At the edge of a town made famous in Alfred Hitchcocks’ classic, “The Birds”, and at the foot of a would be nuclear power plant, there is one of Sonoma counties best beaches: Doran beach aka Doran Regional Park.
Doran Regional Park is on a peninsula separating Bodega Bay from the pacific ocean. If I could use one word to describe this beach, it would be “Windy.”
Cold and windy might be a bit more accurate, however, I really don’t want to come off sounding like I am putting this place down, after all, I bring the family to Doran beach quite often. Kite borders and kite fliers both take advantage of this wind, and celebrate it. Doran Regional Park, is a crescent shaped sand bar, for all intents and purposes, consisting of a campground, boat launch, and day use beach areas.
The Bodega Bay side of the peninsula, is where most of the campsites are located, tucked in between sand dunes, ice plant and a few windswept trees. The campsites are all equipped with fire rings and picnic benches, but do not offer any onsite electric or water hook ups for RV’ers. The downside to this is the constant background drone of RV generators running so their occupants can sit inside and watch TV…isn’t the point of camping to escape all that? Apparently not for everyone! There are restrooms and shower facilities available throughout the campground and along the beach day use areas which makes it enjoyable for tent campers, RV’ers, and day trippers alike.
There are several things that keep us coming back to Doran Beach year round: The crescent shape of the sandy beach, the proximity to our home, dungeoness crab, and fishing (Notice how I did not mention warm weather).You may question what the shape of the beach has to do with anything. Let me explain: The ocean along the northern California coast, tends to be rough, choppy, and prone to rip tides and dangerous conditions. The beach at Doran offers protection from the onslaught of waves and currents depending on where you are along the beach. The further out that you go along the peninsula, the more protected and calmer the water is. As of this writing, I have a 3-year-old and a 6-year-old. We tend to go all the way to end of the beach right next to the jetty, if we are only going for the day. The water is calm enough here that we can let our kids play as much as they would like (in the frigid water), without concern that they are going to be knocked over by a rouge wave.
When we feel like freezing our butts off along with the kids, we will move further down the beach where the waves are a little more prevalent and take the boys out into the water and let the waves chase us back to the shore…until we are completely numb from the cold. The kids will do this until they are blue and their teeth are chattering. They love this game. If we happen to be camping, we have the option to retreat to our campground and warm up by the fire. If we are using the day use area, we will wrap the kids in blankets, and curl up next to them in sand and soak up the warmth of the sun.
A little aside here: When leaving the beach for the day, we always drive around to the opposite side of the Bodega Bay to warm our bones with the BEST clam chowder anywhere: Spud Point Crab Company. This is a tiny little place that is standing room only and there is almost always a line out the door. It is well worth the wait!
Although I am not big on fishing, our older boys are. The jetty at Doran offers some decent fishing and poke pole fishing, as well as crabbing. When camping here, we often enjoy a meal of fresh dungeoness crab, rock crab, and monkey faced eel. When feeling ambitious, we will sometimes travel around the bay to Bodega Head and harvest some fresh mussels from the rocks at low tide, and then steam them in white wine for an extra tasty treat.
There is so much to do at this beach that we never get bored coming here. Bring your bikes, kayaks, stand-up paddle board, kite board, kites, binoculars (bird watching), fishing gear, poke poles, crab pots… there is something for everyone. Doran is a great place for families. The facilities are well maintained, the campsites are spacious, the beaches clean, and you can always count on the wind, so bring a kite. But most importantly, bring warm clothing and dress in layers. Fog is a staple here, second only to the wind.
I consider myself tropical so I complain about the “cold” at Doran, but many people come here in the summer to escape the inland heat. I can speak from experience when I tell you that we left our home just 24 miles away and a temperature of 102° and arrived at Doran and 66° just 40 minutes later. This natural air-conditioning also makes this park fill up quickly on hot days, so plan on arriving early or you wont be allowed in. Camping reservations need to be made a minimum of 10 days in advance, and most weekends it is hard to find an open spot when reserving a campsite less than a month out.
Doran is a popular site for all that it offers but due to the way the beach and campground is laid out, It never feels really all that crowded. There are some notable days here that are worth mentioning: Castles and Kites, is an annual castle building and kite flying celebration, usually in May, and Fireworks on the Bay, which usually takes place on the 5th of July. Doran beach will be booked up far in advance for both of these celebrations, so planning ahead is essential.
I will cover Bodega Bay, and the town of Bodega more extensively on a future post.The town and the bay have their own small town charm and are worthy of exploration even if you don’t like the beach or camping. As for Doran Beach, I may complain about the cold, but we come here year round, and have camped here regularly around New Years. So please, take my rantings about the cold with a grain of salt. Everyone has their kryptonite, the cold just happens to be mine.