Bodega Bay is one of those absolutely perfect California camping destinations
We are moving up the coast from the San Fransisco metropolitan area and are getting back out into the wide open spaces, but it's still populated enough to make true boondocking impractical. So I reconciled myself to the fact that I'd have to be polite and sociable and play well with others for a few more days, and started looking around for organized camping.
There's a nice set of parks administered by Sonoma County, including the one at Bodega Bay, Doran Regional Park.
Where is Bodega Bay?
Bodega Bay is a nice big south-facing bay on the coast, and the town is a protected harbor north of the bay. Doran Park is on the sand spit separating the harbor from the bay, so you have your choice of bayside or harborside campsites.
We showed up around mid-morning Friday, and were cheerfully greeted, handed a map with the open spots marked, and told to look around, pick one out, and come back to register, which we did. Fees were $32 a night, with a $2 per dog charge (cats are free) which pains me somewhat, but it's the cost of civilization, I guess.
What kind of camping is at Bodega Bay?
There are no hookups at Bodega Bay, which means you're serenaded by the droning of generators, but there's water and a $7 dump with a weird credit card reader thing that's more trouble to operate that actually dumping, plus coin operated showers, and restrooms with flush toilet. Quite uptown by my standards.
We picked a harbor side spot, which was good for boat-watching, and less noisy, since the bayside beach is right in front of the bayside sites.
We had our own little cedar grove and a paved parking pad, with picnic table and fire ring, plus plenty of solar and an easy setup for the satellite dishes. Beach vegetation is sparse and ground-hugging. The wind was brisk but not strong enough to create a problem, and the weather was 50ish-60ish during the day, and high 40s at night, about right for this time of year.
Not much swimming or sunbathing was going on this early in the season, but lots of day stay locals and campers were fishing along the harbor side. We saw many small pleasure craft and a few commercial fishing boats come and go during our two-day stay. There's a Coast Guard station on this sand spit as well, and the Coast Guard cutter made several forays daily, with the bridge occupied by numerous color-coordinated orange-vested personnel.
Many birds were around, including a disconcerting number of vultures, the usual seagulls and starlings, plus red-winged blackbirds with their distinctive call, and tiny little songbirds flitting around in the sparse undergrowth. Those succulent ground cover things you see all over the pacific coast were everywhere, and blooming this time of year.
We spent Friday and Saturday night at this park, along with the weekend warriors, who were all packing up to go back to town and work as we left at noon on Sunday. I saw tags from Sacramento and San Fransisco – this is an easy two hour drive from many population centers, so it's an easy escape for them. It was mostly a younger crowd, with towables and a child or three along for the adventure. I would imagine it's hard to get in here once the kids get out of school, but shoulder season means there are walk-up spots, even on Fridays.
There is also an online reservation system with some peculiarities, including not being able to get anything less than a week in advance, so it wasn't much use to us. We don't plan that far ahead.
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