Rich with the promise of wine, great food and outdoor adventures, not to mention sweeping views of the Sonoma coastline, Bodega Bay is the best of California in microcosm. Its natural beauty is matched by a charming collection of lodges, inns, villas and ranches. When you’re in Bodega Bay, this is where you should stay.
With breezy guest rooms looking out over the photogenic Sonoma coastline, not to mention an outdoor pool in sight of the ocean, this hotel is all about helping you enjoy the splendor of Bodega Bay. It’s hard to imagine a more pleasant evening than dinner and drinks at the Drake Fireside Lounge, keeping warm by a fire pit as you look over the Pacific. The cozy, wood-paneled Den runs a close second in the relaxation stakes, though, a perfect place to curl up with a good book and a glass of Sonoma wine.
As the name suggests, the ocean looms large over life at this welcoming boutique, which affords sweeping bay views from its hillside perch. There’s a wholesome feel, which extends from the homey rooms to the market-fresh fish and produce served at the hotel’s two restaurants. Film aficionados may recognize the locale from Alfred Hitchcock’s classic horror film The Birds – while Bodega Bay is just as beautiful in real life as it is on screen, it’s also a much more relaxing affair.
Inspired by the rural villas of the Mediterranean and painted a cheery yellow to match the Californian sun, Sonoma Coast Villa and Spa is a picture of rustic relaxation. Hillside Rooms promise the best views over the rolling Sonoma County vineyards, while the Grand Residence – complete with a pool table and large outdoor deck – certainly lives up to its name. Don’t miss the chance to explore the Sonoma Coast State Park, whether on foot or on horseback.
This rural idyll in the heart of the acclaimed Sonoma Wine Country is big on countryside charm, with its wood-paneled suites overlooking dense woodlands. There’s nothing provincial about the Michelin-star restaurant, though, which unites an acclaimed chef and farm-fresh produce to spectacular effect – try the rabbit cooked three ways with applewood smoked bacon. The wine at the nightly tastings matches the high bar set by the food, and the ingredients used in the spa treatments are as organic as those in the kitchen.
Welcoming guests since 1983, Bodega Bay Inn is a comfortable sanctuary on the fringes of Bodega Dunes Beach. Spot whales and seals on the coastal hike to Bodega Head, crane your neck to take in the magnificent coast redwoods, and explore an old fur-trading outpost at the Fort Ross State Historic Park. At the end of the day, unwind over steaks and cheesecake at the welcoming Terrapin Creek Café.
Immaculately decked in dark wood panels and buttressed with logs of robust timber, this mighty lodge blends in seamlessly with its surroundings on the wooded banks of the Russian River. Particularly impressive is the master bedroom, with its vast, totem-carved four-poster bed and views over the river. Touches throughout, like vintage bathroom dressers, Chesterfield sofas and a palapa-style pergola add yet more personality to this unique property.
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In contrast to the rustic, down-home lodges often found in the Russian River Valley, this boutique has a modern aesthetic with charming design quirks: the stylish monochrome of the bedrooms is offset by vintage wood-burning stoves, and you’ll find yourself relaxing on rugged chairs hewn from whole tree trunks. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also stay in a canvas glamping tent or in a vintage Boonito camper. The spa offers massage treatments both indoors and in the garden.
Vintage charm abounds at the Occidental Lodge, a modern design boutique originally set up as a classic motor lodge in the 1970s. Nods to the property’s heritage are everywhere, including retro typewriters and telephones that decorate the distinctly mid-century rooms. Off the aptly named Bohemian Highway, and close to the road-trip magnet of Highway One, this place radiates old-school Californian romance.
The coastal hills and rivers of Salmon Creek become your playground at Chanslor Ranch, set in 381 acres (154ha) of private nature reserve. Animal lovers in particular will find plenty of new friends here, from roosters to horses, and alpacas to Highland cows. A guided horseback tour is an incomparable way to explore the Sonoma coastline, rivaled only by kayaking down Salmon Creek to the Pacific. At the end of a day’s adventures, retreat to a basic but comfortable room or glamorous tipi.
The wistfully named River’s End Inn sits where the Russian River spills into the Pacific Ocean – a perpetually pleasant spectacle, best enjoyed at sunset from the terrace outside your wood-paneled, log cabin-style room. Those looking to really disconnect will love the Unplugged rooms, free of internet, TV and cell reception (don’t worry – fully connected rooms are available, too). If you’re looking to immerse yourself in the Sonoma woodlands, there’s no better way than zip-lining at nearby Alliance Redwoods.
These recommendations were updated on March 26, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.