Things to Do Along the Sonoma Coast

Duncan's Landing

The Sonoma Coast offers a stunning drive along Highway 1. Yet there’s endless beauty to explore on foot, as well, so hop out of your car and get to know the area. Bucolic state and regional parks dot the coastline, tempting with hiking, beaches, fishing, camping, water sports, and horseback riding.

Whether you picnic, dine out, or relax in a variety of lodging options, the Sonoma Coast is a destination to enjoy year-round. In the spring, the area is blanketed in wildflowers, and in the summer, the cool ocean breezes temper the sun. In fall, the coast is warm with a Mediterranean climate, and temperatures continue to be mild through winter. Coastal weather can turn windy or foggy at any time of year, so always bring warm layers.

Explore Sonoma County’s Regional & State Parks

A long, sandy beach next to the aqua water
Doran Regional Park

Regional and state parks embrace some of the coast’s most lavish landscapes. Get up close with nature via a stroll along the Bird Walk Coastal Access Trail, a paved path along the Bodega Bay salt marsh — home to wildlife and thousands of birds throughout the year. The walk is easy, looping one mile through tidal channels and a bridge within Doran Regional Park. Leashed dogs are welcome to come romp here, too.

A historic fort along the coast
Fort Ross State Historic Park

For a taste of history, the Fort Ross State Historic Park offers a rich adventure as a former Russian colony established in 1812. Some ancient wood structures remain on the 3,200-acre cliff-top site, as does an antique canon and water tower. The visitor center features ongoing interpretive presentations about Russian-era buildings, neighborhoods, intercultural relations, agriculture, and trade.

Take a Scenic Hike in Sonoma County

Grasses glow in the setting sun along the coast
Kortum Trail, Sonoma Coast State Park

Some 17 miles of bluff-top trails beckon from above, while wide sandy beaches welcome below. The path along Kortum Trail is an easy, cliff-side jaunt that lets you appreciate both sceneries, stretching about 4-1/2 miles round-trip between Wright’s Beach and Blind Beach, accessed by a trailhead near the middle of the two at Shell Beach.

Another easy walk is found on the Bodega Head hiking trail that edges three miles around the headlands or takes a straight one-mile path up and back to the overlook. You’ll be rewarded with spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean, Bodega Harbor, and the town itself.

People walk along the edge of the land
Bodega Head, Sonoma Coast State Park

During whale migration season (mainly January through May, but also much of the year), the Ocean Overlook at Bodega Head is prime for watching gray and blue whales. Bodega Head is part of the 17-mile-long Sonoma Coast State Park, stretching from Bodega Bay in the south to north of Jenner and offering many beautiful beaches and bluff-top trails.

Hit the Beaches on the Sonoma Coast

People walk along a sandy beach
North Salmon Creek Beach, Sonoma Coast State Park

North Salmon Creek Beach and South Salmon Creek Beach are great places to splash around since the beaches are slightly inland in a lagoon, making the water warmer and calmer. Waves attract swimmers and surfers, while nearly two miles of sand make this an excellent place for surf fishing, beachcombing, and picnicking. 

While Salmon Creek doesn’t allow dogs, Doran Regional Park welcomes leashed pets, and Fido will adore this two-mile stretch of secluded, sandy beach protected by the bay. Bring your picnic basket, camping gear, or even a boat since there’s a rock jetty at the harbor mouth for fishing and crabbing.

A giant rock just off the coast
Goat Rock Beach, Sonoma Coast State Park

Beachgoers also frequent Goat Rock Beach, one of the most easily accessible sandy beaches tucked amid the towering bluffs and crashing waves in the Sonoma Coast State Park. This partial cove, where the Russian River meets the sea, is superb for watching wildlife. Hike the trails around the high surrounding cliffs to look for migrating gray whales or claim a prime perch on the sand within view of a colony of frolicking harbor seals.

Go Boating & Fishing on the Sonoma Coast

Boats in the marina on a sunny day
Spud Point Marina

With water everywhere, the coast is prime for fishing and boating. You can catch your own through the Bodega Bay Sport Fishing Center, as Captain Rick Powers charters hunts for crab, salmon, albacore tuna, cod, and Humboldt giant squid from his New Sea Angler, a 12-person, 65-foot vessel running spring through fall.

For more charter boat options in Sonoma County, check this complete list.

Book a Coastal Campsite

People splash in the water on a sandy beach
Bodega Dunes

The Bodega Dunes Campground is popular, and reservations are recommended. Sure, you’re roughing it some, but fire pits await with firewood to purchase 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 on site, and you can park your car next to your tents. It’s hard to beat the beautiful ocean and dune views enhanced by a shady canopy of trees and well-spaced sites.

Together, we can protect and preserve the beauty and natural resources of Sonoma County for generations to come. Check out our page on Sustainable Travel, and look over the Leave No Trace Seven Principles.

Dive into Water Sports on the Sonoma Coast

People kayak in the bay
Doran Regional Park

WaterTreks EcoTours owner Suki Waters is a local Native American descendant, guide, and kayak instructor specializing in wildlife, Sonoma history, and ecology tours. From beginner boaters to skilled sports enthusiasts, there’s adventure for all. Explore the quiet estuary or the dancing sea, and keep your eyes peeled for area residents like sea lions, harbor seals, otters, birds, and maybe even a whale.

The Bodega Bay coast also boasts powerful waves perfect for surfing enthusiasts, plus more manageable beginner waves. Bodega Bay Surf Shack rents a variety of surfboards, wetsuits, skim boards, body boards, and booties. They offer private lessons for beginners, as well, and rent bicycles and kayaks, too.

Ride a Horse Along the Sonoma Coast

A person rides a horse at sunset along the coast
Chanslor Stables

The hillsides and redwood forests bring gorgeous Pacific Ocean views, made even finer on horseback. 

Chanslor Stables, a working western horse ranch, offers guided horseback trail rides with breathtaking ocean views. Follow miles of trails to lofty mountaintops, grassy meadows, coastal dunes, or the beach. Private rides are available, including a private picnic ride. 

Horse N Around Trail Rides offers a 60-minute ride through the dunes with panoramic views of Bodega Bay harbor and Sonoma Coastline, a 90-minute beach ride that includes harbor views plus riding along a long stretch of beach, and trail rides on the Hagemann Ranch Trout Farm, a family-owned ranch with views of the rolling coastal hills.

Grab a Tasty Bite on the Sonoma Coast

The deck along the bay is set up with tables and umbrellas
Tides Wharf Restaurant

The Tides Wharf Restaurant: Known as the backdrop for scary scenes in Alfred Hitchcock’s horror classic, “The Birds,” this oceanfront eatery serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner and specializes in local seafood.

The Boat House serves fresh seafood to the bustles of people converging on this tiny shack year-round for Dungeness crab cake sandwiches, briny oysters, and legendary rock cod fish-n-chips. It’s so popular that getting a table can be difficult, so here’s a tip: Place your order at the counter to-go, then head in your car to the beach for an al fresco feast.

Spud Point Crab Company is a tiny café and bait shop, which makes sense because these owners catch the seafood on a sturdy boat named Annabelle. You can see crab cooked whole in the boiler outside the store, then buy it by the pound to take home. Or sit at an outdoor table and dig into crab cakes, crab cocktail, and crab sandwiches.

Ready for wine tasting? Check this Sonoma Coast Wine Region for information and a nice list of local wineries.

Relax in Sonoma’s Coastal Accommodations

A pool from above at the inn
Inn at the Tides

The thundering crash of the waves. The velvet gray clouds sparked with brilliant gold as the sun streams through. The invigorating nip in the sea salt air — it all works to rejuvenate, relax, and make a body ready for a wonderful night’s rest.

So get comfortable and stay the night at the Inn at the Tides, a welcoming coastal hideaway. Or stay at the Lodge at Bodega Bay, a AAA Four Diamond hotel with real fireplaces, snuggly down comforters, and private balconies.

Written by Sonoma Insider Carey Sweet

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