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Bodega Bay Lodge & Spa

Panorama of Bodega Bay Lodge & Spa

Bodega Bay, California
It inspired the Beat Generation and countless bohemian novels, but there's more to northern California than trendy San Francisco, discovers Matt Short. Our very own beatnik gets On The Road – to beautiful Bodega Bay.

first impressions
Water amazing spot: If it's a room with a view you're after, then look no further. This award-winning hotel in the heart of rolling Sonoma County has unrivalled vistas across the bluffs and beaches of Bodega Bay and to the Pacific beyond.

It's only an hour's drive from the Golden Gate Bridge and the mayhem that is San Francisco, but you'd never know it – this relaxing haven feels like a world away. Nestled in eight acres of sprawling, landscaped grounds just off Highway One, the Lodge encapsulates the spirit of California: beauty, style and unapologetic flair. The site's wood cabin-style buildings are crafted by hand using locally sourced stone, and blend naturally into the surrounding woodland – rich in flora and fauna – thanks to thoughtful design and wooden clad tiling. The family-friendly gardens are also ideal for parents – to hide away from the kids, that is.

However long your stay at this delightful four-star getaway, I can guarantee one thing – it won't be nearly long enough. But in the words of California's Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, "I'll be back".

A bedroom at the Bodega Bay Lodge & Spa

Bodega Bay & Lodge boasts a total of 84 guest bedrooms and suites, all of which are outfitted to the highest possible standard. (They've also recently undergone a $3.5 million facelift). All come with king-size beds with deluxe feather mattresses and down duvets as standard. A wood burning fireplace adds to that glorious cosy feel.

Rooms also contain an array of sophisticated mod-cons such as flat screen TVs with on-demand movies and cable TV, and wireless internet access. You'll also find a premium stereo system with surround sound and a direct-dial telephone with voicemail. Other goodies include bespoke spa robes, tea and coffee maker with complimentary beverages, iron and ironing board and every woman's 'must have' – a hairdryer. The mini-bar is also packed full of treats, which include fine local wines and a selection of beers and soft drinks.

All rooms offer superb views out across the green bluffs of Bodega Bay – an affluent fishing village – and nearby Doran Beach State Park, which is rich in flora and bird life.

The Pacific Coast double and Pacific Coast Upper also boast their own private balconies. Elsewhere, the Bodega Bay rooms also have magnificent vaulted ceilings and separate glass shower whirlpool bathtubs.

But if it's space and elegance you're after, you should book the Ocean Club suites. These deluxe rooms have cherry wood furnishings and fireplace, separate lounge area with sofa and coffee table and stone fittings of black granite, ceramic tiles and slate. There's also original artwork on the walls and iPod docking stations. Bathrooms are newly remodeled and come with an array of complimentary toiletries. They have marble sinks and walk-in glass showers. The sun-filled Ocean Club suite also boasts a large oval jet tub and a large vanity with double sinks. The skylight is also a lovely touch.

food and drink
The owners of this romantic hotel have an eye for good furnishings – and a taste for good food. The hotel's award-winning Duck Club restaurant is one of the best eateries in the county, and for good reason. Talented chef Patrick Tafoya works with organic cheese and meat producers to offer the best of Sonoma's local produce. The focus here is on simple seasonal, organic meat, seafood and vegetables – just the way it should be.

The restaurant itself is large and elegant, with large windows overlooking the Bay, an open fireplace, and decorated with local artworks.

Mouthwatering appetisers include the Dungeness Crab Cakes and Newcastle Steamed Mussels. Whatever you do, leave space for melt-in-your mouth entrees and mains – the pan-roasted duck breasts or braised ribs are superb.

If you feel like a romantic meal in the room, don't panic: room service is also available on the standard menu. If you feel overweight and sluggish after eating everything on the menu, don't panic – visit the Fitness Centre for a quick workout after breakfast (see Service with a Smile, below).

Bodega Bay itself is packed with other restaurants, cafes and bars. Here's a tip: grab a take-out beer or three from the hotel and head to the bluffs for an unforgettable sunset.

The pool at the Bodega Bay Lodge & Spa

service with a smile?
Expect a Californian-style welcome – that is, warm, friendly and passionate. Up to five reception staff are on hand 24/7 and, according to a fellow guest, offer "the best service I've ever encountered in the United States". That's no real surprise given the experience of owner Ellis Alden, who runs a chain of boutique properties in the region. Bodega Bay Lodge was his first and now has a string of accolades to its name, including the coveted four-diamond AAA Award. Activities can be arranged through the Lodge (see Local Activities, below, for more information), which includes cycle hire.

The Spa itself is grand, luxurious and relaxing. It offers an extensive menu of massages, facials and signature treatments including a hot stone massage ($115 for 50 minutes). There's also a great – and affordable – selection of Spa treatments and toiletries for sale.

Meanwhile, staff at the Fitness Centre are more than happy to help with the latest cardiovascular equipment and free weights.

The Lodge itself boasts a large reception area with comfortable sofas facing the open fire. Local artwork dons the walls, while there's also a smaller guest study-come-lounge.

A complimentary wine and cheese hour is also offered daily.

local attractions
We've said it before, and we'll say it again: some places offer both heart-warming and heart-stopping activities – and this is one of them. Local attractions within a five-minute radius include horse riding, kite flying, golf, scuba diving and kayaking.

The area is also synonymous with bird and whale watching, deep sea fishing, and wine and cheese tasting.

There are also plenty of hikes in the area, most of which are manageable by even the most unfit guests (to my delight). Do take a trip into Bodega town, famous for its shopping and eateries, but more as the site of the Hitchcock movie The Birds. The old schoolhouse which features in the flick can still be seen.

will it break the bank?
Even with the strong US Dollar, it's unlikely. Harbour Rooms start from just $210 in off-season, rising to $250 at peak times. Even the Ocean Club suite is affordable. It costs $390 per night in off-season, and $510 in peak season.

Bodega Bay Lodge & Spa
103 Coast Highway One
Bodega Bay, CA 94923

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