Sonoma Coast Camping: Doran Regional Park

Location: Doran Regional Park, 201 Doran Beach Rd, Bodega Bay, California
Campground: Doran Regional Park campground, 120 sites, $35/night
Reservations:, reservations can be made 1 year in advance
Date of trip: May 2016

We left our home on Saturday excited about the gorgeous weather, convinced that the weather report was wrong for the Bodega Bay area. It was strange, the weather report said that it was going to be cloudy until 5 pm, then partially cloudy until sunset. At one point it said there was going to be rain. It just couldn’t be right… We drove over the Golden Gate bridge marveling at how many sailboats were out on the bay on this glorious day and how vibrant the colors of the water and sky were.

San Francisco Bay

We love to camp near water, any type of water really – lakes, oceans, streams, rivers… and preferably a campsite with a view (not picky at all). Last weekend we had a reservation for one night at a campsite on the Sonoma coast, Doran Beach Regional Park. Having never been there before, we picked a campsite based on the photos on, Google maps, and the campground map we found online.


2016-05-16 08.54.32

We picked site #75, a campsite that was close to the water, private and off the main road, or so we hoped. We reserved this site knowing that the coast guard station was right in the same area, but sometimes you just have to try things out and experience them for yourself. This regional park has a 2-mile stretch of beach on Bodega Bay and it has another protected area, the Bodega Harbor side, that seemed perfect for kayaking.

DSC_4980We arrived at Doran Beach, sure enough, in cold, cloudy, misty weather, not a ray of sun in sight. As we put on our layers, we started talking about changing our expectations for this trip, which was fine with us. The campsite looked like what we expected, the access to the small beach was literally steps away. You could see the water through the trees and the site was mostly private (section on the left was open to the next site, but if you put a tent up, it would be no problem). We set up camp, put up our awning to protect from the sprinkling of rain we felt every so often and got busy making guacamole. As we ate our guacamole and chips and laughed about the accuracy of that darn weather report, the sun started peeking through.

Doran Regional park campground


I took a walk along the beach in front of our campsite while the sun warmed things up even more.What seemed to help the sun come out most was the wine. No really, I tested it out. 😉
And guess what time it was? A little after 5 pm! That weather report was so accurate, it was scary.DSC_5038While the sun was out my daughter, did some kayaking. The neat thing about this kayak (besides the fact that it is stable so the possibility of tipping over is very small, phew!) is that it has foot pedals so that you can switch between paddling with your oars and pedaling with your legs like a bike. My daughter can easily get around using the pedals and the rotor to steer (wouldn’t be the case if she only had oars). She had a constant smile on her face as she zigzagged the “bay” next to the campsite. Although it was windy, the water was calm (no choppy waves) and, hey, you were within hollering distance of the coastguard… just in case.

We brought our single kayak this time (squished it inside the campervan), but if we all wanted to go together, I heard good things about Bodega Bay Kayak where you can rent single or double kayaks, located close by.

DSC_5049DSC_5055DSC_5066The fog covered up the sun right when the weather report said it would. I will never doubt Bodega Bay’s weather report again! Besides ‘a polishing off an entire bag of marshmallows before dinner’ incident, we had a very quiet and peaceful dinner. Most of the sites were occupied by RVs that weekend and a number of sites looked reserved, but unoccupied (maybe they believed the weather report).

As we were cleaning up after dinner my daughter noticed the night sky. Wow, we got to witness an incredible sunset to remember Doran Beach. Even the coastguard station added to the beauty.DSC_5206DSC_5216My daughter and I got a great night’s sleep, but my husband said he was woken up a couple of times by the coast guard boats coming and going. So, if you are sensitive to noise, you may want to bring ear plugs.

The next day brought plenty of sunshine, but also wind as well. No kayaking for my daughter, it was too windy. Hubby didn’t want to miss the opportunity so he decided to kayak from our campsite around the spit to the beach, where we met him. My daughter and I enjoyed walking on what felt like our private beach.DSC_5217DSC_5235

Doran beach looking east
Doran Beach looking west
Watch out for the pterodactyl!
Tiring work paddling back into shore, or so they tell me

We saw many of these clear jelly balls along our beach walk. They look like those boba balls in the Bubble teas that everyone likes. We were guessing that a big tanker carrying the boba balls must have gone down around here. Nope, these balls have been described to be a “jellyfish-like animal called a sea gooseberry.”  Of course, my daughter picked one up to examine it further. “Why? Why do you not listen to your mom?”

Doran Beach is a popular park for both camping and day-use. When we moved the van over to the day-use parking at about 10:30 am, there was hardly anyone else around, we had the beach to ourselves most of the time. However, two hours later, the parking area was completely filled and the beach was filling up (not croweded though). Like any popular area, get there early and you will be just fine.

One last thing: On the way home we drove to the town of Bodega. I wanted to take a picture of Al… Alfred Hitchcock that is, in front of the Bodega Bay Country Store.

DB_2DB_4DB_3There is an Alfred Hitchcock memorabilia area in one corner of the store with a life-sized mannequin of Tippi Hedren with a bird on top of her head. My daughter who has never seen the movie The Birds was very confused at the fashion of the times “back in the olden days.” We ended up getting a clam chowder to share, some cheese from the Petaluma Creamery, and bread from the Village Bakery (Sebastopol), all very tasty. It is a great place to buy some local food and drinks to bring on your camping trip (or home to remember the camping trip by).


5 replies to “Sonoma Coast Camping: Doran Regional Park

  1. Beautiful sunset photos! I’ll remember that wine trick next time I need the sun to come out. 😉 Just read your “about” page and love your reasons for purchasing a campervan. My oldest is 14, and I can so relate to your feelings of wanting to foster a connection between nature and family before our kids leave home. Sounds like you had a wonderful trip along the Sonoma Coast!


    1. I’m so in denial about my kid leaving home. The time we have with them is truly a gift. It’s so great that you are making the time to travel with your family. It is such a bonding experience and they will always have the memories of their trips for the rest of their lives. I look forward to your posts, and thanks for stopping by.


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