Explore These 5 Tide Pools in Bodega Bay!

The coastline at Bodega Head doted with craggy rocks surrounded by blue ocean water

Fresh ocean air? Check. No entrance fee? Check! Educational encounter with flamboyant animals? Check!!!

The tide pools of Bodega Bay are a must-see attraction that is often overlooked by tourists rushing along the Pacific Coast. Let’s see what they missed out on by skipping these 5 stunning tide pools in Bodega Bay.

1. Pinnacle Gulch

Pinnacle Gulch is a quarter-mile beach dotted with interesting and distinctive rock formations. The beach is pretty secluded, which makes it an ideal destination for a picnic, quiet walks, bird watching, or tide pool exploring! During low tide, these rock formations create some tide pools, especially on the south end of the beach. Make sure to check the tides and ocean conditions before visiting the beach. 

The tide pools are lively and teeming with marine life. Here are some animals you may spot when exploring the tide pools in Pinnacle Gulch:

  • Sea mussels
  • Sea cucumbers
  • Starfish
  • Anemones
  • Little crabs

Getting there

The beach is located in the heart of Bodega Bay and opens from sunrise to sunset. The free parking lot is located at the beginning of the trail. However, it is limited and only has space for about 15 cars.

The entrance is right across the parking lot. You must walk down a mile through a scenic trail to reach the beach. It takes around 20 to 30 minutes, with some stairs here and there. The trails can be tiresome for kids, especially when going back up, but it is still manageable for most. Bringing a dog is allowed. Just keep them on a leash, as deer are in the area.

Other recommended activities:

  • Beachcombing
  • Picnicking
  • Sunbathing
  • Shore fishing
  • Bird watching

2. Salt Point State Park

Salt Point State Park envelops over 6 miles of rocky coastline and 20 miles of hiking trails. It offers the perfect retreat for anyone and is a must-visit place for tide pool lovers! 

Many tidepools are scattered along the coast thanks to the thousands of sandstone formations. They are teemed with marine life and protected from the waves, so you can enjoy swimming in and exploring in calm water. Always check the tides before visiting for the best experience. 

To pump your adrenaline, you can stand at the edge of the cliff overlooking the vast ocean, relentlessly pounding the rocky coast while fully immersed in the sound from the crashing waves. Camping is allowed. There are two main campgrounds available on the beach. 

Getting there

The park is located around 50 minutes from Bodega Bay. The road is narrow and windy. Spacious free parking is available. There are many hiking trails you can take. Simply follow the signs or stop by the Salt Point Visitor Center to get map brochures and more information. 

Other recommended activities:

  • Diving
  • Camping
  • Hiking
  • Fishing
  • Picnicking
  • Horseback riding
  • Wildlife watching

3. Shell Beach

Shell Beach runs through meadows and pines to a narrow, black-sandy beach with unique rock formations. It offers an excellent opportunity for tide pooling. The tide pools are a mix of boulder fields and exposed rocky areas. There are many soft, rigid, pale, and colorful creatures that call this tide pool a home, such as sea snails, starfish, aggregating anemones, limpets, hermit crabs, and a wide variety of algae. If lucky, you may spot some seals swimming and lying on the beach. It is a great place to show kids the beauty of the ocean!

Getting there

Shell Beach is located between Jenner and Bodega Bay on Highway 1, just a short drive from Bodega Bay. Parking is free. However, it gets filled up quickly, especially on the weekends, so it’s best to get there early. 

The beach is open from 6 am to sunset in summer and from 8 am to sunset in winter. To get to the beach, you must hike down the stairs. The hike is short, but some steps can be a little steep. Wear proper shoes!

Other recommended activities:

  • Beachcombing
  • Sunbathing
  • Picnicking
  • Hiking
  • Fishing

4. Schoolhouse Beach

Schoolhouse Beach is a tranquil beach surrounded by rocky headlands. The beach is full of pebbles and there is no sand, so walking barefoot if you have sensitive feet is not an option. During low tide, the rock formations on the south side of the beach turn into a tide pool galore! The tide pools are easily accessible with a bit of climbing. The big rocks protect the tide pools from the waves. However, there is a rip current in the water, so take extra care when swimming or near the water.

Getting there

Schoolhouse Beach is located south of Portuguese Beach, around 2.5 miles from Bodega Bay. There is plenty of parking on a bluff offering a scenic viewpoint of the beach.

You can reach the beach within 5 minutes by walking from the parking lot. Dogs are allowed on the beach; just make sure to keep them on a leash. 

Other recommended activities:

  • Beachcombing
  • Picnicking
  • Fishing

5. Duncan’s Cove

Duncan’s Cove is an excellent spot to stop along Highway 1. It is a small, secluded black-sand beach surrounded by giant cliffs. The cliffs overlooking the beach offer a million-dollar view of the ocean. Picnic tables and benches are available on top of the cliffs. The beach is perfect for a dip during the hot days. You can explore the small tide pools if you visit during low tide. The tide pools are easy to access and fun for kids!

Getting there

The beach is located on Highway 1, around 10 minutes drive from Bodega Bay. The free parking lot is available right across the road. There is a staircase leading to the beach. It is easily accessible to visitors of all ages.

Other recommended activities:

  • Beachcombing
  • Swimming
  • Picnicking
  • Fishing
  • Watching the sunset from the cliffs

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