Tucked among Sonoma County’s majestic redwoods a few miles from the Pacific Ocean sits the small town of Guerneville. This small town, with a cool vibe, has long been a haven for LGBTQ+ travelers, but is welcoming to all, and is the perfect addition to your Sonoma adventure. Here are some of my favorite things to do, places to stay, and meals to enjoy.
Things to Do
Guerneville’s cool-but-welcoming vibe is on brilliant display than in its downtown. Cafes, restaurants, and bars mixed in among the boutiques, clothing shops, antique stores, and art galleries. And when you’re ready to get beyond downtown, there’s plenty of adventure to greet you.
Dense redwood forests and a river that snakes past the downtown on its way to the Pacific a few miles away keep natural beauty close at hand in Guerneville. Embrace the coastal chill with a walk through the redwoods at Armstrong Redwoods. Wander among thousand-year-old trees, some of which are over 300 feet tall. Pack a picnic or go for a hike; just make sure to leave enough time to sit quietly among these magnificent giants.
In the warmer months, swim, float, or boat in the Russian River as it flows through Guerneville. This accessible stretch of the river is the perfect spot to kayak or canoe, swim, float, pedal boat, or fish. Johnson’s Beach is a popular hot spot for sun-seekers and swimmers.
Ready for wine tasting? Choose among more than 50 wineries within a 20-minute drive of Guerneville. The famed Russian River Valley wine region is known for its Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Sparkling wine fans can stop at Korbel California Champagne Cellars, North America’s oldest continually operating champagne house.
boon hotel + spa: This small boutique hotel makes the most of its surroundings. Centrally located in downtown Guerneville, the adults-focused hotel offers rooms in cottages arranged around a central area that includes a fire pit and swimming pool. Rooms feature cool extras like record players (each room comes stocked with a selection of vintage vinyl) and fireplaces.
Autocamp Russian River: Choose from luxury Airstream trailers, well-appointed glamping tents, or handcrafted Shelton Huts at Autocamp Russian River. Boutique hotel bedding, sleek modern interiors, and a mid-century modern clubhouse elevate the almost-but-not-quite camping experience.
Cottages on River Road: Embrace life in the woods at the Cottages on River Road. Individual cottages (complete with refrigerators, microwaves, decks, and Wi-Fi) cluster around a welcoming lawn, and a firepit and seasonal pool provide plenty of onsite activities for families and couples.
Johnson’s Beach – Cabins and Campground: Johnson’s Beach has been a popular summer day sunning and swimming spot for nearly a hundred years, and you can extend a visit by spending the night at one of 37 tent camping spots spread over 3.5 acres. Prefer walls? Johnson’s also has 10 cabins (some with kitchenettes) dating back to the 1920s that offer a rustic but elegant step up from camping.
Food + Drink
Big Bottom Market: Yes you’ll find plenty of culinary treasures at the Big Bottom Market, but don’t let a basket brimming with picnic supplies distract you from your mission to try the famous biscuits. Order these dense yet flaky wonders (they made Oprah’s list of her favorite things) sweet, savory, or as a breakfast sandwich.
Boon Eat + Drink: Russian River wines and local microbrews pair with the modern California cuisine that embraces the seasonal bounty of surrounding Sonoma County. Likewise, the comfortable and urban-chic surroundings pair perfectly with personable, small-town service.
Chile Pies Baking Co.: Surprising pies in an unusual location—that’s the charm of the Guerneville outpost of Chile Pies Baking Co. Head to the historic Guerneville Bank Club where you can order seasonal classic pies or unique offerings like green chili apple pie and blended pie milkshakes.
Stumptown Brewery: This small, local brewery offers a rotating list of Stumptown-brewed beers, plus guest taps featuring other local makers. There’s also plenty of food at the Grill, and unbeatable views of the Russian River from the deck.
Guerneville is about two hours from San Francisco International Airport or about 25 minutes from the Sonoma County Airport.
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Christine Sarkis recently spent the day in Guerneville and Sonoma as a guest of the Sonoma Tourism Board. Follow her on Twitter @ChristineSarkis and Instagram @postcartography for more advice about making every vacation the best vacation.
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