From Bodega Head to 3½ miles north of Jenner
Spread along 17 miles of Sonoma's coast
Park HQ: 3095 Highway 1, Bodega Bay
Vary by season
Day-use fee: $8
Caution: Check with rangers or lifeguards that conditions are safe for your planned activities.
Thirteen beaches along the ocean-front of Sonoma Coast State Park vary from long expanses of sand to hidden pockets among jagged rocks. For those who enjoy the excitement of exploring secret coves, sea caves, rugged points dashed by waves, and pristine tide pools, or simply strolling along the sand, the Sonoma Coast beaches are calling.
Hiking trails wind along many of the headlands and bluffs overlooking the ocean, making great places to enjoy spring wildflowers or the winter migration of whales. While the surf is too dangerous for swimming or wading, visitors enjoy fishing, hiking, wildlife viewing, and picnicking. Summer fog is common, but it usually burns off by noon.
Due to budget constraints some areas may have limited services. It is best to check the parks website, Sonoma Coast State Park, or call (707) 865-2391 for up-to-date information.
South Salmon Creek Beach extends for two miles south from the creek to Mussel Point on the Bodega Head. An entrance on Bean Avenue off Highway 1 leads to a parking lot adjacent to the beach near the creek. Bodega Dunes Day Use Area is located off the road leading into Bodega Dunes Campground. Trails lead across the dunes and along the shore. Restrooms are located at both parking areas. A picnic area is found at Bodega Dunes. The beach is popular for surf fishing, beachcombing, and picnicking.
When the flow of Salmon Creek is diminished it is easy to wade, or even stroll, across the creek mouth from South Salmon Creek Beach to its northern counterpart. A parking lot is located next to Highway 1 and adjacent to the beach. North Salmon Creek Beach is only a quarter mile long, but it is a popular destination. When surfing is good, the lot can fill quickly. Only experienced surfers venture into these treacherous waters. Restrooms are found at the parking lot.
A parking lot on a bluff overlooking Schoolhouse Beach provides a great viewpoint of the area. A fairly good trail leads down to the small beach. There are no facilities here.
Immediately north of Schoolhouse, Portuguese Beach draws more visitors. A similar parking lot on the bluff overlooks the beach. A good trail leads down to its southern end where restrooms are located. The beach itself is about a third of a mile long.
Anglers know that Shell Beach is one of the best fishing spots in the area. The tide pools at Shell Beach attract groups of school children who are learning about marine life in the intertidal zone. Geologists find the beach area especially interesting for its various rock layers and structures. The trail to the beach is steep and only partially paved. Signs at the beach warn of the dangerous surf.
At the mouth of the Russian River, Goat Rock Beach is one of the most scenic along this part of the coast. A colony of harbor seals has claimed part of the sand, delighting visitors. Seal pups are born between March and August. At all times of the year visitors are asked to keep at least 50 yards from the seals. Restrooms and picnic tables are located there.
The beach at Doran Regional Park faces south and usually avoids the heavy surf seen along most of the Sonoma coast. Swimmers are still advised to use caution. There are no lifeguards on duty. The entry fee for day use is $7.
Duncan's Landing has the reputation for being the site of more ocean deaths than any other along this dangerous stretch of coast. Large and unpredictable surf can crash high on the rocks without warning, catching unwary sight-seers and dragging them into the pounding surf. At times the waves have reached the parking lot.
Located at the far north end of the state park, Vista Point can be reached by a short trail leading out from a parking lot off Highway 1. There are restrooms and picnic tables available.
Arched Rock is one of the iconic sites along the park's coast. The island rock with its arched opening is located 3 miles north of Bodega Bay at Arched Rock Beach. A trail leads down to the beach, but the rock can be appreciated from several overlooks on the bluff tops.
Similar to Russian Gulch in Mendocino County, Sonoma's Russian Gulch is a small beach at the mouth of Russian Gulch Creek. A parking lot is located just off Highway 1 and trail leads to the beach. High bluffs rise on either side of the beach. Restrooms are located at the parking lot.
The Russian River and Bodega Head State Marine Conservation Areas includes a section of the ocean at the mouth of the Russian River and a large area extending west from Bodega Head. Special regulations govern marine conservation areas.
The small communities of Bodega Bay and Jenner provide basic services for visitors. Bodega Bay is known for a number of fine restaurants, coffee shops, and delis. Grocery stores and other shops are also found in town. Spud Point Marina in Bodega Bay has docks, fuel, a fishing pier, restrooms, laundry, and even WiFi.
The town of Jenner is much smaller, but they still offer several restaurants. The Sonoma Coast State Park Visitor Center is located in Jenner.
For information about area motels, resorts, inns, and bed and breakfasts, see out LODGING
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