Bodega Head in Sonoma Coast State Park
Bodega Head in Sonoma Coast State Park

7 Reasons to Visit the Sonoma Coast in the Off-Season

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Late fall through winter is considered off-season at the Sonoma Coast, but we consider them ideal times to visit our 55 miles' worth of gorgeous coves, trails, and beaches. Here are 7 great reasons why:

1. The Late Fall/Winter Weather Here is Pretty Darn Mild 

While the off-season weather will bring occasional mist, rain, or fog to the Sonoma Coast, late fall and winter days are more often 60 degrees, breezy, and sunny. Sunsets seem impossibly vibrant, and while nights average in the 40s, skies are generally clear and bright with stars. 

Off-season temperatures are mild at the coast, but layering your clothing is key
Off-season temperatures are mild at the coast—layering your clothing is the key to comfort

Layering your clothing is key to a great off-season trip at the Sonoma Coast. Most afternoons are warm enough for a cozy hoodie or sweater with a T-shirt underneath, plus your favorite jeans and closed-toe shoes. For morning and evening excursions, bring a fleece jacket or light parka, and though you might not end up needing them, a hat and scarf. And be sure to pack a raincoat, beach towel, and sunscreen, as well. 

2. Summer Crowds Have Gone Back Home

You'll have your favorite beaches to yourself for long walks on the sand (e.g., Portuguese Beach and Doran Beach), shellcombing and collecting driftwood (e.g., Shell Beach and public access trails in The Sea Ranch).

You'll find beautiful, secluded coves near the Jenner Headlands Preserve
You'll find beautiful, secluded coves near the Jenner Headlands Preserve

Sheltered coves like the ones at Bodega HeadSalt Point State Park, and near the Jenner Headlands Preserve feel more private than ever; sometimes, it'll be just you and the big blue Pacific. 

3. You'll Find Special Deals and Packages at Coastal Lodging Properties 

The Sonoma Coast is home to some of the county's most unique hotels and inns, offering perks like ocean views, farm-to-fork restaurants, fire pits, and even hot tubs.

The Lodge at Bodega Bay
The Lodge at Bodega Bay 

Visit our Special Offers section to find off-season deals and packages at coastal lodgings like Sonoma Coast VillaThe Lodge at Bodega BayInn at the Tides, Fort Ross Lodge, and Timber Cove Resort.

Also visit our hotel booking section's West-Pacific Coast listings to find more cozy lodging options at the Sonoma Coast (e.g., Bodega Bay, Jenner, etc.). 

4. Lower Tides = Tide-Pooling Paradise

In late fall and winter, the moon is closer to the Earth than it is in spring and summer, resulting in low tides that are a few inches lower. This means that more of the Sonoma Coast's sea anemones, hermit crabs, sea stars, chitons, limpets, mussels, tiny fish, and other colorful creatures are often more visible during these times, so it's a great time of year to go tide pooling! 

Lower tides in the off-season mean better opportunities for Sonoma Coast tide pooling
Lower tides in the off-season mean better opportunities for Sonoma Coast tide pooling

For the best tide pools on the Sonoma Coast, head to Salt Point State Park near Sea Ranch; Shell Beach in Jenner; and Schoolhouse Beach and Pinnacle Gulch in Bodega Bay.

Tide Guide app logo
Check NOAA's Tide Guide app 

To stay up to speed on Sonoma Coast tides, download NOAA's mobile app, Tide Guide: Charts & Tables, to see up to 10 days' worth (for free) of high and low tides, as well as sunrises, sunsets, and moon phases, as recorded by local tide stations. Along the Sonoma Coast, the tide stations are Bodega Harbor entrance (south coastal points) and Fort Ross (north coastal points).

 

 

5. Higher Tides = Better Fishing 

The moon being closer to the Earth also means high tides that are higher than usual. High tides bring in cooler water with higher levels of oxygen, which cause fish to be more active — thus improving your chances of catching fish. 

Higher tides in the off-season increase your chances of a great Sonoma Coast fishing haul
Higher tides in the off-season increase your chances of a great Sonoma Coast fishing haul 

Bodega Bay has something for all anglers, from the rock jetty at Doran Regional Park to the rockfish-filled coastal waters fronting and surrounding Fort Ross State Historic Park.

You can go Pacific Ocean surf fishing at Gualala Point Regional Park, and in Sonoma Coast State Park — home to rockfish, perch, salmon, ling cod, steelhead, and smelt — the most notable fishing spots are Shell Beach and Salmon Creek Beach North and South. (Download the Sonoma Coast park brochure/map.)

Higher tides in the off-season increase your chances of a great Sonoma Coast fishing haul
Enjoy an off-season fishing excursion with Bodega Bay outfitters like Fish On Charters

Bodega Bay is the best place to book fishing charters, with popular outfitters like Bodega Bay Sport Fishing CenterFish On ChartersBodega Bay Sailing, and North Bay Charters.

6. It's Dungeness Crab Season 

From early November to late June, you can celebrate Dungeness crab season in Sonoma County — and the off-season is prime time for these tasty crustaceans. You can book a crab fishing charter with one of the outfitters above, or buy crabs straight off the dock at Spud Point Marina in Bodega Bay (you'll just have to rise early to meet the fisherman).

During Dungeness crab season, you'll find claws for celebration at Spud Point Crab Company
During Dungeness crab season, you'll find claws for celebration at Spud Point Crab Company 

You can also enjoy a variety of crab delicacies at sustainable spots like Spud Point Crab CompanyFishetarian Fish Market and Bay View Restaurant at Inn at the Tides, as well as other top seafood restaurants in Bodega Bay. Up near Jenner, feast on crab at River's End Restaurant & Inn.

7. You Can Go Whale Watching

The annual north-to-south gray whale migration along the Sonoma Coast peaks during the winter months, with good opportunities for whale-spotting. Consider taking a whale-watching boat trip with one of the experienced companies out of Bodega Bay (see above), or go look for cetaceans on your own. 

Whale watching is an amazing off-season activity on the Sonoma Coast
Whale watching is an amazing off-season activity on the Sonoma Coast 

One of the top whale-watching spots on the coast is the peninsula at Bodega Head. On weekends from January through Mother's Day, volunteers from the Whale Watch Public Education Program are at Bodega Head to answer questions and share their knowledge of whales and migration.

Gualala Point Regional Park is one of the coast's best spots for whale watching
Gualala Point Regional Park is one of the coast's best spots for whale watching

Other wonderful locations to whale watch include Gualala Point Regional Park, the six public access trails at The Sea RanchStillwater Cove Regional ParkFort Ross State Historic ParkKruse Rhododendron State Natural Reserve, and Salt Point State Park.

As you're planning your off-season trip to the Sonoma Coast, be sure to check out Marvel at the Magic of Winter on the Sonoma Coast, Cozy Sonoma County Restaurants for Cold Winter Days, and our Calendar of Events!


Written by Melanie Wynne