Summertime on the Sonoma County Coast
Sonoma’s 55-mile coastline—with its craggy knife-edge cliffs, isolated sandy coves and endless vistas—is a captivating destination at any time of the year. But summer, with its tendency toward misty mornings and sunny afternoons, possesses a haunting beauty that will remain in your memory forever.
The coast also offers something that’s becoming increasingly rare in our world, especially in summer: you can choose to be smack dab in the flow of activity, or opt to just “get away from it all.” Spend the day at Bodega Head, a popular destination for hikers, whale-watchers and bikers. Or find an isolated beach nook and carve out a temporary paradise all your own.
Something else this gorgeous coast offers is that there’s so much to do. Just driving around is an adventure, with sensational overlooks at every turn, trails leading down to driftwood-filled beaches, charming seaside villages with tantalizing cafés and flower-bedecked inns.
Active types in particular find plenty to keep them busy. Here’s a look at some of our favorite summertime coastal activities:
Paddling: Choose from ocean kayaking on the coast, kayaking/canoeing along the Russian and Gualala Rivers, or standing paddle boards. Bodega Bay Kayak rents kayaks and paddle boards for use on the Russian River, Bodega Bay, and the Estero Americano Estuary (they also offer guided kayak tours). In Gualala, Adventure Rents offers single and tandem kayaks and canoes for river adventures.
Horseback Riding: Trotting along a gorgeous beach, accompanied by the sound of crashing waves and curious gulls, is a fabulous way to spend an hour or two. Coast-side stables include the Horse n Around Trail Rides and Wildfire Stables.
Go Salt Water Fishing: Fish found in Sonoma County’s coastal waters include salmon, halibut, ling cod, rock cod, albacore tuna, and Dungeness crab.
- Charter Boats: In Bodega Bay: Fish On offers complete charter boat services. Bodega Bay Sport Fishing Center provides access to a fleet of privately-owned boats that take anglers into ocean waters.
- Fishing from the Beach: Check California Dept. of Fish and Game regulations for specific bag limits and rules, and be sure you have a license. A good place to try your luck is Stillwater Cove Regional Park in Jenner.
Enjoy a Bird Walk: Stroll the paved one-mile-long Bird Walk Coastal Access Trail in Bodega Bay. Situated beside a coastal saltwater marsh, you’ll view thousands of resident and visiting birds (numerous rare species have spotted here), and you’ll have wonderful views of Bodega Bay, Bodega Head, and Doran Beach Park. The trail is located south of Bodega Bay, with an entrance at 355 California Highway 1 (here’s a map).
Take the kids to UCDavis Bodega Marine Laboratory: Founded in 1960, the lab works in the area of our rapidly-changing land-sea interface. The public is welcome to visit on Fridays for a free docent-led tour, 2-4 p.m. (drop-in, not appointment needed for groups of less than 10). Among other things, you’ll spend time with a 24-foot display of local fishes and invertebrates, a kelp forest, a harbor aquarium that’s home to examples of Bodega Harbor marine life, another aquarium for giant anemones, a tide pool, and much more. Get more information.
Camping: Hey, it’s summer! Sleep to the sound of waves, spend your days hiking and your evenings cooking over a campfire beneath the stars—what could be better?
- Two state parks—Sonoma Coast State Beach and Salt Point State Park—offer developed camping sites year-round for tents, RVs, trailers, and groups. Fee: $25-45/night. To make reservations, visit Reserve America.
- Four regional parks—Doran and Westside (both in Bodega Bay), Gualala Point (in Gualala) and Stillwater Cove (near Jenner)—are open year-round. All offer fire ring, picnic table, showers, toilets, potable water and reservable sites. Fee: $20-32/night. Learn more about the reservation process and then make reservations.
Check out Sonoma County Tourism’s “Itinerary: 55 Miles of Pacific Coastline Offer a Fabulous Travel Experience.” Learn more about things you can do on your visit and find hotels/lodging on the Sonoma Coast. Get the free Sonoma County Visitors Guide and printed map.