*Warning, this series is not a perfect list of only The Best Places to Stay, See, Eat in [Insert Region]. We just experienced a piece of it, and came back with some recommendations for a trip that, imperfect as we are, was truly wonderful.
MONTH TRAVELED – NOVEMBER (yes, I know, this is LONG overdue)
2PM: If you’re in the Bay Area, WFH in the morning and take a half-day to arrive at your lodging right around check-in time.
4PM: Arrive at Chanslor Ranch, an expanse of rolling, grassy hills with trails that lead all the way down to the chilly dunes and beach.
The venue offers campsites, glamping tents, tipis and a handful of traditional rooms to suit anyone’s level of adventure. I can see it being a lot of fun as a camping outing for 10 friends, or as a glamping getaway for 2-3 couples or smaller group of friends, or as a romantic getaway. The latter is how we experienced it, and we opted for the room with a terrace overlooking the ocean (it’s at a distance). It was small, clean and no-frills. The backyard had two adirondack chairs and a half-hearted fire pit. We think the property managers live next door: they have a private garden and in it, a pet pig who will stop by our side to say Hello every so often.
Anyway, chill in the backyard after settling in and watch the sunset with a terrific bottle of Sonoma Coast pinot noir or chard (we got ours from Pelican Plaza Grocery & Deli, your gourmet snacks-drinks-breakfast stuff-random needs commissary for this weekend). Make sure you bring a cutting board, a good cheese & charcuterie knife, a bottle opener and some coal or firestarters to make the most of your pit.
The cold set in quickly after sunset, so get back inside for a shower and fresh sweater wares to go to your new favorite restaurant.
7:30PM: When you pull up to Terrapin Creek Cafe, you may think you’ve driven up to some sort of surf shop and coffee shack. And there are only more surprises from there: good ones. Serving up Michelin-starred international cuisine in a bright, window-lined dining room, this neighborhood gem manages to remain charming and unpretentious.
Matt meditated on his truffle buttered gnocchi, Laura ate the best duck breast of her life, and they shared a perfectly pan roasted Hokkaido scallops appetizer that made them talk about scallops the way other people talk about scallops.
A bottle of wine later, meander down to the docks (carefully! you’ll be on a paved road) to walk off your gluttony before taking the 7-min drive back to Chanslor. Personally, the wine and the quiet sky made us sleepy and we called it a night at like 10:30PM.
9AM: Farm life calls for an early start, and you’ll be glad to get yours with to-go coffee and a tasty pastry from Roadhouse Coffee. A 10-min car-ride later you’re at Doran beach, a glossy strip of sand, sea and fowl that belongs in an American landscape painting. It’s well-equipped with picnic areas and a jetty, perfect for fishing, surfing or bird-watching if you’re into that kind of stuff. We’re more “bring a book and coffee and chill” people.
12:30PM: IDK about you but coffee and a pastry don’t really cut it for me, so we head off hanger at the wharfside Fishetarian Market, where delightful fish tacos, crab cakes and mid-day rosés await.
4PM: After a snooze and maybe a hike from the Chanslor property to Salmon Creek (worth the charm, but be warned there are some road-crossing / other slightly awkward parts of the trail), don your boots and insect repellent, because you’re going on a sunset horseback ride!
Chanslor Ranch as it happens, is a ranch, and you can book group or private guided rides through their many trails. We chose the Mountain ride because of the views and because…there was no way we’d want to do it on foot.
We passed the pumpkin patch (my first ever – I had a moment), some cows (always a pleasure) and the stars of the show: a mamma and baby alpaca (!!!) on our way to beautiful views of Salmon Creek and the beach.
8PM: Two horses and two showers later, you’ve worked up an appetite. Drakes Sonoma Coast Kitchen is the best Bodega Bay has to offer by way of “ambiance” and the cocktails and food don’t disappoint, either. Our rec is to eat in the bar/lounge area: It’s cozy indoors by the fireplace and outdoors by the fire-pits, if you can snag one.
Let’s face it, you’re going to end up back home sooner than Cinderella, and that’s just as well for a cloudless night’s introspection or just Netflix in bed.
11AM: Check out of CR and drive a little further north before you’re completely southbound, to Russian Gulch State Beach. We hiked the Vista trail & offshoots and can report otter, seal and sea-lion sightings and coves just dying to be explored. Ever the climber, Matt made sure we did.
1PM: Nothing like a good closing weekend-trip brunch to send you on your way. We supposed the only thing left to do was eat at The Tides, made famous by Hitchcock’s “The Birds”.
(Side note: You know when a small town has just one claim to fame, and they go all in on it? And it’s kind of hit or miss with visitors because you’re putting all your eggs in one “you care about this” basket? That is Bodega Bay and “The Birds”, which, unfortunately, just doesn’t do anything for me.)
Anyway, guess we should know better by now but The Tides ticked all the feared “SOUR” checkboxes:
I know that sounds really mean, but my SOUR scale doesn’t measure TERRIBLE restaurants because, with a bit of int
uitionernet, you can thankfully avoid most of those. It simply lists what could go wrong when you have to flip a coin, or suspect you’re about to be tourist-trapped.
If you’re a huge Birds fan, knock yourself out. But if I had to do it again I’d probably go back to Fishetarian or try Spud Point or similar wharf fare, where what you see is literally what you get.
Nature and Activity: 5/5