Classic Two-Day Road Trip from San Francisco to the Sonoma County Coast
Explore more than 50 miles of dramatic Pacific coastline along Sonoma County’s western border by taking a road trip on iconic California Highway 1. Slow down to discover nature, enjoy outdoor activities, and just breathe in the fresh salty air. Witness views that will take your breath away. Located just an hour’s drive north of San Francisco, the Sonoma County coastline offers sandy beaches that beckon to be strolled upon, rocky cliffs that beg to be photographed, and hidden treasure cafés and lodgings just waiting to be discovered.
Here is a sample two-day itinerary to give you the best of Sonoma County's coastal region.
From San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, cruise north on Highway 101 to the riverside town of Petaluma. Take the Highway 116/Lakeville St. exit and head west. Turn left onto East Washington St., which changes names a few times as it winds its way through lush farmlands to Highway 1 and the Sonoma County coast.
Just before you reach the coast, take a right on the Bodega Highway for a quick detour (about half a mile) to the tiny village of Bodega, one of the settings for Alfred Hitchcock’s classic thriller, The Birds. It’s a fun town to explore, with a diverse mix of shops and gourmet cuisine served in, of all places, a pool hall tavern.
After slightly more than five miles back on Highway 1, you’ll be driving on the edge of Bodega Bay, a shallow, rocky inlet about five miles wide on the Pacific coastline.
The fishing village of Bodega Bay hugs the hillside in a protected harbor on the north end of this bay. It offers intriguing shops, delicious restaurants, amazing art galleries, and multiple ways to explore the stunning natural beauty of this amazing coastal region.
Get some sand between your toes on the long, beautiful beach at Doran Regional Park, a sand spit that separates and protects Bodega Harbor from Bodega Bay and the Pacific Ocean. If there’s a good breeze (and there often is), stop in town first and buy a kite, then try it out on the beach.
You can also go bird watching; horseback riding on the beach or coastal bluffs; or surfing, kayaking, or stand-up paddle-boarding. For more details, check out five fun things to do in Bodega Bay.
Circle around the bay to discover Bodega Head, the rocky headland that forms the entrance into the harbor. It’s popular for crabbing along the jetty, hiking on the bluffs and down to small sandy coves, and whale watching. Explore Bodega Head on the Sonoma Coast.
This is the southernmost point of the Sonoma Coast State Park, which offers 17 miles of beaches, hidden coves, and rocky bluffs stretched out along Highway 1. The views around every bend of the road are amazing. Discover Sonoma Coast State Park.
This coastal village to the north offers stunning views, spectacular sunsets, several tasty restaurants, and two lodges. The Jenner Visitors Center provides displays about local history, flora, and fauna, and a delightful nature store. There’s a small boat launch next to the center, in case you brought a kayak or canoe. WaterTreks EcoTours rents out kayaks, and offers a variety of interpretive guided kayaking and hiking tours. Get more details about spending 48 hours in Jenner.
When You’re Ready to Eat
There’s a multitude of options for fresh, tasty meals along the coast, ranging from clam chowder served on picnic tables to fine dining, and just about everything in-between. For ideas, here are some top seafood restaurants in Bodega Bay. Check our listings of coast and sea villages restaurants, as well.
Settling in for the Night
Whether you’re looking for simple and rustic or elegantly luxurious, you’ll find it on the Sonoma Coast — and likely with a gorgeous view. Discover 10 unique hotels and inns on the Sonoma Coast, and check our listings of coastal lodgings.
Follow Highway 1 as it winds its way north, and be sure to stop as often as possible to admire the view. About one-and-a-half miles north of Jenner, the Jenner Headlands Preserve offers 14 miles of scenic trails in a spectacular 5,630-acre mosaic of forests, woodlands, chaparral, and coastal prairie overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
Glimpse California’s unique Russian and Native American history at Fort Ross State Historic Park, which from 1812 to 1841 was the hub of the southernmost Russian settlements along the West Coast. Faithfully reconstructed buildings recall the once-thriving colony.
If sipping great wine with amazing views appeals to you, head up the hillside to Fort Ross Vineyard & Winery, which pours Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinotage made from grapes grown exclusively in the winery’s coastal vineyard.
A little further north, Timber Cove Resort perches dramatically on an isolated cliff. This unique property includes the ultimate outdoor sculpture: the 93-foot-tall “Peace Obelisk” by San Francisco artist Benjamin Bufano.
The 210-acre Stillwater Cove Regional Park is a popular spot for picnicking, tide pooling, fishing, diving, and ocean kayaking. It includes a small crescent beach and a launch area for small boats. The 6,000-acre Salt Point State Park stretches for more than six miles along the Pacific Ocean, with more than 20 miles of hiking trails, two campgrounds, a pygmy forest, and an underwater park.
Nearing Sonoma County’s northern border on Highway 1, be sure to stop and wander through the Sea Ranch Chapel, a small, whimsical building that seems poised to take flight. It’s located in The Sea Ranch, an award-winning planned community developed in the early 1960s. Check out the expansive beach and coastal bluff trails at Gualala Point Regional Park, where the Gualala River empties into the Pacific Ocean.
There is so much to see and do in the area, you might want to spend even more time there. For more ideas, check out 10 fun things to do on the Northern Sonoma Coast, the best beaches on the Sonoma Coast, and the Top 10 things to do in Sonoma County.
Have an extra day? Check out our Classic Three-Day Road Trip from San Francisco to Sonoma County's Top Historic Sites.