The charming town of Bodega Bay lies at the base of its shallow namesake inlet along the northern California coast, which is about 40 miles northwest of San Francisco. The pristine beaches, forested hills, and nearby attractions make Bodega Bay a popular destination for families on holiday. From your Bodega Bay vacation rental, you can enjoy easy access to activities such as swimming, hiking, cycling, fishing, and wildlife observation. You can also visit an iconic children’s museum and spectacular lighthouse. Here are the top things to do with children in and around Bodega Bay.

1. Hit the Beaches

The area around Bodega Bay has numerous family-friendly beaches where you and your kids can swim, sunbathe, build sandcastles, and search for treasures along the sandy shore. For instance, the beaches on either side of Salmon Creek just north of town offer calm waters along the creek for younger children and rougher waters offshore for water sports. Nearby Bodega Dunes is a vast, remote stretch of sand where you’ll have plenty of space to yourselves. Bodega Head Beach and Campbell Cove are small protected beaches on the rocky outcropping that protects the bay.

2. Learn to Surf and Boogie Boards

Bodega Bay has several surfing hotspots including Salmon Creek, Doran Beach, the Russian River’s Mouth, and Dillon Beach. Salmon Creek is the most popular surfing location in the area, but it’s tough for beginners. It’s better to start out on gentler waves. The Bodega Bay Surf Shack rents surfboards, boogie boards, and wetsuits and offers lessons that cover elementary surfing, care of equipment, interpreting surf conditions, and water safety.

3. Paddle the Waters

The waters around Bodega Bay are full of beaches, coves, and creeks that you can discover while paddling offshore in a kayak. You can remain within the bay, ply the Pacific Ocean, or explore the lower Russian River. The scenery is spectacular, and along the way are abundant opportunities for wildlife observation. You can bring your own or rent kayaks in town, and you can head out as a family or join a guided tour.

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4. Fly a Kite

Wind conditions at northern California coast beaches are often perfect for kites. If you time it right, you can hit the annual Castles and Kites Festival at Doran Beach in Bodega Bay, which celebrates the arts of sandcastle building and kite flying. At any time of the year, you can pick out a flamboyant kite at Candy and Kites or Second Wind and send it soaring into the sky.

5. Go Fishing

For an unforgettable experience, charter a boat and go sport-fishing on the Pacific Ocean. Out on the open waters, you can catch big fish such as salmon, halibut, tuna, ling cod, and rock cod. You can also go after giant squid and Dungeness crab. For a more mellow fishing experience for young children, head inland to Hagemann Ranch Trout Farm. The facility supplies the equipment, stocks the pond with plenty of rainbow trout, and even cleans your fish for you after you catch them.

6. Ride Horseback

Several ranches in the Bodega Bay area offer guided horseback rides. Your kids will love exploring the beach and the dunes on horses. Other tours take you through forests, meadows, and along mountain trails. If your family is inexperienced with horses, you can also take riding lessons.

7. Hike the Trails

Your vacation rental at Bodega Bay provides easy access to numerous hiking opportunities. For instance, the three-mile loop trail on Bodega Head is an easy climb to a rocky height, where you have a spectacular view of the Pacific Ocean and surrounding countryside. The Pinnacle Gulch Coastal Access Trail is just under two miles and leads to a lovely quiet beach. For a tougher challenge, try the nearby Pomo Canyon Red Hill Trail, which is slightly over six miles and traverses wildflower-strewn meadows and offers amazing vistas at the mouth of the Russian River.

8. Ride a Bike

Cycling is a great way to explore Bodega Bay and the nearby coastal towns. You and the kids can stick to the short easy pedestrian trails or follow popular loops that take you along the coast, past lovely rural scenery, and through nearby towns. Nearby Annadel State Park, Crane Creek Regional Park, Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve, and Helen Putnam Regional Park have miles of trails that are perfect for mountain biking.

9. Watch for Birds

The area in and around Bodega Bay is renowned as one of the best bird watching regions in Sonoma County. The walking paths at Doran Regional Park and the Bird Walk Coastal Access Trail offer ample opportunities to view shorebirds, waterfowl, and other species. The Riverfront Regional Park on the Russian River is a nesting location for great blue herons. To the east, the Laguna de Santa Rosa Trail offers access to freshwater wetland habitats of migrating birds.

10. Observe Marine Wildlife

From vantage points at Bodega Head, you can view migrating gray whales and blue whales as they make their way along the California coast. Sometimes you see calves and their mothers interacting. If you want to see the whales up close, you can charter a boat or join a whale tour and go out to meet them on the open water. Visit nearby Goat Rock Beach to observe colonies of harbor seals and sea lions.

11. Visit the Peanuts Museum

While staying at your Bodega Bay vacation rental, don’t miss a visit to the Charles M. Schulz Museum in nearby Santa Rosa. This enchanting facility dedicated to the memory of the creator of the beloved comic strip Peanuts is full of fascinating exhibits that your children will love, including a life-size Snoopy House, a Snoopy Labyrinth, and a Peanuts Tile Mural. Other displays highlight original comic art, Peanuts products, photographs, and letters from fans.

12. Tour the Lighthouse

At nearby Point Reyes National Seashore is the amazing Point Reyes Lighthouse. The lighthouse visitor’s center offers displays on the history of the lighthouse as well as local maritime history and ecology. From there, you descend about 300 steps to the lighthouse itself, enjoy the spectacular view, and explore the main chamber, which features the lighthouse clockwork mechanism and lens.

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