January is a peak time to spot one of the largest mammals on the planet—the gray whale—making its migration to Baja California. Bodega Head, just north of Point Reyes, sits high on the tip of a curving, thumb-like peninsula and offers weather-flexible options.
On nice days, you can hike the coastal trails leading from the parking lot; all are fairly short and have great vantage points of the Pacific, where migrating whales might just be seen breaching or spouting.
If the weather’s rainy or gusty, you can just sit in your car and wait for the whales to come to you (arrive early to snag one of the parking spots overlooking the ocean). Bring some snacks and hot cider, and enjoy one of Mother Nature’s finest drive-ins.
BONUS: Bodega Bay’s Gourmet au Bay put its name on the map by introducing “wine surfing”: three wine tastes brought to you on a mini wooden surfboard. Grab a seat on the spacious patio overlooking Bodega Bay. Choose from any three small-production wines (the menu changes, but the selections are always artisanal). The wood-fired oven churns out delicious flatbreads (fancy for “pizza”) to go with the wine. Sit back, relax, and savor the flavors … and the scenery.
Bodega Head, part of Sonoma Coast State Park , is 65 miles north of San Francisco on Hwy. 1. From the town of Bodega Bay, head west on Eastshore Rd. and follow signs to Bodega Head.