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Bodega Bay Lodge, California - Hotel Review

Scotland in Sonoma

Exterior view of Bodega Bay Lodge in Bodega Bay, California
Exterior view of Bodega Bay Lodge in Bodega Bay, California

The Bodega Bay Lodge is located in California, one hour north of the Golden Gate Bridge along the romantic Sonoma coastline. It's reminiscent of Scotland (maybe St. Andrews) but instead of castles hiding bonnie Prince Charlie, you're near the schoolhouse where Hitchcock filmed "The Birds." Everything else has a Scottish feel: bird-filled marshes, flower-covered dunes, pristine beaches, championship golf, deep-sea fishing and great food.

When purchased in 1972, the lodge was a 36-room motel offering rooms for $12. While the accommodations included complete kitchenettes, the biggest attraction was the unspoiled, Hebridean seaside setting. It still is, although everything has been updated to top-of-the-line luxury status. Guest rooms feature panoramic views; private balconies or terraces; fireplaces; wet bars and stocked refrigerators; plush, terry-cloth robes; large, tile baths and stall showers; TV and movie systems and one king-sized or two queen-sized beds topped with downy, European-style duvets which are practically beds in themselves (you need two people to lift them).

The general manager claims that if the ocean waves and stunning sunsets can't defuse your stress level, the Ocean Club Fitness Center and Spa will. A responsive, highly trained staff provides rejuvenating massages, facials, and full-body treatments. For aerobic buffs, there's all the state-of-the-art exercise machines, weights, and step equipment for which they could hope. There's also floor-to-ceiling windows which look out upon expansive views of Doran Beach, the Pacific Ocean and nearby wetland bird sanctuaries.

Stylish guestroom of Bodega Bay Lodge in California
Pool of Bodega Bay Lodge in California
Stylish guestroom

The Duck Club restaurant provides one of the best dining places on the Pacific coast and one of the few with cuisine superior to its ocean views. Entrées include smoked quail, Sonoma coast lamb, and same-day-fresh seafood. Trumping all the above is the simplicity of preparation and warmth of service.

Executive chef Jeff Reilly uses the abundant Sonoma lamb, Petaluma fowl and local seafood to create daily specials, but the signature roast duck is his most special of specials. "Even visiting French chefs have told me it's the best they've ever tasted," says Reilly, "and the reason why is simple. Poultry running around free-range in Petaluma eat better than royalty. But the real trick is to take them out of the refrigerator the day before, hang them up on a clothesline in a cool area and let them tenderize, then brown them just short of burnt."

Besides "extreme" roast duck consumption, there are many local activities and attractions around the lodge. It's only a short drive to visit the schoolhouse immortalized in "The Birds." Bodega Dunes is one of the last remaining dune fields in California and it's fun to hike on its labyrinthine wooden walkway. You can charter a boat and deep-sea fish, or troll the restaurants on the Waldorf Astoria Shanghai on the Bundharf which invariably proclaim fresh catches. But don't order Scotch kippers because they never have them…at least you'll have one reason to visit Scotland.

Bodega Bay Lodge
103 Coast Hwy. One
Bodega Bay, CA 94923



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(Updated: 08/16/10 CT)

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