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Sonoma Coast Beach Activities

Sonoma County

Sonoma Coast Beach Activities

The Sonoma Coast beaches are known for their spectacular and varied scenery, making them favorite destinations for sight-seers, beach explorers, photographers, geology buffs, artists, picnickers, and hikers. Visitors know to arrive prepared for changeable weather. Fog and cold ocean winds are not unusual, even in summer.

Caution: Sonoma Coast beaches are unsafe for swimming and wading. Strong rip currents, unpredictable rogue waves (also known as sleeper waves), powerful surf, and sudden drop-offs are some of the hazards along the shore. Beach visitors should stay well back from the water and off ocean-front rocks. Before setting out for the day, check with rangers or lifeguards that conditions are safe for your planned activities.

Sonoma Coast Wildlife

Marine wildlife is plentiful along the Sonoma Coast. Pacific harbor seals can be observed around Goat Rock. Many can be seen at a rookery on the sand spit at the mouth of the Russian River. Adult seals weight up to 300 pounds. They usually feed at night and lounge on the beach during the day. Seal pups are born from March through August. Visitors are requested to remain at least 50 yards from the seals.

The beach is also a resting spot for elephant seals and sea lions. In the Russian River keep an eye open for river otters. Out to sea gray whales can be seen migrating during the winter months.

Whale watchers, Sonoma Coast State Park, CA

Whale Watchers at Bodega Head

At Salmon Creek Beach and Bodega Dunes the endangered snowy plovers find wintering and nesting spots in the sand. These small, sparrow-sized shorebirds are hard to see, so visitors should keep their eyes open for them.

Shorebirds can be sighted all along the Sonoma coast. Around the mouth of the Russian River watch for brown pelicans, ospreys, egrets, cormorants, and Heerman's gulls. Doran Regional Park is known as one of the best birding spots in the area.

Bird Walk Coastal Access Trail

The Bird Walk Trail at Doran Regional Park in Bodega Bay is part of the Sonoma County Parks system. The 1.2-mile trail circles two ponds two salt-water marsh ponds that are the habitat for thousands of birds. The gravel trail is generally accessible to wheelchairs. Dogs on leash are permitted. Parking is $7 per vehicle. The trail is open from 7:00 AM to sunset.

Hang Gliding

Hang gliding is permitted from a launch site near the Arch View parking lot at the southern end of Goat Rock Beach. The launch point is 160 feet above the beach. Both paragliding and motorless recreational hang gliding are permitted.

Pilots must be USHPA members, have a signed waiver on file at the park headquarters, and have a Sonoma Wings H4/P4-member present. The best season for hang gliding is generally from January through May. Read more details about regulations for flying at Goat Rock Beach on the Sonoma Wings website.

Tide Pools

Shell Beach is one of the best tide pooling spots along the Sonoma coast. During low tides in the spring and summer volunteer docents are on hand to answer questions for visitors and point out various features. Among the organisms visitors may see are hermit crabs, limpets, mussels, sea stars, chitons, urchins, and barnacles. Other beaches with interesting tide pools include Miwok Beach and the northern end of Portuguese Beach.

Sonoma Coast Trails

Five miles of trails open to hikers and equestrians cover the Bodega Dunes and Salmon Creek Beach areas of the park. Those trails can be reached from Bay Flat Road. Horses are allowed on Salmon Creek Beach as long as they stay on the trail, but no horses are permitted north of the picnic area.

The 3½-mile Kortum Trail connects Wright's Beach with Blind Beach, with Shell Beach located about mid-way. The Pomo Canyon Trail starts at the Shell Beach parking lot and leads 3½ miles inland to the Pomo Canyon Environmental Campground.

Kiteboarding and Windsurfing at
Bodega Bay

Many kiteboarders prefer to do their riding inside the harbor area at Bodega Bay, thus avoiding most of the severe winds of the open Pacific and sharks. The tide inside the harbor needs to be at 2 feet or higher in order to avoid obstacles.

Beginners and others who are not confident with their kiting skills usually launch from the west shore of the harbor. The wind generally blows to the east. Beginners can then make several reaches before landing on the eastern side of the harbor. Kiters need to be wary of the tall channel markers that could snag kite lines. More accomplished kiteboarders launch from the east shore and work their way upwind.

Wind Walker Boardsports

Wind Walker Boardsports offers windsurfing lessons at Bodega Bay. Their WIA certified instructors are trained to teach anyone from ages 8 to 80 to windsurf. Much of the water in the Bodega Harbor is only waist deep and has a sandy bottom, making it a great place for beginners to learn the skills they need. Morning winds are 5 to 15 knots while in the afternoon they pick up to between 20 and 40 knots.

Wind Walker Boardsports

Kiteboarding and Windsurfing Resources

101 Surf Sports
Bay Area Kiteboarding

Sonoma coast, Sonoma Coast State Park, CA

Diving for Abalone on the Sonoma Coast

Free divers like the challenge of diving for red abalone off the Sonoma Coast. The abalone are usually found from shallow water down to 100 feet. Using an abalone iron, they pry legal-size abalone from the rock. Free diving is the only legal method for diving for red abalone in California. The season is open from April to November, but there are restrictions in certain areas and divers should check California Fishing Regulations before setting out.

Sonoma Coast Divers

Sonoma Coast Divers offers abalone diving classes along the coast north of Jenner. In the classes they teach about the equipment needed for free diving, identifying the shellfish, free diving techniques, and how to remove the abalone from the rocks. Most of the necessary equipment can be rented from them.

Fishing along the Sonoma Coast

Anglers along the Sonoma Coast are cautious of the waves as they fish for perch, salmon, smelt, steelhead, and rockfish. Check Fish and Wildlife regulations before setting out.
California Fishing Regulations

Nearby Attractions

WaterTrek EcoTours

10438 Highway 1
Jenner, CA
Guided interpretive tours for hiking or kayaking
Kayak the Jenner Estuary
Kayak rentals
WaterTrek EcoTours

River Riders Bicycle Rentals

Guerneville based bicycle rentals
Free delivery within 15 miles
Ride along the Russian River
(707) 483-2897
River Riders Bicycle Rentals

Candy & Kites

1415 Highway 1
Bodega Bay, CA
Open Thurs - Tues
Kites for sale
Candy & Kites

The Links at Bodega Harbour

21301 Heron Drive
Bodega Bay, CA
18-hole golf course
Rolling fairways, pot bunkers, multi-tiered greens
Final 3 holes near the edge of the Pacific
The Links at Bodega Harbour

Doran Regional Park

201 Doran Beach Rd.
Bodega Bay, CA
Beaches, birding, camping, fishing, trails, kayaking, picnicking
Open 7:00 AM to sunset
$7 per vehicle
Doran Regional Park

Westside Regional Park

2400 Westshore Drive
Bodega Bay. CA
Birding, camping, fishing, kayaking and canoeing, picnicking, boat ramp
Open 7:00 AM to sunset
$7 per vehicle
Westshore Regional Park

Books and Maps of Local Interest

Ocean Safety

California State Parks and Recreation cautions that "large surf, cold water temperatures, backwash, sudden drop-offs, pounding shorebreak, and dangerous rip currents can turn what seem like safe activities such as playing near the surf line, wading, or climbing on rock outcroppings, deadly." Learn more about ocean safety at
CA State Parks: Ocean Safety

California's Best Beaches

Chicago Park Web Design

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