There is a scene in Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds," near the start of the movie, where Tippy Hedren is speeding her sports car through the rolling green countryside. Suddenly the camera pulls back to show a bay and seaside village that are so pristine and picturesque they would do justice to any fine painting.
The movie then proceeds to allow thousands of birds to terrorize this idyllic little place and run Tippy and boyfriend Rod Taylor completely out of town. Fortunately, it was all just a movie and we're happy to report that the movie's little village — Bodega Bay — has survived to become an even more popular getaway than it was before Hitchcock chose it for his movie.
In fact, birds are big business in Bodega. You can't cross the street without some reminder that the movie was filmed there. The Tides Restaurant — featured prominently in the movie — now has a gift shop that has become a near-museum with its shelves and shelves of stuffed birds, Hitchcock posters, location photos and just about any kind of clothing you want emblazoned with some variation of Bodega Bay or "The Birds." Of course, no matter that the "real" restaurant burned down long ago and the replacement buildings bear no resemblance to those used in the movie.
What does remain is the same sleepy seaside village that appeared in the movie. While there certainly have been many new buildings added since the movie's release in 1963, the town retains the same character so evident in the movie. For that reason, Bodega ranks high when most people plan their Northern California vacation.
Our suggestion would be to rent "The Birds" before taking your trip to Bodega Bay. It will be fun comparing the many locations in the movie with how they look now, 40 years later, and the movie will also give you a good idea of what to expect when you get there — as long as you disregard the birds.
You might also disregard a few geographic inconsistencies. For example, one of the most memorable scenes from the movie is when the birds attack the children at the country school and the kids try an orderly retreat from the school only to be forced running and screaming down to the waterfront. The old Potter School that was used in the movie is still there — problem is, it's in the town of Bodega, several miles from the waterfront that the movie shows just down the street from the school.
Another great place to match scenery with the movie is to take Bay Hill Road from the village area a little more than a mile up into the rolling hills above Bodega Bay. Soon you'll be able to look back at Bodega and see exactly the same "establishing shot" of the bay that Hitchcock used in those early scenes of the movie.
Back down at the Tides Restaurant, there still is a bit of the waterfront flavor seen in the movie. Fishing trawlers bring their fresh catch to a seafood company on the dock, and there are always plenty of barking sea lions hoping to dine on leftovers. In the movie, Tippy rented a small motorboat at this dock before motoring across the bay to her new boyfriend's house.
Now for those who could care less about movie-making, Bodega Bay was an established getaway long before "The Birds" came out. The peaceful nature of the bay, the countryside and the many parks and beaches along this part of the California coast make it an ocean-lover's paradise. It also helps that the area is relatively easy to get to from the San Francisco Bay area — less than two hours from almost any Bay area location -- and that local hotels often offer special travel deals or vacation packages.
We stayed the night at the Bodega Bay Lodge and Spa, the area's only four-diamond resort. Situated ideally close to the southeast shore of Bodega Bay, the property offers an expansive area just outside your door to go exploring the bay. The sights, sounds and smells of the bay are right there — most notably the foghorns heard faintly in the distance, guiding ships away from the hazardous coastline.
The lodge is spread out in a series of buildings that have been updated with Cape Cod styling. Our tastefully appointed suite was like a high-end studio apartment with a complete living room area adjacent to the bed and a small desk arrangement. Of special note was the oversize Jacuzzi tub, which got some good use during our stay. At the other end of the unit, sliding glass doors opened out to the bay shore, and a patio offered a relaxing place to observe the surroundings.
The Bodega Bay Lodge also features a resort-style ocean-view pool and large hot tub, which seemed quite popular with a group of business people who were staying at the lodge as part of a corporate retreat. Then of course we must not forget the spa — not on our list of activities, but popular with guests who come to Bodega Bay for rest, relaxation and rejuvenation. In fact, spa vacations are big business nowadays and you'll find spa resorts in most major California tourist destinations.
Bodoga Bay offers trails to help guide you to beaches such as Shorttail Gulch Beach. The trail to Shorttail is fairly new and allows access to a beach that was previously difficult to reach. There is a whole network of such trails in the area, making for endless hours of exploration and discovery.
If you're up for a short drive, the coastline near Bodega offers many spectacular seaside viewpoints as well as beaches to explore. Driving this part of Highway 1, it seems that just about every bend in the road reveals another picture-perfect view of the rocky shoreline, spectacular bluffs or Robinson Crusoe beaches.
Just south of Bodega Bay you'll find Tomales Bay, a popular destination for kayakers and others who want to enjoy upclose-and-personal contact with the area's marine life. At the Bodega Marine Laboratory, each Friday from 2 to 4 p.m. you can explore a number of aquarium displays featuring colorful local fish, a kelp forest and other marine life.
Hitchcock really was looking for great scenery rather than the birds he ultimately added to the movie through special effects and mechanical devices. But, ironically, Bodega Bay is known as a "hot spot" on the Northern Coast for finding rare birds. More rare birds have been spotted in Bodega than any other place in Sonoma County — and, fortunately, not one of them has instigated an attack on the thousands of tourists brought to this area each year by "The Birds."
AT A GLANCE
WHERE: Bodega Bay is about 60 miles north of San Francisco and, barring a lot of rush hour traffic, can be reached quickly and easily from the Bay area. If you're planning a Northern California vacation, this part of the coast is a must-see.
WHAT: Bodega Bay, a town of just 1,400 full time residents, has long been known as a quiet seaside destination for Californians who want to explore the Northern Coast. Since "The Birds" came out in 1963, the area has become even more popular — yet it's still relatively quiet and retains much of its former charm.
WHEN: A visit to Bodega Bay can be made any time of the year, although winter months are cloudier and cooler. The area has a moderate climate so temperatures range from highs in the 40s during winter to highs in the 60s during the summer months. Vacation packages are offered certain times of the year to stimulate visitor traffic.
WHY: The Bodega area has great ocean scenery and it's fun to see where "The Birds" was filmed. It's a great weekend trip from the Bay area, or an excellent stop to include on a travel itinerary through Northern California.
HOW: For more information on the Bodega Bay Lodge and Spa call (800) 368-2468, ext. 5 or go to www.bodegabaylodge.com. Rates range from $230 for a guest room to $425 for a suite midweek, slightly more for weekends. Be sure to ask about any travel packages that may be available. If you can travel soon, sometimes there are excellent savings with last minute travel deals, depending on the hotel or resort. For Bodega Bay visitor information, phone 707-875-3866. For a recommended list of Bodega lodgings, please click here
RECOMMENDED LODGING: If you're looking for great getaway lodging in the Bodega Bay area, be sure to check out the Bodega Coast Inn in Bodega.
(Editor's note: CaliforniaWeekend.com is California's leading source of information on getaway travel in the Golden State. Visit the site often to find the latest getaway specials, a comprehensive list of resorts and lodgings and to use the Getaway Machine travel calculator to match up your needs and preferences with exactly the right lodgings and location.)
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