Kites and Clam Chowder at the Coast

By Kate Riley March 28, 2010

I get a hankering for the sand between my toes several times a year, then I quietly suggest to the fam that we head out to the beach, and it takes no convincing at all.  They race for their sandals and towels and can’t get into the car fast enough, then off to Bodega we go !

We happen to be lucky enough to live about thirty minutes from the Northern California coastline, so after a big weekend of gardening and home improvement, we decided to take a Sunday afternoon out at the coast to fly some kites and stop at our favorite seafood restaurant for the best clam chowder in the county.   

sand between toes

Bodega is fantastic in spring and fall, but incredibly foggy and cold in the summer, a lot like the weather in San Francisco.  So we head out the the coast as much as we can in April, May, September and October. 

I just love trails through sand dunes and coastal grasses. 

Inhale.  Breathe deeply.  Smell the salty air.  Life is good. 

coastal walk

There’s a reason I set my alarm clock to the ‘ocean’ setting – I know of no other sound as soothing as the lull of ocean waves hitting the beach.   Instant stress relief !

doran beach


The very best beach for kite flying is Doran Beach State Park in Bodega Bay.   My kids are in their second year of their kite flying, but they are not alone.  Doran Beach is the famous meeting place for the Kite Club for all lovers of high flying colors. 

beach jelly kite 2

beach kites

Last year, we picked up our kites from the famous Candy & Kites along Highway One, just north of Doran Beach.  We like to pick up our salt water taffy here too. 

kites outside

kites inside

Our munchkins have been in training ever since. 

Study your opponent, grasshopper.  

studying the kite

Avoid obvious traps and tangles.

tangled 2

Anticipate their every move.

stubborn boy

When the moment arises, strike.

throwing kite 

Victory will be yours.

my boy

OK, so the little guy had some help but the critter is barely four so he needs it.

You can’t leave the beach without a good old fashioned game of wave chasing.

wave chase


I love the native flowering iceplant that cover the dunes, in both purple and yellow varieties. 

yellow flowering ice plant

  purple ice plant

Doran Beach also offers camping and RV Parking.  One of these days we’ll have to find a friend with an RV and take a mini vacation out here. 

In fact, I think when my last kid goes to college, I’m going to sell everything, buy an RV, and we will just drive around from state to state parking our RV, then annoyingly intruding on others peacefully parked by shouting “Permission to come aboard !” 

Sound good ?  :-)

 rv park doran beach


Hungry, we headed to The Tides Wharf – our go to place for seafood.

tides wharf sign


We start with a little dungeness crab and prawn appetizer. 

This place has ze best  seafood. 

crab and prawn cocktail

Oh, la, la, mussels in white wine, garlic, and plenty o’ butter with parsley. 

Soak up the heavenly broth with sourdough, divine ! 

mussles in white wine


The Tides Wharf is our favorite stop for the best clam chowder in the county.  No, in the state.  Yep, I said it.  We’ve tasted clam chowder up and down the state, and in the Big City, but no one can beat this perfect blend of potato, celery, and clam nestled in the most buttery goodness of a chowder.  It’s simply the best.  

There are some evenings when we have driven all the way to the coast just for a ‘To Go’ order of this clam chowder. 

clam chowder

So we splurged and got our fix with a seafood smorgasbord.  Paired with some fresh sourdough and sauvignon blanc, it was a mini vacation in our own backyard.  Worth the splurge, worth the trip.  We left Bodega very fat and happy. 

Stay tuned, later today I’ve got a little project where silver leaf meets a cheapo lamp.  For those of you in the die hard Dark Bronze Lamp Club, you may wish to avert your eyes in this next post since I’ve redone one of your brethren in this very shimmery finish.   Coming next . . .



  1. I feel like I’ve gone on a little mini vacation, right here, as I sit and drink my tea, at my desk, at work.

  2. One very good memory for me is eating there in my early twenties with my parents while out in Sonoma for a wedding. We drove out to Bodega, and loved it. Thanks for bringing back those memories, I live on the east coast now and we have four kids who would love to fly kites at the beach, perhaps we will.

  3. Thanks for taking us along on your trip to Bodega Bay. I will have my toes in the Pacific next week on a trip with my teenage girls to So Cal. Can’t wait to have a Double Double! I miss seeing the hillsides covered with beautiful blooming iceplant. And, selling everything and traveling around the country in an RV after the kids are grown sounds great to me, too!

  4. Your photos are fantastic. I love the picture of your little guy trying to get his kite up and he has both feet off the ground!

    What a great kite store! There is no way you could leave there empty handed!

  5. Thank you, I needed that! Living in IL makes it tough to get to the beach. We’re headed to the Maine coast in July, and I can’t wait!

  6. Wonderful pictures. I find going to the beach very relaxing. I like to pick up sea glass. We are nearby the shores of Lake Erie…so we try to go at least once a summer. My husband doesn’t enjoy it, so it’s a Mommy/Daughter adventure. The RV thing…my husband and I are so doing this when we retire. We are a bit older than you an your husband, so it will be coming soon.

  7. SIGH! We are driving from San Fran to LA this summer – our kids are about the same age…I am definitely adding this day to our itinerary! SO GREAT! Thanks for sharing!

  8. It looks like a fun day with beautiful weather. I’m leaving Florida to go back to PA today…bummer. I’ve been enjoying the sunshine and 80 degree weather. Sigh…

  9. What a fun day! I so, totally, understand the ocean fever, well, call it the ocean lust. Mind you, your Californian weather is non-contestable at this point of the season, but soon, even here in the colder, wetter BC coast, I’ll be able to smell this salty air you’re talking about. Thank you very much for this tour and a great tip to avoid the northern California beach in summer. Now I get it!

  10. Thanks for sharing your trip. Beautiful shots too! And so interesting to learn that the area is in fog during the summer.

  11. LOVE THIS POST. I am an ocean girl at heart and would happily live in a shack on the beach than a mansion in the city.

  12. What a great time and fun, fun images of the family!! Love southern California!

    Art by Karena
    Giveaway is up on my site

  13. Oh I use to go to go to Bodga Bay when I was living in Burlingame. Love all your photos. Love that Dog kite. Kids are adorable.

  14. I am so jealous your handsome boy can get the kite up all on his own! I am definitely spurred on to practice now! I went to the coast this weekend also… first to sunny and warm Santa Barbara, then up to Ocean Beach to eat at the Cliff House! how great is our state?!

  15. I have to cry now – I am jealous. I miss the beach and the clams and the chowder and all the other wonderful stuff. We did the hwy one trip from Seattle to LA last summer with our teen boys. So much to see and do and enjoy. Need to get chowder and clams for dinner today!!!

  16. I loooove these posts! :) One of these days I WILL make it to CA to see the coastline. I agree with you on the sounds of the soothing ocean. My favorite sight in the world is that first glimpse of the ocean you get as you head over the dunes, after a year of being away from the beach. You’re lucky to live so close. :) Your little guy with his kite is too cute!! Love the seafood too. :)

  17. Ahh, dungeness crab. Good, but it really makes me miss the blue crabs of the East coast. Now those are tasty! And boy, are they feisty little buggers, too! If you’re not careful, they’ll bite you. They have no qualms about that haha.

  18. My Mom & Dad stayed at the Inn at the Tides when they visited Bodega Bay – they loved it. I haven’t been (yet!) though. The crab looks wonderful – I’m glad you had such a fun day.

  19. What a wonderful Sunday! The best part is that it’s spent with family.

    It’s been so long since we’ve been to the coast. The closest one to us is either Washington or Oregon. Perhaps we’ll have to take a drive that way in the near future.

  20. Very nice.We have Spring break this week. I think we shall do the same :))

  21. What a great post. I live in Chicago, lived here all my life but I got so excited when I saw your post. I have been to Bodega and the Tides Wharf Restaurant, my mother in law is in Santa Rosa. Thanks for bringing back some nice memories.

  22. Thanks for the idea. It’s probably an hour away from Burlingame, but my husband and kids and I are always up for a great day trip. Your photos might just make the drive worth a visit. Bodega, here we come!

  23. Such a cute post!! I just did a post this morning and linked back to your “tale of two strippers” post! ;)

  24. from the looks of it, you guys had a fabulous time!! makes me want to go out and do the same. except we have very wet weather here in ny!!!! so i’ll just enjoy living vicariously through you:-) and your kiddos are adorable!

  25. My now husband proposed to me on a suprise trip to Bodega Bay! We love that place and have eaten at the tides and been to the same kite/candy shop. Awesome….we live North of Bodega bay in the “real” north valley.

  26. This is the same beach destination that we go to! Been to all these places. We even have a wee vintage beach camper that we take to bodega dunes campground and doran. We will be there the first weekend in June…doran beach campground. Our favorite place to eat is Islands Deli…hawaiian style fish-n-chips…best we’ve ever had. Have you ever been in Compass Rose Gardens? It is gorgeous…it used to be open to the public but has been locked everytime we go by for the past several years. I hope one of my kids gets married in Bodega.

  27. I just watched an episode of House Hunters – RV edition! I had one as a kid and want one for my kids!

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