Winter Camping in Bodega Bay's Doran Beach Campground

While much of these United States are holed up for the winter, several of my friends and I are back out on the beach with RVs, crab pots and a lot of beer in our annual Christmas campout. It really helps to live in Northern California where winter is more of an inconvenience than life-threatening and we have some great RV parks here including Doran Regional Park in Northern California’s Bodega Bay. 

Glorious sunsets in Bodega Bay at Doran State Beach in Nofrhtern

Winter Camping

Doran State Beach, Bodega Bay

Located around Bodega Harbor about 90 minutes north of San Francisco, Bodega Bay is a quaint little town with great beach RV parking in Doran Regional Park for those who like off-the-grid camping. Nearby is the historic town where the Alfred Hitchcock film The Birds was filmed in the 1963. Doran Regional Park is set up in rings of nine campsites and the layout makes it a popular choice by people, such as ourselves, who like to camp in groups. There is also a more traditional campground, not in rings, and even tent sites. 

While some campers might not be surprised by this, there are fire pits at each campground. The dryness in California has resulting in my seeing fewer and fewer of these things. It is also a very short walk to the bay itself with many of the campsites around the rings being practically on the beach. 

The whole setting feels beach like with wind-swept trees that provide shade and shelter from the breezes of winter and lots and lots of sand. Shower houses were nice and clean and well kept but the quality of the shower itself along with the chilly concrete floors made me feel like I was being incarcerated for some misdeed. Note to self - always, always bring your shower shoes, dummy. I think I spent $3 once on a shower there over five days and that was enough to make me not want to go back in there - besides we’re camping. 

Hiking trails abound just within the Doran Beach facility but there are nearby parks and areas that afford other great experiences with nature. There are also a few seaside restaurants just a short jaunt away (you could walk, you could drive) and you can also go play tourist and visit the town of Bodega Bay. It’s quite cute; however, we never stopped because crabs, sand and beer were what we came for. 

Crabs, I mentioned. During these trips I have friends who bring crab pots and catch the grabby critters. After a date with a pot of boiling water they make some fine eating and this is always part of the appeal of this trip. That, and all the microbrews we bring along. And whiskey, of course. And firewood. 

We are really getting the hang of these RVing trips. While we used to bring ingredients hastily bought at the store in advance of our trips, this time we planned our meals well in advance. Peggy made some wonderful breakfast quiches that we could pop into a container and simply heat up. Simple. I made chili in advance and we had some locally-made sausages that also came along for the ride. None of our meal prep took much time with most of it involving heating up things we had pre-made at home from fresh ingredients. 

Less prep in the campground translated into less work on the trip and that also meant less time wasted on cleaning pots and doing other things associated with food prep. Plus, our trailer is pretty small so food prep isn’t one of the things that it’s especially well suited for. However we do use the heck out of the outdoor barbecue and table that came with the trailer for both grilling and also reheating. It’s so much easier than contorting yourself to light the stupid RV oven anyway. Plus you get to be outside which is part of the whole idea. 

That being written, we do make a cheese fondue every year for Christmas and this year was no exception. Rolling through towns larger than the one we live in affords us the opportunity to shop in places that have a great selection of things like specific cheeses. The various Swiss-style cheeses that are needed for my family’s fondue recipe can’t be found in a small town that we live in but bigger cities definitely have them. Shredding cheese and prepping fondue just means it’s Christmas at the Barthel house. 

Our dogs seem to enjoy these trips as much as their two-legged companions with plenty to sniff and hunt down. Fortunately we remembered Zora’s very long lead so she could feel independent without breaking the local leash law. There were others who brought dogs along with new drones and other things that had appeared under their Christmas trees. Plenty of other groups were there and many included lots of kids who loved trying out their new bicycles and other interesting riding contraptions along the paved driveways. 

A few things that were challenges, sort of. Our campsite had clearly been built many years ago and was paved with asphalt. As such, asphalt on a sand base doesn’t stay level long and our site certainly wasn’t. This is an easy problem to solve with our Andersen leveling wedges but we certainly tested their limits. But so what? 

Also, the nights got a bit foggy so the adjacent Coast Guard station was doing its duty for boaters by sounding the fog horn all night long. All. Night. Long. Yes, every night. That’s part of the charm, right? 

Doran panorama 2.jpg

On a big plus the folks who manage the campground built a visitor’s center since last year and I was told that it contained the skeleton of a sea lion but, being Christmas, we never made it over there while it was open. It’s another plus in this well-maintained campground. 

This campground has no hook-ups but we brought our GoPower 80watt folding solar panels with us and they served us well, keeping the batteries in good shape despite the winter conditions. We also never managed to go through all our fresh water nor did we fill our black and grey tanks even over five days; however, we didn’t use the trailer for showers. But all the other plumbing fixtures definitely got their full use. Oh, and there are water spigots on the center of each ring so you could go fill your tanks again if need be. 

Last year, also, we found that there was almost no cell signal with our particular carrier but this year that had changed such that we had very acceptable coverage on our electronic distract-o-matics. This was a bit unfortunate as we were specifically planning to test out our weBoost Drive 4G-X cell phone booster in the RV and didn’t need to. That’s okay, the car version has already proved its ability to strengthen our ability to annoy others with texts and phone calls. 

I would say this campground is well maintained and offers a nice way to get to the beach that’s not overly crowded. We had the privilege of spending Christmas with some wonderful friends and the day use at the facility meant other great friends could come and join us to celebrate birthdays and just hang out. 

This is one of our favorite annual camping outings and we already have our reservations for 2018!

Written by Anthony B. Barthel