Summary: Located approximately 90 minutes from San Francisco, the Sonoma Coast is a beautiful spot to capture some incredible coastal photos. Just past the town of Bodega Bay, there are several beaches with parking, where access to the beach is easy. If you are up for a hike, walk along the 9-mile Kortum trail which follows the Coastline. Or, for a dog-friendly option, hike the Jenner Headlands where there are 4 to 15 mile hiking options.
Getting there. From San Francisco, take Highway 101 North to the town of Petaluma. Here, there are a few different ways to cut over to Highway 1 which takes you out to the Coast. We think the easiest way is to take Bodega Avenue to Valley Ford to Highway 1. On your way out to the Coast, enjoy the gorgeous rolling hills of the West Petaluma country-side, where you will see diary cows and coastal vineyards throughout. Once in Bodega Bay, follow Highway 1 past the town center until you reach the open stretches of coastline. Here, you will pass several small beach parking lots, all of which makes great stops for photographs, e.g. Salmon Creek, Portuguese Beach, Arched Rock Beach, Goat Rock, and more.
Kortum Trail. If you want to take a hike, follow the coastline on the Kortum trail. This ~9 mile point-to-point hike is flat and easy and great for families. There are several parking lots that are situated along the trail, so if you want to shorten the hike, simply park further along the trail. No dogs are allowed on this trail. They are, however, permitted on Wright's Beach, Blind Beach and Shell Beach.
Jenner Headlands Preserve. Another great nearby hike is the Jenner Headlands Preserve (not pictured here). This dog-friendly park is has rolling hills and beautiful coastal views. Options range from 4 miles to 15 mile loops. There is no water here, so plan accordingly.
Light. As the sun starts to set on the Sonoma Coast, the light gets spectacular for photos.
Weather. The best time to visit is Spring and Fall. Summers bring coastal fog which is late to burn off and early to come in. Winters can be rainy with high winds.
Bodega Bay. There are additional great photo opportunities in the town of Bodega Bay. If you like boats or fishing equipment like crab pots, there are plenty to see here by just heading down to the Marina via Bay Flat Road.
Town of Bodega. The town of Bodega is ~5 miles inland from Bodega Bay. From Highway 1, take Bodega Highway (12) and travel just 1/2 mile up the road. Made famous by Alfred Hitchcock's film "The Birds," this tiny town is the home of the recognizable school house and Catholic Church from the 1963 movie.