Bliss at the Beach

By Kate Riley May 28, 2012

I’m a pretty lucky gal and on a day like yesterday, I’m reminded just how fortunate I am.  My family and I live near the coast but we still have to travel half an hour to see it.  It’s a beautiful drive but when we arrive, most of the time it’s foggy and cold (to be expected in Northern California) but lucky for us, yesterday was not!  Yesterday the family spent a blissful afternoon out at Bodega, repeating the same kite and clam chowder adventure we do several times a year.



I have both a love and fear of the ocean.  I’m drawn to the visual beauty and rhythmic sounds of the surf beating on the sand, but the power of the ocean still frightens me since I almost drowned in it as a young girl after I was caught in an undertow.  I’ve snorkeled in deep water but I refuse to swim in the waves, and yet I still can’t resist the allure of a beautiful Northern California coastline.

cali coast


The kids always find a way to entertain themselves too, digging for creatures or building fortresses only to have the waves wash them away.

girl sand


The beach is the place for impromptu swordfights and multiple attempts to fly a kite.

dad and son at beach

kite flying


It is also the place where all the noise of the world stops and the rhythmic peaceful music of the waves takes over.  Most of the time I just stand back and take it all in, the sound of the surf, the changing light across the water, and the repetition of the waves as they approach the shore.

toes in beach sand


And every now and then something magnificent and unexpected takes me by surprise.

horse and ocean


Hours pass by and then chilled by the evening breezes, we leave as the sun sets watching the colors change with the softer light.

bodega bay homes

bodega wharf

mosaic octopus

whale head bone 1000 pounds


Windblown and happy, we dust off the sand and head to The Tides Wharf for a cup of the best clam chowder within 50 miles.

bowl of clam chowder

With full stomachs and happy hearts, we drive home as the kids fall asleep in the backseat having spent a blissful day on the coast.

We can’t spend everyday there, but I do love the smell of the beach back home. If you’re landlocked and can’t get to the coast anytime soon, here are my three favorite beauty products that I use that capture the essence of the beach!

favorite beach smell beauty products

The first is Mario Badescu’s Summer Shine Body Lotion, it has a soft shimmer and very light tropical scent – perfect for summer nights spent in summer dresses!  The next is Bobbi Brown’s Beach Body Oil and if anything captures the essence of surf and suntan lotion this is it!  It’s absorbs quickly and I get a lot of compliments whenever I wear it.  The last is Bumble & Bumble’s Surf Spray, great for misting in your hair when it’s wet for the look of windblown locks after a day spent on the sand.

I hope you all are enjoying this last day of the long weekend and the kickoff to summer!  Tomorrow is the ‘Favorite Souvenir’ link party, so link up any of your favorite finds you’ve acquired on your travels!

Finally, today is also a day of honoring our fallen soldiers.  Thank you men and women of our military for all you have done to to protect and defend our country.  Today we remember you.



  1. What beautiful photos, Kate! The one of your hubs and son swordfighting with the driftwood is so cute…boys will be boys, right? This made me look forward to our beach trip later this summer. I do love the beach!!

    My souvenir post is ready for tomorrow’s link party! :) Only took me a minute to think of my favorite one. :)

  2. Looks like a spectacular day. I love the ocean but have a very healthy respect for the power of the waves and water. Thanks for all the lovely photos. I feel like I was along, sitting on the blanket.

  3. Wow, what a beautiful place!! So lucky to have this (almost) in your backyard!! Being landlocked in the middle of Ontario, I only get to visit the ocean once a year – if I’m lucky!! Enjoy your long weekend and all the great family time it brings!

  4. I love your photos, Kate! That first one is so beautiful! I am with you on the love it, fear it. For me it’s the sharks and jellyfish more so than riptides. I have to say a little prayer every time I get in, so far no shark bites or jellyfish stings! :)

    I was thinking about Memorial Day and the courage that American soldiers have as they go to war-pushing past their fears. As a 9 year old girl and strong swimmer at the time, while in Florida with the family I got caught in a pretty big wave and it was scary. I do understand how you feel. After being raised in the water from 6 months old, I couldn’t help but get right back in. The ocean is such a beautiful place, I so hope one day you’ll be able to go back into it again and enjoy its beauty, power, salt water therapy and majesty-the experience is total different in the water. Maybe go on a calm day with hubby as backup?

    • I think so Katelyn! I will wade into warmer beach waves, and have snorkeled in Hawaii, but the powerful waves still scare me so I won’t go in above my waist. You’re right though, the salty water is therapy!

  5. What a lovely day at the beach. I do believe Northern California has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. I rode horses up on a beach near Crescent City, California, as a child. Those are some of my favorite memories.

  6. Bodega Bay – one of my favorite places. Haven’t been there in ages mainly because the drive to visit necessitates an overnight. I need to get that onto the wishlist of my rest of my life plan. I remember being there in August one year, beach camping with the kids. It was 112 degrees in the Central Valley. It was 52 degress and windy on the coast. And foggy. Can you say HAPPY?? Yes, indeed. A good memory.

  7. The picture of your husband and son with the kite is sooooo cute.
    I miss the beach…might have to pick up a few of those items to pretend I’m there! : )

    Thanks, beautiful post.

  8. Love your favorite beach scents! Just wanted to add, Bath and Body Works has a new small candle called “Suntan” that smells like BB Beach!! So good!!

  9. Fabulous pictures, there is something so special about the beach. Love those moments!
    Have a great week

  10. Ahhh…Bodega Bay. One of our favorite places ever. We go every year, rent a beach house, and drop our crab nets off the jetty! So much fun and such great memories! Love the beach and will have to try out some of your favorite products!

  11. Ahhh, I just moved from the coast in Charleston, SC to Minnesota and I am missing my ocean. I would drop my daughter off at school and just go read a book on the beach! It is my zen spot! I miss it! Your pictures are lovely and so glad you got to spend the day there with such lovely weather!

  12. Kate, your photos made this Midwest girl very nostalgic remembering visits to that breathtakingly beautiful coastline. I audibly gasped as I scrolled down to the magnificent horse! Thanks for sharing your experience and your extraordinary gift for photography.

  13. A timely post! the pictures are so peaceful.
    We are considering a “move” to Northern Cal from So Cal. What are some of your favorite cities? Would Bodega be one of them…to live not just vacation?

    • Hi Marti, there are a lot of great places to live up here, it just depends on what you’re looking for! Email me and I can give you a few suggestions based on your criteria.

  14. hi Kate – you’re making me homesick for summer already. we’re heading into winter here in Sydney and today was COLD!
    glad you had a lovely weekend
    cheers Fiona
    Lilyfield Life

  15. Midwesterners don’t have much ‘beach’ time so we love to live through others. I love your photos and could almost smell the ocean! LOL Thanks for sharing with all the landlubbers.

  16. What a beautiful beach day! Thank you for sharing the summer scent ideas. I have one more – Estee Lauder Bronze Goddess – my favorite summer perfume!

  17. I didn’t know you lived near me! I am Northern California Bay Area girl too. I love the beach, growing up here, it was my absolute most favorite family outing, and going to Pajaro Dunes by Castroville was our summer vacation. Your pictures are beautiful, and made me wish we had gone yesterday too, but we took advantage of the extra day and completed a lot of DIY around here, ending with a BBQ with friends and family.

    Thanks for sharing such lovely pictures. -K

  18. Ah, love Bodega. I am surprised it wasn’t super crowded yesterday – your pictures look like you had the beach practically to yourself – very nice. We generally do Goat Rock Beach because we are further north, but I agree that the NorCal beaches are a sight all their own. You might be able to swim more in the SoCal beaches, but the beauty is by far up here in NorCal.

  19. I love love love your photographs – looks like an excellent day. Makes me look forward to beachtime I have scheduled for August. Thanks for sharing

  20. Oh my gosh. I feel the same way about the ocean. As a young girl I was having a grand old time sitting on my raft in the ocean, not realizing that I was drifting further and further away from the shore. When I finally realized it i became very scared, but somehow managed to get back to shore. The lifeguards were watching me but thank goodness I didnt need them. After that happened I never go out in the waves either. Scarey. Anyway, your pictures are beautiful and I want to go to that restaurant. Looks sooooo yummy!!!

  21. Kate your photos are awesome. I totaly can related to love and fear of the ocean, I love the beach but have been drowned a few time grown up. But as long as I can stand on my feet I’m good.

  22. Kate,
    What a lovely way to spend a weekend day. As a SoCal gal we love Northern California. Southern California has it’s ocean but the beauty of the coastline is so stunning in the North.
    Enjoy the rest of your week.

  23. I love your pictures. Could you tell me what kind of camera you use? Mine just died and I have to purchase another on soon.

    • I use a Nikon D90 Charleen – that day I believe it was my 50mm 1.8 Nikor lens!

  24. Thanks so much. Hope my pictures will look as good as yours. Great Blog, by the way.

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