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I have a few questions about Stillwater Cove and I wonder if anyone can clue me in.
1) How long does it typically take to drive there from the Bay area (San Mateo)? Any recommended travel routes?
2) Is there a Local Dive Shop somewhere close by or do people rent stuff in the Bay area and bring it with them?
3) How tough is it to get a campsite at Stillwater or a nearby park? Do I need to book a site far in advance?
I'm assuming you mean Stillwater on the Sonoma coast (as I just learned, there is also a Stillwater in Monterey County). Based on that asssumption:
1) It takes me a little under 2 hours to drive to Stillwater from the Marina in SF if there is no traffic and my girlfriend is not in the car to yell at me for driving like a maniac on the curvy roads. With traffic or sensible driving, it's probably a little under 2 1/2 hours. I usually get off the 101 in Petaluma and, from that point on, it's a very pretty and enjoyable drive, so I don't mind the drive time at all. Probably add 30-45 minutes to either of those numbers if you're coming from San Mateo.
2) There are no full fledged dive shops close to Stillwater. The closest dive shop is probably in Bodega Bay. I believe you can get air-fills somewhere near Stillwater and I have seen tanks and well-worn looking gear for rent at the boat launch/campground up there, but I would recommend that you rent whatever you need before heading up. I just started working down in your neck of the woods (Foster City) and have had really good luck with the folks at Wallins Dive Center.
3) Depends on when you're going. I've only camped at the campsites there twice and have not had any problem reserving like a week in advance. During peak times (like 3 day weekends, ab opener, nice summer weekends), you probably need to reserve months in advance. They have a few first-come-first-served spots, I think. There is no shortage of places to camp up there. If all the state park campsites are full, you're almost guaranteed to be able to find a spot at the less-scenic no-reservations-necessary private campground just a bit farther up highway 1 (can't recall the name at the moment, but you can't miss it).
Also, we have just formed a new dive club dedicated to diving the north coast (see website in my signature). Feel free to drop by our website or join us on one of our monthly dives! We are currently trying to have an official dive the first weekend of every month and someone seems to be planning to go diving most weekends.
I reserve my campsites really early, but last weekend...Stillwater Campground wasn't full, so you would have been able to get a site. It is really a great place to camp, hot showers, and close to dive sites. The only drawback is that there really isn't a dive shop close by that I have found. I usually get my tanks filled before heading to the coast.
This is from a Post Eric aka ZKY put in another thread. I have not seen this dive shop.
"Go to the dive shop up there on the highway just south of Ft. Bragg, it's called Sub Surface Progression. They can give you specifics on the locations of these sites and others. It's also a really neat store."
Fort Bragg is way too far from Stillwater cove. It's a good 1 1/2 to 2 hours north on hwy 1. You'd go to Sub Surface only if you where diving up in Mendocino County. To get to Mendo dive sites you'd keep going up the freeway all the way to Cloverdale then turn off on hwy 128, that's a whole different thing.
For dive shops in Sonoma County you're better off going to either Bodega Bay Pro Dive on Hwy 1 in Bodega bay, or Pinnacles Dive Center in Santa Rosa (take Steele Lane off ramp, make a right on Steele Ln. and another immediate right on Armory and they're on the left), or Bamboo Reef in Rohnert Park (Get off on Rohnert Park Expressway, go right after you get off freeway, go left on Commerce, they are on Commerce on the right after Grainger and right before Hertz Rents, or if you choose to get off the freeway in Petaluma and go East Washington west and out that way there is a dive shop on Bodega Avenue (East Washington will turn into Bodega Avenue) called Petaluma Dive and Sport. There is a big mural of a kelp forest and whales out front you can't miss. This shop is actually my favorite of any of them because of the old school feel and the great prices. They cater to hunters and anglers and you'll notice a profound lack of foo foo gear.
Hope this helps as far as the dive shop situation in Sonoma County.