Yes, there are two distinct places although they are adjacent, and together they formed the backdrop for the filming of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1963 movie “The Birds”. In case you don’t know, both are located about an hour north of San Francisco on Route 1. Well, to be accurate, Bodega is about a quarter of a mile off Route 1 on Bodega Highway.
Bodega is a little village small enough to qualify for the “if you blink you’ll miss it” category, and yet it has its own quaintness that makes it an attractive place to visit. Everything on its Main Street is oriented towards its tourism trade, and yet behind that lives a community that sustains itself in ways that those of us who live in big cities probably don’t think about. One of the few buildings on the main street, if you can call it a Main Street, is the fire station. It’s staffed by volunteers, people who have to be trained in firefighting, paramedical skills, and a host of other skills required of people in the fire service. Well, that’s good, you may think, because the community has to fight its fires and respond to medical emergencies. But, it turns out, the resources and volunteer staff are mostly consumed attending to strangers in car accidents or in need of emergency medical services. Thus the cost of the fire station and volunteer time of the crews is mainly dissipated on visitors. There are no public loos (British for bathrooms) in the village so one of the stores rents a couple of port-a-loos to service the needs of its customers, and of course everyone else passing through the village. Why do I bring this up you may ask? Well I realized, as I was listening to the owner of ”Fine Art and Craft”, we tourists arrive in these places and perhaps give little thought to what it takes for the the local people to maintain their businesses, or maintain their town, or provide services for both local people and visitors.
The short strip along the Bodega Highway that is the face of the Bodega is book-ended by two art stores – Fine art and crafts at the south end and an artist co-op at the north end.
In between, you find a general store that is as much a homage to Alfred Hitchcock as it is a store.
A variety of other stores, some you might not expect to find, are clustered together on one side of the street. There is even a dressmaker in town.
The two most distinctive buildings in the village are its Catholic church and what was once the schoolhouse – used famously in the ‘Birds’ movie. It’s now a private residence, so all you can do is stand outside and gawk at it while taking your own snapshot souvenir.
The church is an imposing 150-year-old building that stands pristine and erect, adjacent to the schoolhouse, on a hill.
You can eat in Bodega, grab a beer or get a coffee.
If you return to Route 1 and go 10 miles west you’ll be in Bodega Bay. Unlike Bodega, Bodega Bay is a sprawling collection of tourism that doesn’t have the quaint charm of Bodega, but nevertheless has its own set of attractions as a fishing town.
On the south end of the town are a couple of high-end hotels, while the north end of the town is home to Sonoma Coast State Park Campground. There is no center of town per se, but instead, as you drive along Route 1, you encounter pockets of tourism on the shore side of the road; a collection of shops usually anchored by a seafood restaurant.
The bay itself is created by a lip of land that curves around in a southerly direction providing natural protection for the fishing boats that still ply their trade on the northern California coast. Most of the lip is occupied by the Sonoma Coast State Park and provides campgrounds as well as walking access to the beach. However, if you take Westside Road from Route 1 you can reach Bodega Head at the very tip of the lip.
Bodega Head is reputedly a good place for whale watching, but they weren’t showing on the day that we visited. Whale watching aside, if you drive to the car park at Bodega Head you can walk along the cliffs to get a panoramic view of Bodega Bay
If you take the north trail from the car park you can hike up to Horseshoe Cove Overlook for a look at Bodega Bay and the harbor mouth.
Alternatively you can sit and gaze out on the Pacific Ocean to the accompaniment of the surf crashing on the rocks below.
Alternatively you can descend from the car park to the sandy beach below and stroll and explore the tide pools. Of course all of this activity will stimulate your appetite, so when you’re done with your hike you can settle down at one of the picnic tables, picnic on the beach, or drive back into town to sample one of the restaurants.
We stopped at the Lucas wharf for a dinner to sustain us on the drive home.
The food was good, not high-end but tasty and basic, middle-of-the-road cuisine which entrées topped out at under $25. The service was friendly and efficient and no matter where you sit in the restaurant you can see out across the bay and watch the sun set behind the hills.