Art by the sea

Ocean scenery meets local talent along the North Coast of California
Lora J. Finnegan

Bodega Bay and Gualala

If you're a novice art buyer, it's hard to beat the help you can get from a gallery owner with time to talk. That's just what you'll get in Bodega Bay, a small cluster of shops, cafes, and galleries huddled along the highway. Galleries here pay a lower rent than in San Francisco, two hours south, so art prices can be more reasonable.

About an hour's drive north of Bodega Bay, the old lumber town of Gualala sits on a wild coastline. On some winter days, gray whales pause in their migration to hang out in the coves. Art lovers will want to hang out in the Gualala Art Center, where you'll see a wide range of media and styles in a light-filled gallery. Built by the local community, with donated funds and labor, the center is tangible proof of the power of the growing art community here.

Gualala Art Center. Everything from edgy to traditional art. 9–4 Mon–Fri, 12–4 Sat–Sun. 46501 Gualala Rd., Gualala; www.gualalaarts.org or 707/884-1138.

Local Color Gallery. Works by established and emerging Sonoma County artists ― paintings, prints, glassware, and pottery. 10–5 daily. 1580 Eastshore Rd., Bodega Bay; www.localcolorgallery.com or 707/875-2744.

Pangaea. The restaurant was designed by artists, and local artwork is on display throughout. $$$; dinner Wed–Sun (reservations suggested for $36 prix fixe Sun dinner). 39165 S. State 1, Gualala; 707/884-9669.

The Ren Brown Collection. Contemporary Japanese prints and antique Japanese furnishings in a serene setting. 10–5 Wed–Sun. 1781 State 1, Bodega Bay; www.renbrown.com or 707/875-2922.

Sandpiper Seafood Restaurant. Seafood, art, and atmosphere by the dock in Bodega Bay (try the terrific chowder, with a hint of tarragon). $$; breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily. 1410 Bay Flat Rd., Bodega Bay; 707/875-2278.

Sonoma Coast Villa Inn & Spa. Owner Cyrus Griffin is also a sculptor; his works line the inn's entry walkway. 16 rooms from $195. 16702 State 1 (Coast Hwy. 1), Bodega; www.scvilla.com or 888/404-2255.

Spindrift Gallery. Tucked into the Cypress Village shopping complex (look for the clock tower), fine watercolors, pastels, and oils by owner-artist Craig Gilliland and other local artists. 11–5 Thu–Sun. 39126–D Ocean Dr. (off State 1), Gualala; 707/884-4484.

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