The Sonoma Coast is a magical spot in the winter, and beckons with seasonal activities from succulent crab feasts in Bodega Bay, to exhilarating seaside hikes in Sonoma Coast State Park. And did you know, during the winter, this stretch of the Northern California coast is often very mild and temperate – surprisingly sunny and warm even when more inland areas might be chilly.
The thundering crash of the waves. The velvet gray clouds, sparked with brilliant shards of gold as the sun streams through. Oh, the invigorating nip of the air, fragrant with sea salt! For another treat, fewer tourists have discovered these secrets this time of year, meaning more solitude to explore.
Take in the Gallery Scene: Bodega Bay brims with beautiful art salons and shops, from local talent capturing the dramatic landscapes in paint, sculpture, glass, and even whimsical kites. Stop in the shops in the tiny town of Bodega on your way to the coast, and then again in the central town by the Bay, and browse to your heart’s content for everything from early California impressionistic portraits, to photography, to turned wood, and frothy, colorful scarves.
Take a Hike: Work up an appetite on the easy Bodega Head hiking trail that edges three miles around the headlands, or a one-mile path to-and-from the overlook. You’ll be rewarded with spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean, Bodega Harbor, and the town itself. To get there: Take coastal Highway 1, just past the town of Bodega Bay. Turn left on Eastshore Rd., then right on Bay Flat Road. Go around the harbor and turn right at Campbell Cove, then head uphill, bearing right at the fork for the free parking lot by the cliff.
Get Crabby: The Tides Wharf was made famous in the early 1960′s as the backdrop for scenes of Alfred Hitchcock’s film classic, “The Birds.” But locals flock to the Bodega Bay-front restaurant tucked in the lovely Inn at the Tides resort for its delicious crab feeds, offered only when the fishermen are bringing in their fresh catch through winter. The reservations-only meals are served on select Fridays from December through March, and are often quickly sold out. It’s a mouthwatering feast of briny-sweet, chilled Dungeness crab served with cocktail sauce, drawn butter and the Tides’ own mustard sauce, clam chowder, linguine, green salad and fresh-baked French bread. Get a seat near the windows over looking the water, and keep an eye peeled – that boat out there might be the very one that brought in your dinner. In at the Tides, 835 Coast Highway One, Bodega Bay, 707-875-3652, innatthetides.com.
Stay the Night: Special “crab packages” are available for overnight guests at the Inn at the Tides. Another favorite hideaway is the Bodega Bay Lodge, so romantic and serene on its seaside perch. As the only AAA Four Diamond hotel on the Sonoma Coast, it offers a luxury escape, in rooms outfitted with real fireplaces, warm, snuggly down comforters, and private balconies for stargazing. Bodega Bay Lodge,103 Coast Highway One, Bodega Bay, 888-875-2250, bodegabaylodge.com.