Road Trip from the San Francisco Bay Area to Jenner, Sonoma Coast
Discover a number of stunning Sonoma County beaches, explore quaint seaside towns, or hike along the base of steep cliffs to catch a glimpse of tiny creatures in the tidepools below. Pair it all with fresh local eats, and you have yourself a perfect San Francisco Bay Area weekend getaway to Sonoma County.
Nothing invigorates the senses quite like the ocean. The rhythmic sounds of crashing waves, the comforting breeze against your skin, the fragrance of fresh sea salt in the air. And with 55 miles of stunning coastline, the Sonoma County coastline is where you can experience all this and more on this 3-day road trip.
Taste The Local Flavors
Located only 60 miles from San Francisco, Sonoma County is an easy drive north, where you can begin your trip in the small town of Valley Ford. Stop in Estero Café for classic American breakfast fare, such as eggs benedict or chicken fried steak. Estero Café's menu features sustainably produced and locally grown food, such as food sourced from Coastal Hill Farms and Taylor Made Coffee. For more local flavor, Valley Ford Creamery is considered a must-visit by locals on your way to the coast. If you want to sit and enjoy something from the kitchen, try their spin on grilled cheese, featuring ham and kimchi, or make your own picnic for later with pre-packaged cheese, snacks, and specialty drinks.
Outdoor adventure calls! Make your way towards the coast to Bodega Bay, located approximately 9 miles west from Valley Ford. On the way, you’ll pass by the tiny town of Bodega, famous as the setting for Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. Snap a few pics of Bodega's famous landmarks from The Birds, including Saint Teresa of Avila Church and Potter Schoolhouse.
Once on the coast, take in the sights with an adventurous, beautiful coastal tour with Ace It Bike Tours. This hiking and biking tour experience with local experts gives you a wonderful introduction to all Bodega Bay has to offer. Take a few breaks along the way to view the magnificent ocean and see if you can spot migrating whales or even seals lazing on the rocks.
What’s a trip to the coast without indulging in seafood? Fortunately, Bodega Bay has plenty of options. Clam chowder and a Dungeness crab sandwich is a classic Sonoma County meal while enjoying Bodega Bay, and there’s few places that can compare to this experience than Spud Point Crab Company. Enjoy a crab sandwich and chowder at one of their outside patio tables, or, take your meal for an impromptu picnic along the ocean. For a sit-down restaurant option, try the Tides Wharf Restaurant, and snag a table with a window view. Their extensive menu includes standbys like fish and chips, cioppino, and Louie salad. Don’t leave without sneaking at least a peek at their dessert case.
The coastline and many scenic beaches are the headliners of Bodega Bay. Walk along Pinnacle Gulch Coastal Access Trail during low tide to experience the rocky beach and tidepools. Eventually make your way to Doran Regional Park’s 2-mile stretch of beach or meander through the grassy dunes using the Bird Walk Coastal Access Trail. The Bird Walk Coastal Access Trail is an easy trail (1.19 miles) that circles two freshwater ponds and is a relaxing way to enjoy local wildlife.
When you’re ready for your accommodations, make your way to Bodega Bay Lodge and prepare for a truly gorgeous experience. Kick back and enjoy a nice fire (either in your room or outside at the firepit) or book a revitalizing spa experience. With its rustic wood interior and melodic sounds of the waves crashing outside your window, Bodega Bay Lodge is a true coastal retreat. Other great overnight options include Bodega Bay Inn, Inn at the Tides, Sonoma Coast Villa and Doran Regional Park campground.
For dinner, stay close and dine at Drakes Sonoma Coast, which is located in Bodega Bay Lodge. Featuring local and sustainable ingredients, Drakes Sonoma Coast invites you to indulge with dishes like braised short ribs or crab risotto featuring Valley Ford Estero Gold Cheese. Ask your server about the local wine selection or order one of their craft cocktails to complete your dining experience. For more casual dining options, there’s Lucas Wharf Restaurant, a waterfront restaurant where you can have dinner while watching local fishermen (and women) unloading their catch for the day. Enjoy the outdoor dining space and order signature dishes such as crab cakes, rockfish and chips, or coconut prawns.
On your second day, enjoy a complimentary breakfast at Drakes or make your way further north to the coastal village of Jenner for breakfast at Café Aquatica. Warm yourself up from the foggy morning with a cup of fair-trade espresso and try a cinnamon roll or scone while enjoying the ocean view from the outdoor patio.
Explore the Sonoma County Coastline
When you’re ready to explore, Jenner provides many scenic options. Goat Rock is a popular spot among locals and visitors alike with its beach accessibility and home to a colony of harbor seals. Goat Rock Beach is known during the summer for pupping season, when newly born seals can be seen on the beach. While it’s recommended to view seals from a safe distance any time of year, it’s especially the case in summer.
For a memorable coastal hike, make your way to Kortum Trail. This 4.6-mile loop offers sweeping views of land and sea, where you can also enjoy the beautiful colors of summer with the native flowers all abloom. For a little change of scenery make your way a little more inland to hike the Pomo Canyon Trail, a 6.2-mile moderate loop featuring towering redwood groves and views of the Russian River. Or, for a unique guided experience, book a guided hike with Unbeaten Path Tours, which offers a number of different hikes and walks along the Sonoma County coastline.
To learn more about these trails and other parts of Jenner, make sure you stop by the Jenner Visitors Center.
Refuel Along The Russian River
After all that adventure, you’re probably ready to refuel, and there are plenty of options to choose from. Make your way a few miles inland to Duncans Mills to try Blue Heron Restaurant & Tavern, touted as the oldest tavern on the Russian River. Try the refreshing ahi salad, salmon and chips, or Duncans Cheesesteak on sourdough bread. Wash it down with a beer, of course, with local favorites from Russian River Brewing, Henhouse, and Cooperage. For another option, try a meal at Cape Fear Café, featuring California cuisine with a Southern flair. Showstoppers include the fried oyster po’ boy, salmon crab cakes, and the Memphis Benedict served over black-peppered grits.
For more adventures, take a paddle with WaterTreks EcoTours, which rents kayaks and canoes for exploring the Russian River. They also offer ecology tours with local experts who will teach you about harbor seals, otters, birds, and whales. If soft adventure is more your pace, check out Tasting by the Sea Wine Bar. Featuring over 30 different wines, you can enjoy your wine by the glass or bottle on their deck for a truly relaxing afternoon overlooking the ocean. Before you leave, don’t forget to buy some wine to take home. Jenner Sea Gifts and Wines has a great selection of coastal gifts and wine.
Unwind in Luxury
When you’re looking for a secluded getaway to truly unwind for the weekend, make your way north to Timber Cove Resort. Located on a scenic bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Timber Cove is a unique hotel that is the epitome of casual sophistication. The resort features two miles of hiking trails, an outdoor living room with billiards and ping pong, outdoor yoga, and a stunning Great Room with a fireplace. All guest rooms come outfitted with minibar munchies and libations from local Sonoma County businesses, custom Russian River Roasters coffee with a pour over coffee setup, yoga mats, and Crosley LP record players with a collection of vinyl records. Many rooms also have their own fireplace.
For dinner, you don’t need to venture far thanks to fresh seasonal fare at Coast Kitchen, located in Timber Cover Resort. Must-try items include the dry-aged rib eye, sous vide short ribs, and the unique salmon wings. For something more laid-back, try Ocean Cove Lodge Bar & Grill, located just north of Timber Cove. Enjoy dinner under the stars on the back patio with casual American classics like baby back ribs, fish sandwiches, and old-fashioned burgers. Other great area hotels include River's End Restaurant & Inn and Jenner Inn.
After a rejuvenating night's sleep, you can have breakfast back at Coast Kitchen or venture over to Gold Coast Coffee & Bakery in Duncans Mills. Treat yourself to the popular cinnamon roll or a savory turkey and pesto croissant to enjoy while sipping one of their organic coffees. Before hitting the road again, you’ll want to make a stop at Duncans Mills General Store for provisions. You’ll find a variety of provisions to take home, including local beers and produce, homemade cookies, and sandwiches to have for a picnic later.
Before leaving Duncan Mills, stop at Sophie’s Cellars to bask under the sun on their porch, taking in the colors of the garden while sipping on wine. Sophie’s unassuming tasting room features a selection of tasting experiences that highlight local wineries and cheesemakers. Taste from their selection of wine and be sure to take home a few bottles to share with friends at home.
Finally, as you head back south, top your weekend off with a Bodega Bay Sailing adventure. This three-hour tour will give you one more chance to spot whales, dolphins, or sea lions before you say goodbye to the Sonoma County coastline. If you prefer to stay on land, try a horseback tour with Horse N Around Trail Rides. Horse N Around Trail Rides has rides for everyone, from 30-minute rides for beginners to much longer rides for the more experienced horseback rider. Horseback rides here meander through a coastal cattle ranch where you can tour the eucalyptus grove, cattle pastures, and experience panoramic views of the Sonoma Coast’s rolling hills.
When you’re ready eat, try local favorite Fishetarian Fish Market. This deli-style restaurant features sustainable seafood and organic vegetables that you can enjoy on their outdoor picnic tables. Be sure to try the hearty clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl, fresh fish tacos, or crunchy panko crusted fish. Afterward, stroll the Bodega Bay Harbor and get your last snaps of the Sonoma County coastline until we see you again. Spend your last night in Bodega Bay. Find details about Bodega Bay hotels and lodging.