Dream Town: Bodega Bay, California
Discover this quiet California community along the Pacific Coast Highway, where the views are unobstructed and the simple life rules.
A 90-minute drive north of San Francisco on Highway 1, past lazy sheep meadows and clapboard cattle ranches, this small fishing village charms with its sea-weathered candy shops and surf shacks welcoming visitors with hand-painted wooden signs.
Pictured left: Bodega Head, known for its hiking trails with sublime vistas, at dawn
Homes are passed down through generations to some of the 1,000 year-round residents, while other locals have relocated here for the natural wonder, says resident and real estate broker Scott Adams. "And we're close to wine country," he adds, a definite draw for vino lovers who work—and play—in the rich inland and coastal vineyards nearby.
Pictured left: SIMI Winery's Goldfields Vineyard in Sonoma County
And while the warmer months tend to bring an influx of visitors, it's mostly quiet here. "I love being able to walk the beach—especially in off-season—and be the only footprints I see in the sand," says Adams. "There are no traffic lights, there are no honking horns. It's just wonderfully peaceful."
Pictured left: Playtime on the beach
Restaurants. At Spud Point Crab Company, the crab and wild king salmon are just caught from the waters surrounding the restaurant. For crisp fish-and-chips, new harborfront eatery The Birds Café serves fried treats and comforting clam chowder.
Beach. Doran Beach, a two-mile stretch, has gentle waves perfect for swimming; picnic tables, campgrounds, and horseback riding in the ocean are also part of the beach culture. Salmon Creek, on the north side of town, draws families and surfers.
Activities. Bodega Head, a rocky peninsula jutting between the ocean and bay, has hiking trails with sublime vistas and picnic spots overlooking the water. Golfers will want to try the Links at Bodega Harbour, perched along the coast.
Just Visiting? For zoom-worthy sights of Doran Beach and its bird sanctuary, check in to Bodega Bay Lodge and put the in-room binoculars to good use. Rates start at $179; bodegabaylodge.com.
Pictured Left: Sonoma Coast State Park boasts long, sandy beaches for relaxing, and hiking trails for exploring.