Dean Clough

April 11, 2024

Portico Darwin: Bodega Bay Travel Guide


Sure, I write about this region - the California coast from where we live in SF, north to Mendocino - often.  F'ing sue me because if comparison is the death of joy, I am dead. 

Because I say this part of America, in our beloved California, is as good as it gets.  Anywhere.  And I'll be damned if I prefer Sonoma, downtown Sonoma, The Sea Ranch, Mendocino, or Salt Point, all previous Travel Guide subjects.

Or Bodega Bay, and its surrounding area.  You know, where the Hitchcock classic The Birds was filmed.

A reuniting with some old pals, Tippi Hedren and Rod Taylor Lauren and Max "Madras" Ryder was the motivation for our visit in April of 2024.  Of their many homes in which we've stayed, this is one of my favorites. 

Well, not as much as their former condo in Bermuda, and I haven't visited their latest, in the Sierra Nevada foothills of Lincoln - A.K.A. the place Del Webb built.  But I digress, and I kid my friends:  I sincerely thank them for their hospitality and for letting us live the scene there like locals do. 

A Diamond Certified scene.


Every time we make the drive from home to this area, we always say the same things:

  • Damn, is this beautiful
  • Wow, is it close to San Francisco

After about an hour's drive, the latter half on two-lane roads through a countryside that brings life to the word Textbook, you're there.  Pastoral and emerald are others, at least in spring after a typical winter. 

Here is its location in relation to SF.

And here is an overview of the specific region.  Again, it's about an hour's drive from San Francisco to anywhere below.

On these maps, please also note Bodega, Occidental, Marshall, and Nicasio - they play small, but vital roles in this Travel Guide.

A disclaimer:  We had Chamber of Commerce weather, but your mileage may vary, meaning this is one foggy place, and can be at any time of the year.  Except in the winter, when it's either perfect or pouring rain.  

As always, I provide links when available to places we visited/stayed, that are Serviceable or better.


As usual, it's either a hotel or Airbnb (or its ilk).

For the former, we have stayed previously at Inn at The Tides, and even visited a room this time (don't ask), so it's easy to recommend.  For one, the hotel and rooms are more than Serviceable, and it's also one of the few places you can stay in the area where you can walk to bars and restaurants.

More luxe?  I have not stayed there, but The Lodge at Bodega Bay seems worthy.

As we did not stay in either place, there are no links or official ratings,  but I doubt you'd be disappointed if your preference is a hotel.

Short-term rentals, like VRBO and Airbnb?  There are plenty of options, and if you choose wisely, you can find a place with views like this relatively easily.

Or, go inland and be wowed by a countryside that should make Ireland jealous.

(No, I did not take the photo above.  But this is exactly what it looks like, at least in spring.  And you can rent places near here.)


Yes, please, and thank you very much.  If you can't find a trail or a beach that takes your breath away, you should be running marathons.  Enough said, because there are hiking trails everywhere, and finding one is easy.

And then there's the beach.

Oh, and the golf course, The Links at Bodega Harbour.  It is open to the public, as is its restaurant and bar, which is Textbook.  I cannot assess the golf course itself, but it looked OK from the bar.

There are also private tennis courts and a pool, for residents of the community surrounding the golf course - like Lauren and Max.  They also have converted a few courts to Pickleball.  

Which I played for the first time on this trip, and loved; indeed, the hype surrounding this noisy game would seem justified.  At least if your court is on the California coast, and surrounded by cypress trees.  


No, I did not leave off the word Bay, and holy smokes is this hamlet slightly inland from the coast worth a visit.  Movie buffs will love it - the famous school house and church from The Birds are here - but so will fans of dive bars with world-class food.  Huh?

Casino Bar & Grill:  Textbook + Diamond Certified
  • Easily on the Mt. Rushmore of dive bars; so cool, they have no website
  • It's a bar called Casino!
  • Great jukebox
  • Better food - WOW levels of cheeseburgers at lunch, and while we've yet to try it, the dinners here are reputedly Michelin star-class, using locally sourced produce, game, and fish
  • Cash only, but you won't care

Bodega Bay
FishetarianDiamond Certified
  • We never don't go here, whether when staying in the area, or just driving through
  • Their chowders are other-worldly, but then again, so is everything

Sonoma Coast VineyardsDiamond Certified
  • Who knew?  This was our first visit, as I always thought it was a tourist trap; shocker, but I was wrong
  • It's not just that you're doing a wine tasting on the water . . .
  • . . . it is the wine:  their Pinot Noirs are fabulous, and we tasted many
  • In fact, six of us drank several bottles sitting at a picnic table in the sun, overlooking Bodega Bay; it did not suck

Gourmet Au BayKiller
  • OK, I confess we only had beers on the spacious patio at this waterfront wine bar and restaurant
  • But we are told the food is excellent and you'd never know about this place otherwise - it is near, but not on, Highway 1

Just a short drive away is a place that may very well deserve its own Travel Guide.  But we just went for dinner, and am I glad we did.

  • Farm-to-table comes to life
  • The best meatloaf in the United States?  Don't scoff until you try it

There are any number of choices for enjoying the oysters harvested in the area, and that includes the nationally famous Hog Island Oyster Company.   But while that place is Killer, it's often too crowded with tourists, so we went to Marshall instead, at the suggestion of the Ryders. 

The Marshall StoreDiamond Certified
  • It's not a store, but an amazing seafood shack
  • Thank you again, Lauren and Max - I had amongst the best bivalves I've ever had, sitting here
  • Be sure to check out the seating that's the farthest south
  • The place draws a nice crowd

Some day, I may very well write about the Casa Integration projects I did for one of America's wealthiest families, who own two different compounds here, one on an 800 acre ranch.  That will have to wait, but a visit here does not, nor should it.  Especially on a nice summer weekend.

We stopped on our way home, and it's a great way to wrap up a trip like this - it kind of all fits together.

Rancho Nicasio:  Textbook
  • An authentic roadhouse if there ever was one
  • A go-to for us for years


I suppose there's probably something somewhere. 

(Although OMFG Los Lobos is playing at Rancho Nicasio over Memorial Day weekend, and there's live music there all of the time otherwise.  But it is relatively far from Bodega Bay, so there's that.)




A visit to Bodega Bay - so, so close to SF - reminds one why this region is so special.  On one hand, you have San Francisco itself.  And then you just go north, over the bridge below, and pick somewhere. 

Anywhere, because like the islands of Hawaii, each place north of SF is better than the other.  And that's joy.

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