Compass Rose Gardens
Corner East Shore and Bay Flat Roads
Bodega Bay, CA 94923
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Why We Like This Place
When we passed through the Compass Rose Gardens’ humble iron gate, we felt as if we had encountered Narnia—the magical, otherworldly kingdom that C.S. Lewis wrote of in his famed children’s books. Entering the gardens, you’re immersed in a world of unbridled beauty. In every direction the eye is delighted: here the abundant blooms of rhododendrons, irises and camellias; over there delicate Japanese maples, cherry trees and towering redwoods. A year-round running brook unspools the length of the gardens, pausing now and again to calm itself in one of several lovely ponds. It is truly an idyllic place to hold a celebration.
Donna Cook Freeman is the exuberant owner and green thumb responsible for coaxing such beauty from what was once three acres of tangled briars, willows and blackberries. She began work on the grounds in 1986; the foliage was so thick she had to crawl in on her hands and knees to reach the interior. There she sat for hours in contemplation, dreaming her garden into existence. A 10-year labor of love ensued, during which Donna and her family hauled, excavated, pruned and thinned. They built footbridges and cottages, planted flowers and trees, eventually wrangling a magnificent garden from a tenacious coastal jungle. Then in homage to Bodega Bay’s long seafaring history, she christened the gardens “Compass Rose” (a compass rose is the starlike insignia found on mariners’ maps and compasses).
A variety of scenic spots are available to tie the knot; however, most couples prefer to marry on an oval lawn overlooking the property’s largest pond. Guests are seated on the opposite bank (still within earshot) where they are afforded a perfect view of the bride and groom as they exchange vows underneath a venerable willow. After the ceremony, folks can lose themselves along the gardens’ meandering paths before joining the feasting and festivities at the handsome pavilion at the far side of the gardens. The newlyweds may want to slip away to share a quiet moment in the meditation garden. Nestled in a ring of redwoods, it’s just the place to collect oneself after all the hubbub. Couples are also welcome to participate in what has now become a Compass Rose tradition—the planting of a “wedding” sapling or placing a personalized birdhouse in a nearby tree, which serves as both living memory and future promise for their journey together.
Although the Compass Rose is an ideal spot for outdoor weddings, it is also an excellent gathering place for any number of events—seminars, retreats, bar mitzvahs and anniversaries. For those who desire lodging nearby, there are both luxury hotels and more modest accommodations nearby. And movie buffs will be interested in the gazebo from Hitchcock’s famous film The Birds. The owners of the gardens, who were extras in the movie, have decided to share their favorite memento by setting it into a hillside where everyone can enjoy it.
The Compass Rose Gardens used to be Bodega Bay’s best kept secret, but given their extraordinary beauty, of course word got out. They were also featured in HGTV, A&E, Town and Country Magazine, radio and other media! So if your heart is set on a garden party, call sooner rather than later—this is one opportunity you won’t want to miss!
Max. Seated Indoors: 0
Max. Seated Outdoors: 200
Max. Seated Indoors: 0
Max. Seated Outdoors: 150
Max. Standing Indoors: 0
Max. Standing Outdoors: 200
|Max. Seated: 200|
CEREMONY & EVENT/RECEPTION CAPACITY: The Ceremony Area holds 200 seated and the Pavilion up to 150 seated guests.
MEETING CAPACITY: Meetings spaces accommodate up to 200 guests.
Fees & Deposits
50% of the rental fee is required to reserve your date, the balance and a $1,500 refundable security deposit are due 1 month prior to the event. Engagement photos and a 1-hour rehearsal are included. The weekend rental fee starts at $4,900; call for midweek rates. Extra hours are available.
Daily, May through October.
CateringChoose From List
Special Events, Parties
Catering: select from preferred list or with approval
Wheelchair AccessAccess Limited
Venue TypeBanquet Hall/Events Facility
Alcohol: BYO, insurance required, no corkage fees
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