The amazing thing about the West Coast is that it is still mostly wild, open, and astoundingly beautiful country, where you can drive for miles and miles and have the scenery all to yourself.
Protected by the massive bulk of Bodega Head, the fishing harbor of Bodega Bay has grown into an upscale vacation destination, with Sea Ranch-style vacation homes lining the fairways of golf resorts and deluxe hotels overlooking the still-busy commercial wharves.
On the waterfront, the Lucas Wharf Restaurant & Bar (595 S. Hwy-1, 707/875-3522) dishes up fish-and-chips and clam chowder. Next door, the Fishetarian Fish Market (599 S. Hwy-1, 707/875-9092) has fantastic fresh rock cod fish-and-chips, tasty fries, and a large fresh-fish market. If you’ve had your fill of fish, continue south to the rustic U.S. Post Office and mini-mall west of the highway, where you can enjoy milk shakes and hot dogs at the Dog House (537 S. Hwy-1, 707/875-2441).
South of Bodega Bay, Hwy-1 cuts inland around the marshy coastal estuaries, passing by the photogenic small town of Bodega, whose Victorian-era hilltop church was used by Alfred Hitchcock for many of the scariest scenes in his 1963 movie, The Birds. In 1976, international artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude used Bodega as a key tableau in their installation Running Fence, which draped an 18-foot-high, nearly 25-mile-long fabric curtain across the rolling ranchlands of Sonoma County, from the coast to the inland valleys.
There’s not much sign of Hollywood directors or conceptual art in these parts today, but Bodega is a nice place to wander and explore, and the down-home Casino Bar (17000 Bodega Hwy., 707/876-3185) at the center of “town” is more welcoming than it might look, with a well-worn pool table and excellent, locally-sourced food most nights.