New Year’s is always a time for celebration, time with family and friends, as we recollect the memories made the previous year and plan for the joys of the coming season. This year for New Year’s eve, we decided to branch out and steer clear of the festive crowds, live music, and bubbly champagne that always seem to accompany the old growth of one year, and the ringing in of another. We found the most peaceful place we could, Bodega Bay, CA, and fell asleep long before midnight. We didn’t even pop a cork, and surprisingly it was my favorite New Year’s in memory.
This year, we spent our holiday camped on Wright’s Beach, a few short miles north of Bodega Bay on California’s glorious Coastal Highway 1. While this was a popular destination New Year’s Day, we had several beaches to ourselves, or shared with a select few who were as quiet and serene as ourselves. Bodega Bay is famous for the Pacific Ocean’s crashing waves, rock outcroppings, winding roads, and sandy beaches. It’s about 25 miles north of the more popular Point Reyes National Seashore. You’re further from the crowds of San Francisco, and there are ample beaches allowing you to find a shore or cove all to yourself. If you’re ever in California, schedule a day in Bodega Bay. You’ll be glad you did. Below are a few of our favorite experiences while we were there.
Camping at Wright’s Beach
Wright’s Beach is a fairly large campground with a few dozen, private campsites. You can reserve online, but the trick is to reserve early and choose any of the campsites WB01 through WB09. These are the only sites with a direct view of the coast. You can see the ocean through your tent window or while sitting at the picturesque tables. Bring a few beach chairs, and prepare to enjoy a day with spectacular views, and a night lulled to sleep by the crashing surf.
Explore Bodega Bay
The Bay is a great site for birders. While here we watched Brown Pelicans, Coots, Black Turnstones, Buffleheads, and Brandt’s geese. There are ample restaurants and coffee shops, not to mention salt water taffy and kites! Each day, we stopped so Joe could enjoy a cup of coffee, while I treated myself to ice cream.
Surfers and Birding at Salmon Creek
Many areas of Bodega Bay are not safe for swimming or surfing. Salmon Creek, however is, and it’s one of the most popular places for watching surfers, beach combing, and admiring the wildlife. Here we visited the nesting grounds of the endangered Snowy Plovers and admired Marbled Godwits. The parking can be tough at Salmon Creek, so it’s best to arrive early. Don’t worry, the surfers and birds arrive at dawn as well.
Harbor Seals at Goat Rock
Goat Rock is a beautiful beach with astonishing views, and a picturesque drive. It is about nine miles north of Bodega Bay, and well worth the time. We popped on some Celtic music and pretended we were on the coast of Ireland. The cliffs did bear some resemblance to the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland, though each hold their unique beauty. When you arrive, you’ll notice many signs warning you to stay clear of seals who are very shy and come here to raise their young.
We walked along the beach, to the largest waves we had yet seen, getting very excited when we saw the cresting backs of dolphins and occasional harbor seals and sea lions. It wasn’t until we came to the end of the beach and rounded the corner, that we saw the reason for all the signs. On the beach across the river, there were over 50 harbor seals sunning themselves, clear of the rising tide and human interaction. People watched as massive sea lions played in the swirling surf and the harbor seals humorously scootched out of the water onto shore. When they look back at you with soulful eyes, you can see why they’ve been coined the dogs of the sea. Definitely one of my favorite hours spent at Bodega Bay was visiting the seals.
Bodega Bay, CA
As mentioned, we visited Bodega Bay over New Year’s weekend, and did not find the crowds to be overwhelming. The beauty of this area is so great you can visit it at any season and enjoy new sites and wildlife. We prefer the cooler weather, so found the winter to be most enjoyable, though we’ve been here in the fall as well. If you do travel to Bodega Bay, remember to book your camping spots or hotel reservations early. It’s a place worth making time to stop on Coastal Highway 1.
Bodega Bay and Dogs
Be warned, because of many protected species included Snowy Plovers and harbor seals, there are several areas of Bodega Bay that are not dog friendly. If it’s a hot day, plan something different for your four-legged friend or stick to the beaches that allow them to join you. Either way, they must always be on a six-foot leash.