The Best Places to Stop Along Highway 1 in Sonoma County

The longest state route in California, Highway 1 lines the Sonoma Coast along the Pacific Ocean for 56 miles, passing through Bodega Bay, Jenner, Fort Ross and other spectacular and charming spots for a stroll, a meal, some wine or simply taking in the views. Read on below to learn about our favorite stops on a classic Highway 1 road trip along the Sonoma Coast.

Estero Cafe in Valley Ford, California
Photo courtesy of Estero Cafe

Estero CafeApproaching Bodega Bay from the south on Highway 1, make a pit stop in Valley Ford for coffee (or a tasty breakfast burrito) at the Estero Cafe. And for the road, grab a brown paper bag of the homemade teriyaki beef jerky next door at the Valley Ford Market—it’s kind of famous in these parts. 14450 CA-1, Valley Ford, 707-876-3333.

Saint Teresa of Avila Catholic Church in Bodega, California

 

Saint Teresa of Avila Church: Just north of Highway 1, in the town of Bodega, you’ll find this New England-style white wooden church, captured in Ansel Adams’s 1953 black-and-white photograph “Church and Road” and, ten years later, in Alfred Hitchcock’s film “The Birds.” The church, built in 1862, is the oldest Catholic church in continuous use in Sonoma County. 17242 Bodega Hwy, Bodega.

Doran Beach at Doran Regional Park

 

Doran Beach: Coming out of a steep ravine as you roll into Bodega Bay, turn left on Doran Beach Road and wind down to the 2-mile spit that stretches into Doran Beach at Doran Regional Park ($7 parking fee). It’s a great place to picnic, explore the beach, and watch surfers and fishing boats come and go through the harbor. 201 Doran Beach Road, Bodega Bay.

Sonoma Coast Vineyards wine beside the Pacific Ocean
Photo courtesy of Sonoma Coast Vineyards

Sonoma Coast Vineyards: As you enter Bodega Bay,  Sonoma Coast Vineyards, specializing in limited production pinot noir and chardonnay, is on the left. On a sunny day, the back patio is a cheese-plate picnic perch for watching snowy egrets that like to roost in trees along the eastern edge of the bay. The winery has just released an excellent 2020 rosĂ©. 555 CA-1, Bodega Bay, 707-921-2860. 

Oysters from Fishetarian Fish Market
Photo courtesy of Fishetarian Fish Market

Fishetarian Fish Market: Just north of Sonoma Coast Vineyards, Fishetarian serves up excellent seafood — oysters, chowder, crab sandwiches, grilled fish tacos, fish and chips, and more — that can be ordered online for pickup and devoured by picnic tables overlooking the bay. Or bring your picnic to the beach. Doran Beach is nearby, or drive further north to Salmon Creek or Goat Rock Beach. 599 Hwy. 1, Bodega Bay, 707-875-9092. 

Patrick’s Salt Water Taffy: The pink and white stripes that adorn this building (and serve as backdrop for many photos) aren’t even half as fun as what’s on the inside. This Bodega Bay candy store is currently open for pick-up and in-store shopping (with masks and limited capacity). Grab a bag of salt water taffy for the road, whether it’s chocolate caramel mocha, peach, or another of the countless flavors available. 915 Hwy. 1, Bodega Bay, 707-875-9816.

Crab sandwich from Ginochio's Kitchen - photo by Heather Irwin
Photo by Heather Irwin 

Ginochio’s Kitchen: Just north, at Ginochio’s Kitchen, order our dining editor’s favorite crab sandwich, served on buttery, griddled slices of white bread. The chowder is one of the best on the coast, with soft scallops and clams dotted throughout. Plus, they have some great wines, beer and cider that are hard to find elsewhere. 1410 Bay Flat Road, Bodega Bay, 707-377-4359

Seafood platter at Fisherman's Cove in Bodega Bay
Barbecue oysters and clam chowder at Fisherman’s Cove in Bodega Bay

Two Spots to Get Your Chowder and Crab Sando: A 5-minute drive from Highway 1, you’ll find the best clam chowder on the coast at Spud Point Crab Company (1910 Westshore Road), owned by crabber Tony Anello and his wife, Carol. Next door Fisherman’s Cove (1850 Bay Flat Road) is another favorite. Try the crab sandwich on toasted ciabatta or the barbecue oysters. 

Bodega Head in Sonoma Coast State Park

 

Bodega Head: This stop along the Sonoma Coast has it all—exceptional views, plenty of space to stroll around and a beach. There’s a short trail, a little less than two miles long, which is easy to follow and offers panoramic views. Or, take the short path down to the beach area with sand and space to hang out (just be mindful of sneaker waves). Plus, parking is free!

South Salmon Creek Beach on the Sonoma Coast

 

Salmon Creek Beach: One of the best places to watch surfers around Bodega Bay is at Salmon Creek State Beach, along Highway 1 north of town. The parking lot at the end of Bean Avenue (on your right off Highway 1) often fills up on busy days. About a quarter mile up the road, you can park in another lot along the bluffs overlooking the ocean, and take the stairs down to the beach and lagoon where tiny Salmon Creek trickles into the Pacific.

Cafe Aquatica in Jenner, California
Photo courtesy of Cafe Aquatica

Cafe AquaticaPerched on a rocky knoll just above the Russian River estuary, this casual beach shack is an insider’s secret. Not only does the café micro-roast its own coffee (with excellent pour-overs), but also makes its own soups, breads and other baked goods using organic and non-GMO ingredients each morning. The food is ridiculously good, especially when you’re sitting outside watching paddleboarders float by. Live music on weekends. California 1 10439, Jenner, 707-865-2251.

Jenner Headlands Preserve

Jenner Headlands Preserve: Jenner Headlands Preserve is a 5,630-acre coastal hiking paradise, with a mounted telescope for whale watching, a creek crossing, plenty of redwoods and Douglas firs, and, for the truly gung-ho, the chance to bag a major peak with the 7.5-mile round-trip hike up 2,204-foot Pole Mountain. 12001 Hwy 1, Jenner. 707-243-3064. 

 

Ocean and balcony view from inside a guest room at Timber Cove Resort
Photo courtesy of Timber Cove Resort

Timber Cove Resort: This Jenner property is the only Sonoma County hotel with an unobstructed view of the Pacific Ocean. Recently featured on Amazon Prime’s ‘Epic Hotels,’ the resort was built in 1963 as a Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired A-frame. It recently received a complete facelift, giving it a modern hippy vibe with chic mid-century accents. The lobby and decks are great places to hang out, as is onsite restaurant Coast Kitchen, which serves up seasonal dishes, seafood and more seven days a week. 21780 North Coast Hwy 1, 707-847-3231. 

Fort Ross Vineyard & Winery: The outdoor deck at this coastal winery offers jaw-dropping views of the Pacific Ocean, coastal redwoods and lush meadows. The tasting room is open by appointment and the pinot noir is not to be missed. Wine tastings include four estate-grown wines accompanied by a sit-down meal of locally sourced charcuterie and artisanal cheeses; a vegetarian option is available. 15725 Meyers Grade Rd., Jenner, 707-847-3460.

Fort Ross State Historic Park

 

Fort Ross State Historic Park: Fort Ross State Historic Park has attracted visitors for over a century with its unique and multifaceted history. Once the territory of the Kashaya Pomo tribe, Ft. Ross became the southernmost Russian settlement and fur trading post in North America from 1812 to 1842. When the Russians moved on, the fort became a commercial agricultural and logging hub. In addition to viewing reconstructed historic buildings, you can see where the San Andreas Fault comes ashore and several clearly visible markers of the 1906 earthquake. 19005 Coast Hwy, Jenner, 707-847-3286

Twofish Baking Company: Approaching Sea Ranch from the south on Highway 1, you’ll find the Stewarts Point Store on the right, just a few miles before you get to Sea Ranch. Twofish Baking Company, inside the store, is famous for its sticky buns. But you have to get there early — they often sell out by 10 a.m. The pizza is great, too. If you’re looking for vacation reading material, there’s a rack of vintage pulp fiction by the door. And don’t miss the Bigfoot photo-op at a neighboring ranch by the parking lot.

Beach at Sea Ranch

 

Sea Ranch: More than half century after the first structures went up in this coastal enclave, Sea Ranch stewards are still committed to maintaining its original design ethos of “living lightly on the land,” as defined by its celebrated designer, landscape architect Lawrence Halprin. Walking the bluffs and checking out the sleekly-designed houses is one of the all-time favorite pastimes here. Public access to beaches is easily taken for granted today, but it was once the focus of fierce legal wrangling in the 1970s, when it was the crux of a hard-fought environmental battle that led to the formation of the California Coastal Commission.

Sea Ranch Chapel

 

The Sea Ranch Chapel: Turn right in an unmarked parking lot (across from the turn for Bosun’s Reach street) to check out one of the most photographed spectacles in the region: The Sea Ranch Chapel—part Hobbit house, part meditation sanctuary. Built from local materials, the nondenominational chapel was designed by architect James Hubbell in 1985. The door is open from sunrise to sunset every day, and visitors can go inside for a quiet retreat, entombed in stained-glass wonder. 40033 CA-1, Sea Ranch. 

Gualala Point Regional Park

 

Gualala Point Regional Park: The last Sonoma County Regional Park going north on Highway 1 before you get to Mendocino County features a sprawling set of coastal trails and a perfect spot for beachcombing and watching river otters near the mouth of the Gualala River. It’s also a chance to enter Sea Ranch from the north, along the 3-mile Bluff Top Trail leading to Walk On Beach. 42401 Highway 1.

John Beck, Heather Irwin, Meg McConahey, Linda Murphy and Grace Yarrow contributed to this article.

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