Escape Reality With a Weekend on the Sonoma Coast

Just north of San Francisco is a wild and epic coast dotted with seafood restaurants, whale lookouts and cool-climate vineyards.

It can be hard to wrap your mind around Sonoma County, an area that starts 45 miles north of San Francisco. It's nearly the size of Delaware and encompasses rolling vineyards, dense redwood forests and, perhaps most surprisingly, a wild and foggy stretch of coast. Many tourists know that this shoreline includes the fishing village of Bodega Bay, where Hitchcock filmed "The Birds," but the Sonoma Coast has many other draws for travelers. Here, we outline a seaside getaway that will take you far away from the everyday. 

Eat

In the small town of Bodega Bay, Fishetarian Fish Market serves the (sustainable) catch of the day in a super casual setting that includes patio seating. Wash down the award-winning, gluten-free clam chowder with one of the five craft beers on tap or a glass of wine from neighboring Sonoma Coast Vineyards. Located across from Sonoma’s fishing hub, Spud Point Marina on Bodega Harbor, Spud Point Crab Company welcomes local fishermen for breakfast and lunch.

Dine outside with coastal views at Coast Kitchen.

For dinner, consider taking an epic sunset drive up Highway 1 to Coast Kitchen, where you’ll dine on upscale California fare like braised short rib and little gem salad in a rustic mid-century modern dining room that highlights its seaside location via floor-to-ceiling windows.

Enjoy the dinner special at Coast Kitchen.

Explore

Make a stop at Bodega Head, a rugged peninsula with incredible views (keep an eye out for whales, seals and seabirds). If you're looking for some beach time, head to the 17-mile long Sonoma Coast State Park, where long, sandy stretches of sand meet rocky headlands and coves. Swing by the clifftop, 93-foot Peace obelisk sculpture by midcentury artist Benny Bufano at Timber Cove Resort. Continue north to Fort Ross Historic State Park, bordered by beaches and redwood forests and home to a compound built by Russian fur trappers in the 1800s.

The Bufano Peace Statue Monument is the second smallest park in California. (Courtesy Timber Cove Resort)

Play

Visit Fort Ross Vineyard Tasting Room to sip cool-climate pinot noir and chardonnay, made from grapes that grow on the coast above the fog line, while admiring the ocean view. Feeling adventurous? Rent a kayak at Bodega Bay Kayak to get up close to seals and bird life. Or just stop in Candy & Kites for creatively flavored saltwater taffy (birthday cake, anyone?) and maybe a colorful kite to fly in the sea breeze.

Soak in the views of the Sonoma coast

Stay

While it's worth the drive up to the Sonoma Coast from San Francisco even if it's just for a day trip, we suggest staying a night (or two or three), especially if you plan to continue exploring past Jenner. High on an oceanfront bluff between Fort Ross and Sea Ranch is Timber Cove Resort, a low-key glam property that combines the allure of a midcentury California motel and a cozy lodge retreat.

The living-room like lobby at Timber Cove Resort

The soaring redwood-walled lobby, outfitted with colorful sofas and a full bar, is crowned with a giant stone fireplace and a dramatic antler chandelier. The rooms, originally built in the 1960s and connected by external corridors, have fireplaces, record players, plaid blankets and DIY pour-over coffee. Be sure to explore the surrounding trails and views, a favorite subject of Ansel Adams, during your stay in the area.