from the Chukchi Sea near Alaska and down to Baja California for winter, then back north for the summer feeding season. Just drive one mile north from the Visitors Center located on Highway 1, turn left onto Eastshore Road, then right onto Bay Flat/Westshore Road. Drive three miles, and take the right fork to the Ocean Overlook.

You’ve packed water and snacks like nuts and jerky (don’t forget Sonoma’s own Krave Jerky), of course, but hiking stirs a man’s appetite for real grub. There’s a great lunch to be had at Boat House (1445 N. Highway 1, Bodega Bay), where owner Capt. Rick Powers’ schooner hauls in seafood straight from the water. Then, his cooks craft the catch into buttery Dungeness crab cake sandwiches, meaty fish-n-chips, briny oysters, and breaded clam strips to eat at indoor or outdoor tables overlooking the bay.

You can catch your own, too, through the Bodega Bay Sport Fishing Center (1410 B Bay Flat Road, Bodega Bay), as Capt. Powers charters hunts for crab, salmon, albacore tuna, cod, and Humboldt giant squid from his New Sea Angler, a 12-person, 65-foot vessel. Depending on how many guys are in your group, other boats are available for groups of six, too, running spring through fall.

While wine grapes may not grow on the rock cliffs that line the Pacific Coast of Bodega Bay, a visit still should include wine. Specifically, at Gourmet au Bay (1412 Bay Flat Road, Bodega Bay), where the theme is “wine surfing,” as guests choose three wines from daily curated menu, and receive two-ounce pours placed on a little wooden surfboard. The Sonoma County-only, 1,000-cases-or-less boutique wines can be sipped indoors or outdoors, and paired with appetizers, soups, seafood, and flatbreads from the wood-fired oven. The bar also offers three local beers on tap.

Next, head to your accommodations for the night — the Bodega Dunes Campground (3095 Highway 1, Bodega Bay). Check in is at 2 p.m., and each campsite may have up to eight guests, with reservations strongly recommended (or call 800-444-7275). Or try the close by Doran Regional Park.

Sure, you’re roughing it some, but fire pits await firewood purchased from the park rangers, and your portable cook stove is perfect for warming coffee (or hot toddies). On-site hot showers and multiple restrooms with electrical outlets are available, and you can park your car right near your tents. And it’s sure hard to beat the beautiful ocean and dune views, the shady canopies of trees, and the well-spaced sites that offer seclusion.

Clean up after being on the boat all afternoon and catch dinner at Terrapin Creek Café (1580 Eastshore Road, Bodega Bay), one of Sonoma County’s Michelin-starred restaurant. Don’t let the innocuous shopping center location deter you; open the doors and you’re transported to a friendly, welcoming atmosphere. And once you taste the food, you’ll know why Michelin hung a star over the door. It’s hard to recommend an appetizer (purée of green garlic soup) or dish (pan roasted Alaskan halibut or Liberty Farms duck breast) because the menu changes in order to use the best local and seasonal produce and meats.

Lodging alternatives: If roughing it is a little too, well, rough, check in at Bodega Bay Inn (1588 Eastshore Road, Bodega Bay). The arts have a place at the small, seven-room inn. There’s been an art gallery here since the 1970s and the gardens are filled with sculptures, as well as a firepit. To get some “outdoorsy” feel, open the windows and listen to the sound of the foghorn from the bay.

At Bodega Harbor Inn (1345 Bodega Ave. Bodega Bay), choose from 14 rooms at the inn or rent one of the charming cottages available. Centrally located in Bodega Bay and perched on the bluffs overlooking beautiful Bodega harbor, enjoy panoramic views of the bay and headlands.

This is a great place to relax after a day of hiking and fishing. Or try Bodega Bay Lodge (see photo above left), Inn at the Tides and more Bodega Bay hotels.

A Round of Golf and then off to Microbreweries in Sebastopol

Rise with the sun and stretch, boil up some hot coffee on the cook stove, then take a stroll on the beach. Break your fast Sonoma Coast style, with some of the best clam chowder you’ll ever have. Spud Point Crab Company (1910 Westshore Road, Bodega Bay), which opens at 9 a.m., does offer coffee and sweet rolls to visitors and fishing crews, but the reason to go is always the best-ever clam chowder. And the crab sandwich; but mainly, the chowder.

If golf is your game, there’s a morning of thrill awaiting you at The Links at Bodega Harbour (21301 Heron Dr., Bodega Bay), where tee times are welcomed from 7 a.m. up to 5 p.m. in the longer daylight hours of spring through late fall. Just be warned, it may be hard to keep your eyes on the ball, since all 18 holes on the Scottish style links course offer spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean, with rolling fairways, undulating greens, and native coastal rough to up the challenge. Here is a list of golf courses in Sonoma County.

Fuel up for lunch at the club’s Bluewater Bistro (21301 Heron Dr., Bodega Bay). Fresh-off-the-boat seafood, local meats, and produce make this a perfect lunch spot. Tables overlook the course and the coastline. Choose from flavorful salads to hearty plates like a pulled pork sandwich or fish tacos.

Sonoma County’s “beer” star is on the rise. Microbreweries, brew pubs, and tap rooms have popped up all over the area. Explore the beer side of Wine Country with a customized tour, courtesy of North Bay Brewery Tours (707-602-7397). They will design a custom itinerary and take you to see regional favorite Lagunitas, as well as some lesser known — but equally delicious — places such as Russian River Brewing, Stumptown, Old Redwood, Bear Republic, Third Street Aleworks, Woodfour, or Carneros Brewing.

Have the pick-up/drop-off point at your Sebastopol hotel. Finish your beer adventure with more beers and perhaps a bite to eat at HopMonk Tavern (230 Petaluma Ave., Sebastopol) across from The Barlow. With an enormous array of micro-brewed drafts and bottles plus private label suds, this boisterous bar, beer garden, and live music venue offers one of the largest selections anywhere. The Reuben sandwich, by the way, is worth toasting, too.

Sebastopol boasts several great lodging options. Sebastopol Inn (6751 Sebastopol Ave., Sebastopol) offers a B&B vibe, but the comfort and privacy of a boutique hotel. Just across from Sebastopol’s Barlow, it’s a great place to settle down for the night.

Fairfield Inn and Suites Sebastopol (1101 Gravenstein Highway South, Sebastopol) offers the convenience of a brand hotel (Marriott points) a short distance to the Barlow and other Sebastopol amenities.

Redwoods and Russian River Adventures

There’s no rush, but your rumbling stomach will direct you to eventually check out, load back into the car and head west to Occidental. There, Howard Station Café (611 Bohemian Highway, Occidental) is legendary for breakfast, tucked in a historic Victorian home and rail station stop of the late 1800s.

As a tribute to its Sonoma County setting, most ingredients are local, seasonal favorites like the wild smoked salmon omelet Florentine with tomatoes, capers, cream cheese, and hollandaise, or the huevos rancheros with homemade refried beans. Be sure to get a side of buttermilk biscuits smothered in thick and creamy sausage gravy, order a pomegranate mimosa, and remember to bring cash, since credit cards are not accepted.

Just don’t fill up too much, since your next stop is zip lining at Sonoma Canopy Tours (6250 Bohemian Highway, Occidental), where you’ll devour a 2-1/2 half hour guided eco tour that includes seven zip lines, two sky bridges, a majestic spiral staircase, a rappel to the forest floor, and hiking through the world famous California Coastal Redwoods.

If you’d like your adventure with a little less altitude, head to Guerneville for a hike through Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve (17000 Armstrong Woods Road, Guerneville). Or splash down in the Russian River with a kayak or canoe, courtesy of Burke’s Canoe Trips (8600 River Road, Forestville).

A light lunch will fill in the gaps, so stop to pick up a picnic at Wild Flour Bread (140 Bohemian Highway, Freestone) in the neighboring village of Freestone. Bread master Jed Wallach churns out a dozen different kinds of organic, sourdough-based breads daily along with whipping crème scones, sticky buns, cheese fougasse, goat cheese flat bread, the Bohemian loaf (apricot, orange and pecan), the Egyptian loaf (pear, fig and candied ginger), and biscotti.

Grab some cheese and charcuterie, too, at Freestone Artisan Cheese (380 Bohemian Highway, Freestone), where owner Omar Mueller sells local but-off-the-radar stars, such as Bohemian Creamery of Sebastopol, from his petite store set in an 1880s redwood cottage.

A visit to Joseph Phelps Winery tasting room (12747 El Camino Bodega, Freestone) nearby is a must for flights of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and more, in a bucolic salon that mixes countryside with chic. 

Tired yet? Perhaps it’s time for some pampering, and Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary (209 Bohemian Highway, Freestone) offers sumptuous treatments in the middle of a Japanese garden. There’s even an ancient truck on-site, overgrown with weeds, to keep it masculine. But the real draw is the bath, in two large side-by-side wooden tubs filled with finely ground cedar, rice bran and plant enzymes imported from Japan. Guests “ferment” in the naturally occurring heat, and after they’re happily cooked, they can retreat to a private creek-side pagoda for deep tissue massages.

If you’ve got energy left for a full dinner, The Union Hotel at Occidental Restaurant (3731 Main St., Occidental) is a fine choice for filling Italian, served family style in he-man portions. It’s been a favorite destination since the early 1900s, famous for its buttery garlic bread by the loaf, homemade ravioli, baked lasagna, and chicken parmesan casserole baked with sourdough bread crumbs. For a lighter meal and a good, stiff cocktail, the old-style saloon next door keeps it friendly with ice cold beer, pizza, seasonal crab cioppino, and burgers.

This is a nice place to lay your head for the night, as well — the Union is no longer actually a hotel, but overnight R.V. parking is available with dinner purchase, or guest cottages can be reserved, like the stylish log cabin Bungalow amid the redwoods. The Occidental Hotel (3610 Bohemian Highway, Occidental) is another charming option, done in wood shake and stone on a redwood dotted hillside. The guys can get their TV fix with in-room flat screens, and kick back in the seasonal swimming pool with a nightcap.

And if you already made your way to Guerneville in the afternoon, you might want to check into Applewood Inn, Dawn Ranch Lodge, Russian River Vacation Homes or another hotel in Guerneville.

Extend Your Stay: Wineries, Hot Rods and Racing

Stay an extra day or two for some high-octane action at Simraceway Performance Driving Center’s Audi sportscar experience (29359 Arnold Drive, Sonoma). The experience includes classroom and driving instruction from professional racing drivers who have expert knowledge.

If you want to add a manly element, but not on the track, The High Octane 2 Hour Tour is an ultra-macho, speedy way to explore rural wineries like Bella Wine Caves, Hartford Court Family Winery, and the Family Wineries Cooperative in the Dry Creek Valley where you can taste wines and olive oils while viewing a vintage truck collection.

Wine Country Hot Rods (707-480-7637) in Healdsburg, allows you to jump into a collector quality muscle car like a hot orange 1969 Firebird convertible outfitted with a tunnel ram and two carburetors jutting out of her hood.

Find more info about how to get to Sonoma County by air or car.

Written by Sonoma Insider Carey Sweet