Bodega Bay: A delightful, nearby vacation

In 1175, when Lt. Francisco Bodega y Cuadra, a Spanish mariner, dropped anchor in a bay that was so beautiful, he little realized what he had discovered. It was suggested that settlers be brought in from Mexico to develop the region. Warehouses were established along the shore, and in Spanish were called bodegas. No one really knows if the Lieutenant or the Spanish name for warehouse gave the name to this gloriously beautiful area.
In 1809, a Russian ship landed at Bodega Bay and settled on a coastal bluff 12 miles north of the Russian River, and Fort Ross was built. They took advantage of the warm climate for farming and fishing, and hunted sea otters with Aleut hunters from Alaska. (The sea otters were almost hunted to extinction.) The venture proved not be successful and the Russians left the area in 1841 and transferred their holdings to Swiss entrepreneur, John Sutter (of California gold rush fame). This is just a taste of the rich history of this small area that is one of the most interesting and beautiful tourist areas in Northern California.
Little towns and villages dot the shoreline with bed and breakfast inns, hotels, golf courses, country stores and art galleries with some very remarkable places to dine. The area is enhanced with boutique wineries with fine offerings that are not available anywhere else.
Bodega Bay was established as a port by the Russian settlers whose mission at the time was to raise food crops for their Alaskan settlements. In this more contemporary time, word has leaked out that this is the place for the finest fresh crab and salmon in the Northern California area. This is a thriving little community that attracts anyone who wants a relaxing getaway. A few suggestions are offered here on where to stay, eat and play.
The Bay Hill Mansion, 3919 Bay Hill Road in Bodega Bay, is a beautiful contemporary Queen Anne Victorian bed and breakfast that has the most spectacular view in the area, and boasts five uniquely decorated rooms with unmatched views. A gourmet’s delight breakfast if offered as part of your stay. Reservations recommended. Call 1-707-875-3200.
The Inn at the Tides, 800 Coast Highway, offers the luxurious end of the spectrum, with comfort and service and many amenities.
The rooms are spacious and beautifully appointed. Luxurious terry robes are in the wardrobe. Fireplaces are also available with wood ready to fire up on a quiet, foggy night. Decks face the beach. There is also a heated indoor and outdoor pool, a grand spa and a relaxing sauna. Complimentary continental breakfasts are available. For information call 1-800-541-7788.
Bodega Harbor Golf Links, 2130 Heron Drive, is a golf course reminiscent of Scotland’s greatest link-style courses. Named annually among Northern California’s “Top 10 Courses” and “10 Most Beautiful Courses,” Bodega Harbor Golf Links does not disappoint. This is a stunning setting that is billed as “West of Scotland and North of Pebble Beach.” The Bodega Harbor’s Clubhouse Restaurant boasts a gourmet menu featuring seafood specialties cooked in Italian, French or North American styles. For tee times and reservations, call 1-800-503-8158.
The Lucas Wharf Restaurant and Bar, 595 Highway 1, is right by the fishing fleet that unloads the fresh fish they serve. Finely prepared steaks and pastas are also on this very varied menu. Look out for the desserts, they are unavoidable. There is also a great wine list. A full delicatessen and fresh fish market is located next door. Picnic lunches and take out hot seafood is featured. Reservations are not accepted. Just go and enjoy.
The Tides Wharf Restaurant, 835 Highway 1, is another winner with a menu of fresh, superbly prepared seafood.  With a wharf-side, rustic setting, which includes friendly service and a full bar, lunch and dinner are most pleasant affairs. For reservations call 707-875-3652.
Jenner is a charming little town that sits on the edge of the Russian River; it is noted for its great restaurants and gift shopping. The Jenner Inn is a cozy mix of rooms and cottages, furnished with antiques, wicker and varied decorations with a New England touch that makes each different. Jenner by the Sea Restaurant is just next door with a fine menu. For rates, information and reservations, call 1-800-732-2377.
Take a boat cruise out to sea and get close to the migration route. Ride out to the end of Bodega Head where volunteers answer your questions, give mini-seminars and help people sight the spouts and black humps rising from the waves. The ideal season for whale watching is January through May. For whale watching information, call 1-707-869-3263.
In 1962 Alfred Hitchcock filmed his famous film “The Birds in Bodega Bay and Bodega (two different towns a few miles apart). For brochures and information, call or write the Bodega Bay Chamber of Commerce 1-707-347-3645.