Surfing | top
When: Beach-combing is a year-round activity in Sonoma County. In January, February, and March most of the rainfall occurs, but even then there will be many sunny days, particularly at the coast where fog tends to prevail in the summer.
Where: The western Sonoma County coast is rugged, with high bluffs near Jenner descending to road level beaches at Bodega Bay.
This coastline is considered one of the beautiful in the world, but it is also one of the most treacherous. Sleeper waves take the lives of unwary tourists every year and it is not uncommon for at least one abalone diver each year to succumb to a great white shark attack. This is a coast that commands respect at all times.
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Surfing takes place primarily at the Bodega Bay area beaches and is a year round activity. Popular locations are Salmon Creek, Doran Beach, Dillon Beach, and then north near Jenner at Goat Rock Beach. The Bodega Bay Surf Shack is the source of good advice, lessons for beginners, and equipment rentals.
Diving | top
The best sites for diving are along Highway One, north of Jenner. Gerstle Cove Marine Reserve, at Salt Point State Park, is an underwater park where marine life is protected and divers can hand launch small boats in the sheltered water. Sites along the Sonoma coast include: Fort Ross Reef, Fort Ross and North Fort Ross Cove, Timber Cove, Stillwater Cove, Ocean Cove, South Gerstle Cove, Gerstle Cove. Find more info on these locations on Resources page.
Abalone Diving | top
The Sonoma Coast, along with the Mendocino coast, is the best place in the world for abalone diving. Each year thousands of divers converge on the coast and every year a few of them die. Big surf, rocky shorelines, strong undertow and currents, and great white sharks present a danger even to experienced divers. A license is required, which can be purchased at local country stores, and the daily limit is three red abalone, with an annual limit of 24. Only abalone seven inches or more in diameter can be taken. The season is April 1 through June 30 and again August 1 through November 30.
Birding | top
Bodega Bay is the birding hotspot in western Sonoma County (there are numerous sites in eastern Sonoma County as well).
Rock Climbing | top
In western Sonoma County, rock climbing is limited to the coastal areas, all off Highway One, primarily between Bodega Bay and Jenner. Here are the sites from south to north:
- Marshall Gulch, near the village of Carmet
- Sunset Boulders and Blind Beach at Goat Rock
- Twin Coves, three miles north of Jenner
- Dry Creek Sea Crag, five miles north of Jenner
- Secret Cove or Horseshoe Point, north end of Salt Point State Park
Whale Watching | top
From late November through February, California gray whales, 40 - 60 feet long, migrate from the rich feeding fields of the Arctic region down the California coast. Pregnant whales generally are in the lead, with non-pregnant females and males following behind, courting and mating as they travel. After a four to seven week stay in the lagoons of coastal Baja, while the birthing takes place, the migration returns by the North Coast from late February through April. Mothers and their calves leave last, so they can be seen passing by as late as early May.
The longest migration undertaken by any mammal-12,000 miles roundtrip-- it is a spectacular sight, especially since the numbers of whales has greatly increased since they received protection. More than 20,000 whales pass by, spouting high into the air as they pass.
There are many good viewing sites in Sonoma County. The best places to see the whale migration are from Bodega Head in Bodega Bay, Fort Ross State Park, and Timber Cove. Bodega Head, located within Sonoma Coast State Beach, is an outcropping which juts into the ocean. The whales can be observed passing close to the head. Volunteers from Stewards of the Redwoods and the Coast provide interpretive services on weekends during the migration.
To see the whales at close range, travelers can take whale-watching cruises out of Bodega Bay. Local fishing boats offer whale-watching cruises throughout the season and the Oceanic Society also offers trips on Saturdays and Sundays in March and April. While on a cruise, you may see dolphins, humpback whales, harbor seals, seabirds, and possibly even a blue whale, the largest animal ever.
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