On location in Bodega Bay – Hitchcock’s The Birds (1963)

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Inspired by the Hitchcock Blogathon hosted by Rob and Zoe, I asked my friend Vince who has contributed several classic posts in the past, including Laura, Vertigo, The Red Shoes, The Omen, etc. to do a write up about his trip to Bodega Bay last year to commemorate Hitchcock’s birthday on August 13.


In the fall of 2013, my wife Kristina, my sons Elliott and Ian, and myself went down to Sonoma County in California to attend my sister’s wedding. While not quite a vacation by any means, we decided to take an extra 2-3 days in the area to check out some beaches as a day treat for the boys. We chose Bodega Bay, partly because it was close (less than an hour away from Santa Rosa), but mostly because of my lifelong fascination with the Hitchcock classic The Birds which was filmed on location there back in 1961.

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On the way to the hotel, we drove down Bay Hill Road, which was the road Tippi Hedren’s character (Melanie Daniels) took into Bodega Bay with her Aston Martin. It was a nice windy 2-lane road by hillsides and plateaus. After arriving at the hotel, the friendly clerk nicely answered some questions about the movie and handed us a map of the locations used in the film. It made for easy planning the next couple of days.

On a coffee table in the hotel lobby was a laminated album of production stills from the shoot. Things I learned right away from skimming through it: The schoolteacher, Annie Hayworth’s house was only a facade and torn down after filming; that the Brenner ranch structure no longer existed; and that the Potter Schoolhouse, church, and the Tides Restaurant still stood but have undergone generational makeovers over the decades.

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Bodega Bay is a very foggy area and it’s no surprise that this affected the film’s overall look. According to BodegaBay.com, much of the film had to be tinted gray because of this and probably adding to cost and production time. Along with all the special effects employed in the film, it took post three years to put the final touches on it. The movie was released in 1963.

The next day was foggy indeed and we decided to drive a bit on Highway 1 which proved scary and beautiful at the same time. There were steep drop-offs, windy roads and very strong tides along the beaches. We did find a more kid-friendly beach on our way back to Bodega Bay where we spent most of the afternoon. After the beach, we then decided to drive through town looking for some familiar movie locations. With map in hand, we drove up Taylor Street, which is where the children ran down from the schoolhouse as they were being attacked by birds in a pivotal scene.

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The 3rd and final day, we drove to where the Potter Schoolhouse stood. The structure was intact, although with a slightly newer paint job. Interestingly, because of the fog the day before, we had missed it completely. It was a clear and sunny day which really detached the vibe of the movie – gray and foreboding.

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Finally, we reached our final destination, The General Store, where Melanie asks the storekeeper the first name of the ‘little Brenner girl’ in her attempt to play a prank on Mitch Brenner played by Rod Taylor.

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The store, now called the Bodega Country Store was a visitor center of sorts, with memorabilia from the film, publicity stills, dolls, toys, postcards, film books etc. The store also was a genuine general store, with canned goods, soft drinks and food. Kristina bought me “Blackie”, a replica of one of the magpies from the movie and has since found its home near my station at work.

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The country store also had a replica of the telephone booth in that iconic scene where Melanie is trapped inside it with seagulls crashing into the glass. What a scene that was! Here I am reenacting it – with a stranger’s help in taking the photo.

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As we were checking out of the Bodega Coast Inn, I was dismayed to find out that just a week ago, Tippi Hedren had come back to visit the town for the film’s 50th anniversary. I had just missed her. The hotel clerk said she was a very nice woman and still beautiful. On the clerks counter was an autographed publicity still of Tippi with Mr. Hitchcock along with a Barbie rendition of her as Melanie.

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It didn’t take much to cheer me up though as the town’s charm and the film itself kept my imagination as vivid as ever. If you haven’t seen The Birds I highly recommend it. And while you’re at it, consider visiting this now legendary location.


So have you seen The Birds and/or been to Bodega Bay?

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30 thoughts on “On location in Bodega Bay – Hitchcock’s The Birds (1963)

  1. As Hitchcock and I share the same birthday, of course I’ve seen The Birds. One of my all-time favorites by this director. I’m hoping to get up to Bodega Bay sometime soon. Now more than ever with this post, Vince. Well done. 🙂

    1. rockerdad

      I rewatch it every year! There are also very nice and some scary beaches nearby. The climate is awesome as well:)

  2. What a cool idea. Nice pics. I haven’t seen The Birds in like 20 some years. Jeez. As a kid I used to go to the Monroeville Mall near Pittsburgh where Romero shot Dawn of The Dead. Does that count? Sadly there’s no memorabilia there. They do do (do do…lol) a Walk of The Dead zombie walk there around Halloween time though.

        1. It should say they’re not there’s. Doh. I may need to reread Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style again. I can’t believe I did that. As Ralpie would say… “That’s unpossible.”

        2. A Zombie Fest, ahah! Well, the trouble is, when someone actually got hurt with REAL blood on them, people would probably ignore ’em thinking they’re just in costume! 😉

  3. Ted S.

    Welcome back to the site Vince! Sounds like your family had a fun trip, I’ve never to that area but have seen The Birds when I was very young. Surprisingly I wasn’t scare by the movie, somehow birds just doesn’t scare me. I remember I liked the movie though.

    1. Hey Ted, I’m trying to convince Vince to do a post on his fave Criterion films 😉 You both have such a vast knowledge of film that you two should have your OWN blog! 😀

  4. rockerdad

    I feel the same – not scared at all but there’s something engaging about it. I think there are a bunch of underlying themes and subtleties under the surface.

  5. Great idea, love the write up and I love the pics! Looks really cool there. It must have been lovely to see that all, and it looks like the town works really well with the popularity it has garnered!

    1. Thanks Zoe! I think it can be a mixed blessing for a small town being featured in a movie, but sounds like Bodega Bay embraces it, which is awesome!

  6. rockerdad

    The trip was my wife’s suggestion, bless her! The post is RTM’s idea of course – her brain does not stop! Yes, the town has completely embraced it’s association with the movie at least it sure feels that way.

  7. Reblogged this on and commented:
    As a special treat for our Alfred Hitchcock blogathon, Ruth of Flixchatter added a post by Vince (aka Rockerdad) about his trip to Bodega Bay last summer where The Birds was filmed. Check it out!

  8. PrairieGirl

    Hey Rocky ;-D,
    Fantastic post and great pix, sounds like a great experience all around. I really like when a film is shot in the same area it takes place. I love Fargo (2014 TV series on FX), and it still takes place in Minnesota (Bemidgi and Duluth) but it’s filmed in and around Calgary Alberta (Canada). Nothing against Canada, but it’s not quite the same no being filmed here. But at least we know the snow is real (grin).

  9. jackdeth72

    Welcome, Vince (Rockerdad):

    Am I the only one who remembers focal area for supernatural hijinks and creepy murders in John Carpenter’s original. ‘The Fog’ being Bodega Bay?

    Also. Does having you dad work at and hanging around the Chillum, MD natural gas storage tanks just outside Washington, DC count for watching them being blown up real good in ‘Earth vs. The Flying Saucers’?

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