The quaint, coastal Sonoma County town of Bodega Bay offers both residents and visitors a relaxed lifestyle and quick access to some of Northern California's most spectacular natural scenery along California’s picturesque Highway 1.
More a village than a town, Bodega Bay has become a holiday or day-trip destination for Bay Area residents escaping the often broiling summer temperatures commonly found inland. Some folks buy summer homes here although the homes for sale in Bodega Bay are expensive with few on the market.
People also come to see the bayside fishing boats and eat the area’s famed “BBQ oysters.” These delicious monster-sized mollusks are pried open, tossed on the grill – shell and all - and then slathered with BBQ sauce. This is a treat not soon forgotten.
Oysters far outnumber people in Bodega Bay with its tiny population of around 1,000. Located roughly thirty miles west of Petaluma and seventy miles north of San Francisco, locals sometimes say they live “in the middle of nowhere,” and that’s just the way they want to keep it.
It is a pleasant place to call home if you are looking for a beautiful striking water views and vistas. Before it became a much loved tourist attraction, some interesting characters came here, and not for the views.
English Pirates, Russians and Bandits
Some historians believe Sir Frances Drake, the famed English privateer – the Spanish called him a pirate – landed at or around Bodega Bay in 1579, being the first European to set foot in the region. After repairing his ship and having friendly interactions with the local Miwok tribe, he set off to continue his plunder of Spanish ships which he did with much success.
It wasn’t until the 1800’s that the first European permanent settlement was established at Bodega Bay. Russian fur traders built a storehouse, barracks and wharf. However, they didn’t stay long because their source of fur, sea otters, were pretty much wiped out.
Decades later, as the area had prospered and grown, Bodega Bay was not spared the downside of being in the wild, wild west. Just 12-miles up the coast from Bodega Bay, the bandit poet, Black Bart, held up a Wells Fargo stagecoach - one of twenty-eight he would eventually rob - leaving behind a poem which read:
I’ve labored long and hard for bread
For honor and for riches
But on my corns too long your tread
You fine haired sons of bitches
Black Bart was one of the most successful stagecoach robbers of the West. However, like most people in that line of work, he finally ended up in San Quentin prison.
Hitchcock’s Flying Fiends
Bodega Bay earned its place in cinematic history in 1963 when director Alfred Hitchcock chose the town as the primary setting for his classic thriller “The Birds”. Landmarks from the film, most notably the former Potter Schoolhouse – where the birds first revealed their murderous intent – still stands today a few miles east of the town.
Today, some tourists in Bodega Bay flinch when they see seagulls flying overhead or witness blackbirds looking down at them from power lines. If you see a sign that reads, “Don’t Feed the Birds,” they mean it.
Tourism Sustains Bodega Bay Today
Bodega Bay has mostly small businesses including a few restaurants, a market, a surf shop, and a kite store but no large retailers, which helps the community maintain its old school, small town flavor. Opportunities for outdoor recreation abound in the town, whether it's boating in Bodega Bay or hiking the rugged coastline of the breathtaking Sonoma Coast State Park or Doran Beach.
Bodega Bay is also relatively close to the Russian River, which empties into the Pacific Ocean about 10 miles north near the tiny community of Jenner. One of Bodega’s treasures is the links style 18-hole golf course at Bodega Harbor, one of Northern California's most scenic seaside golf courses.
Homes for Sale in Bodega Bay
Homes for sale in Sonoma County’s Bodega Bay range from small, older cottages near the community's center to expansive, newer properties surrounding the golf course. Many of the homes in Bodega Bay are vacation homes for those living in the congested San Francisco Bay Area. The number of homes for sale in Bodega Bay at any one time is tiny. Currently (Feb. 2023), there are just six homes for sale in coastal California’s most charming town.
And like other homes for sale in Sonoma County, these won’t remain on the market for long. Prices top out at just under $3 million for a beautiful 2,400 sq ft, three-bedroom, two-bath house which sports a Bocce Ball court and ocean views. Considered a bargain, the cheapest home is a $950,000, 933 sq ft condo with two-bedrooms and two-bathrooms.
While prices are down from last year, don’t let that give you the false hope of finding an inexpensive home. Median home prices in Bodega Bay are $1.5 million, well above homes for sale in California.
If you do find yourself a homeowner in Bodega Bay, just remember to keep the bird cage locked.