Spectacular Sonoma Coast Is a Delightful Destination

By Marta Yamamoto Special to the Planet
Friday June 11, 2004

Pack the car. It’s time for another getaway, along country roads, through quiet towns, heading toward the spectacular Sonoma Coast. Allow time to sample, to browse, to walk, and at the end of the day, to relax and picnic on the beach. 

Your final destination is Doran Beach Regional Park, south of Bodega Bay, with stops in Freestone, at Wild Flour Bakery, and the other Bodega, the one without the bay. 

Heading west on Bodega Highway, your pace begins to slow as you savor the surrounding landscape. Views of rolling hills, outcroppings of rock, cows in verdant pastures, fruit laden orchards, country homes and rustic farm buildings are not to be rushed. 

A stop at Wild Flour Bakery serves two delicious purposes, a morning snack and breads for an afternoon picnic. From Friday through Monday, owner Jed Wallach and his staff bake 800 loaves of bread daily in a wood-fired brick oven designed by Alan Scott. The other three days of the week are spent building up the temperature necessary for the seven types of sourdough bread and two pastries that are rotated daily—a true labor of love evident in the finished product.  

Inside the renovated barn you are treated to wonderful aromas, bread samples, and a bright airy space fronted by a large window and extending back into the workplace. You can enjoy your espresso and scone or one of the world’s biggest sticky buns at a farm style table while watching a steady stream of customers being served by Jed and his staff. A true craftsman who highly values personal contact with his patrons, Jed doesn’t advertise. With a product this good, he doesn’t need to. 

Fortified for browsing, your next stop is the quiet town of Bodega, small in size but not in spirit. Like a step back in time, the schoolhouse on the left as you enter town, harks back to Alfred Hitchcock’s movie The Birds. At the Country Store you can purchase cool Birds t-shirts along with assorted seashells, other seaside memorabilia and typical general store merchandise. Only five miles from the coast, the theme continues at Northern Light Surf Shop where well-crafted surfboards and a large selection of brightly patterned Hawaiian shirts are enticingly displayed outside. Craftsmanship is artistically displayed at the Artisans’ Coop Gallery where locals display their work in various mediums: jewelry, pottery, hand knits items, hand dyed silk. Further browsing can take you past the antiques at Hamilton Trading Co., or to the Cup O’ Mud for coffee and ice cream, but it won’t take you far. This “don’t blink” spot is small but buzzes with community camaraderie and is well worth a stop.  

Once you reach the popular coastal village of Bodega Bay, you should be ready to enjoy its natural bounty. Drive to Bodega Head, at the northern end of town, the site of an aborted attempt to build a nuclear power plant. In this case the power definitely resided in the citizens of Bodega Bay. Bodega Head is a rugged promontory with spectacular views of Bodega Harbor, out to sea, and down the coast to Point Reyes, sheer cliffs, and trails for hiking and walking. With bracing winds at your back, yellow lupine at your feet, pelicans and oystercatchers soaring above, sandy beach coves below, and, during fall and spring migrations, the spouts of California Gray Whales, this is the ideal natural site to work off the morning’s treat and clear the cobwebs of a busy week. There are two main trails circling the promontory that start from the cliff parking lot and numerous smaller trails, former deer trails, which crisscross the headland.  

Bird watchers might enjoy a gentler walk before settling in for the day’s relaxation and picnic. At the Bird Walk Coastal Area, just south of Bodega Bay, a main trail surrounds a restored saltwater marsh. Benches and viewing platforms, an information kiosk highlighting the myriad number of birds calling this marsh home, and marshland vibrant with colorful grasses, reeds and wildflowers provide a gentle environmental contrast to the rugged beauty of Bodega Head. 

Enough driving, walking and viewing. A relaxation period is critical to a successful getaway and Doran Beach Regional Park is the spot. At Cypress Day Use Area you’ll find sturdy picnic tables with grills beneath the trees or on the beach, a two-mile expanse of white sand in a protected cove, and sparkling surf. On a recent visit various beach activities were being enjoyed: kite flying, volleyball, fishing, dog walking, sand excavations, water play, beach reading and various forms of passive observation of the views. Something for everyone. 

A spacious mellow place to end a day spent discovering the riches along the Bodega Highway to the coast: its people, crafts, and natural beauty.