The Lodge at Bodega Bay Celebrates 50 Years With a New Look
Though home prices have skyrocketed in the Bay Area — along with everywhere else — Bodega Bay has barely changed in the last few decades, unlike other once-sleepy local tourist destinations. Fishing boats unload their daily catch at the docks. Saltwater taffy and kite stores dot the one-lane highway that snakes through town. Every time I visit I time-travel back to days spent there as a kid, just 20 miles from my hometown of Santa Rosa.
It doesn’t require any imagination to understand why when a couple of East Coast transplants spotted a roadside motor lodge along Highway One in Bodega Bay in 1972 they thought it was worth quitting their jobs, investing everything they had and making managing the property their full-time occupation. The once sleepy 36-room pit stop for passersby (formerly, Bodega Bay Lodge) is now called The Lodge at Bodega Bay, an 83-room destination hotel and part of the family-owned Woodside Hotel Group. Woodside’s CEO, Greg Alden, was born the year his parents purchased the lodge, and he remembers its early days.
“If we needed a new mattress for one of the hotel rooms, my dad would buy a mattress and take it up on the roof of the station wagon. Everything was bootstrapped.”
The majority of the rooms and suites have just been fully renovated (with 15 more to be redone by end of year) with new furniture, fixtures, linens and fireplaces. The spa-like bathrooms were all updated a couple years back. Now it’s not just about the view from the room, but about the beauty of the room itself.
Alden says, “We tried to keep the soul of the property the same — the coastal retreat atmosphere. It’s a hub for how one might explore the Sonoma Coast.” The Lodge at Bodega Bay is the epitome of low-slung rustic luxury — shingle, stone and seagrass with views for days. It happens to sit on arguably one of the most stunning coastlines in the world: rugged and untamed, windswept and often downright chilly.
A walk down from the property to Doran Beach is nothing short of restorative. Alden suggests, “Wake up in the morning, grab a cup of coffee and walk down to Doran Park Beach. Hear the waves, see the sunrise and breathe that fresh coastal air.” This two-mile-long beach is a popular destination for day-trippers and overnight campers. As you cross the dunes, you’ll find yourself on the quiet side of the beach. You may see horses trot by, seals pop up in the water or even whales migrating. Stroll back along the Bird Walk Coastal Access Trail (be forewarned: you’ll have a one-minute walk in the highway’s bike lane at the end).
My husband, an exhaustive traveler, declares the view from the lodge’s hot tub one of the best in the world. Don sunglasses and a hat to block the glare, and dunk yourself, facing the saltwater marsh and the bay beyond. Follow this up with a massage in one of the two neighboring treatment rooms. An overhyped and overpriced spa this is not. Truth be told, I’ve driven out just for a massage.
Sit by the window at the Drakes Sonoma Coast restaurant or the completely reimagined Fireside Lounge with three new sunset-facing fire pits and you’re likely to see an egret take flight or a white-tailed rabbit hop past. The menu reflects the unpretentious sophistication of the property and it’s equally worth visiting here for breakfast or dinner. For those inclined to take suggestions, I can’t say no to the farmer’s omelet for breakfast, but my weaker friends have fallen in love with the cornflake-crusted French toast. To end the day, do as the locals do. “Without a doubt, I’ll get the fresh seafood,” Alden says. “The chef is always down at the docks and whatever comes in fresh is put on the menu. It’s hard to pass that up.”
If you can manage to tear yourself away, drive out to Bodega Head, a peninsula that juts out into the Pacific, with diverse hiking terrain, stunning views and plenty of parking. For a nosh, there are vocal Spud Point Crab Company devotees, but for me it’s always the bayside picnic tables, fish tacos and a pint of Pliny the Elder at Fishetarian Fish Market (pro tip: order in advance from your phone). Or brush the sand off your toes and book dinner at the incomparably down-to-earth, Michelin-starred restaurant Terrapin Creek.
As the fog rolls in and night approaches, the foghorn sounds. This is your cue to take one last look at the sweeping views across the bay, settle into a luxuriously outfitted guest room and dream of the sea.
The Lodge at Bodega Bay, 103 Coast Highway One, Bodega Bay, 707.875.3525