Pinnacle Beach, in Bodega Harbour, offers solitude and dramatic views of the distinctive rocky outcroppings that have given the beach its name. There's a half-mile hike through a narrow canyon alongside a winter stream that leads to the beach. It is a day-use beach only. There is a fee for parking, but no beach-use fees. Stick to the trails. The surrounding property is all private.
Doran Park just to the south of town is a lovely strip of sand formed by the swirling currents of Bodega Bay. It has a bay side complete with clam flats and a salt marsh that hosts a wide variety of birds, and an ocean side that offers protected surfing or swimming with modest waves most of the time.
On the end of Bodega Head, Campbell Cove is the perfect place to take very little ones that you don't want playing near dangerous surf. The sandy little beach is on the west side of Bodega Head on the bay. At the top, near the parking lot, look for the famous "Hole in the Head," a 12-story-deep hole left by a power company over 40 years ago. It was built to house a nuclear reactor, but after local protests and the news that the San Andreas Fault runs under the area, the company was forced to move on, leaving behind this peaceful pond for lucky birds. At the end of Eastshore Road beyond Campbell Cove, Bodega Head juts out into the sea. The Head provides a dramatic vista from which whales may be sighted. The Head begins the series of Sonoma Coast Beaches owned by State Parks.
Salmon Creek Beach, where beautiful Salmon Creek winds down to the ocean, is for day use only, with a curfew for unchaperoned teens. This long cluster of beautiful dunes and sandy beach is home to many rare species. The snowy plover nesting ground are protected. Dogs are not allowed on Salmon Creek Beach. Salmon Creek Beach is popular with surfers for its favorable currents and surf. However. rip currents have led to many rescues at this beach. The nearest campground is Bodega Dunes to the south.
Wright's Beach has a campground and day-use area. It also has a deadly temptation at Duncan's Landing. Death Rock is a dramatic rock island that despite signs and warnings has lured many to their deaths through the years. The island causes the waves to form peculiar patterns, causing "sleeper" waves that suddenly seem to rise out of a calm sea and engulf the unwary on shore. DO NOT go out on Death Rock. The area is now fenced and clearly marked as off-limits to the public. Be content to watch the drama of the irregular "sleepers" suddenly swallowing the rock whole.
Goat Rock Beach is where the beautiful Russian River meets the sea. Harbor seals and sea lions gather at the mouth to harvest the steelhead and salmon trying to find their way upstream. The tiny village of Jenner spills down the hillside across from the park. Food and lodging is available there. One caution: like Death Rock, Goat Rock is another inviting death trap. The Rock is highly unstable, flaking away and plunging those on it into the turbulent surf, where once again,"sleeper" waves are likely to grab even the best swimmers and plunge them violently on the rocks or the sea floor. DO NOT CLIMB GOAT ROCK! Sleeper waves have also been known to grab people from the surfside north of the rock.
Blind Beach, on the southern side of the rock, is the safer beach, a favorite of boogie-boarders.
Fort Ross Park is the payoff for those who brave the 11 miles of the Jenner Grade, a hair-raising ride up Highway One. The old Russian settlement has been lovingly restored. With its spectacular views, it makes a perfect afternoon outing. There is a day-use fee and a visitors' center. South of the park there is a campground in a canyon leading to the sea. Salt Point Park is abalone paradise. The succulent giant sea snail lures a multitude of divers. Salt Point Park provides several campgrounds and a blufftop series of trails overlooking the ocean, as well as a hilltop trail through a pygmy forest.
Every day is different along the Sonoma coast, and each beach offers its unique attractions and hazards, often invisible to the untrained eye. State Park lifeguards patrol the entire stretch of beaches, but a lifeguard can only be in one place at a time.
Exercise caution; the best rescue is the one that never becomes necessary.