trips & drives
There is so much to do in the Russian River area that it can be hard to narrow down what you'd like to do. Here are my recommendations for ways to spend a day:
A Day in Guerneville
Kick Start With A Hot Drink - Coffee Bazaar - 14045 Armstrong Woods Road - (707) 869-9706 - Start your day with a hot drink at a table in this local community hub. Burning a few hours in here will give you a good taste of the wide range of people who make the River their home. Personal Favorites: Mexican Mochas and vegan Almond Cookies.
Walk Through Armstrong Woods - 17000 Armstrong Woods Road - (707) 869-2015 - 2.5 miles from downtown, you can take an easy hike (both paved and unpaved) through miles of beautiful and ancient redwood trees. Even on a rainy day, the trees will protect you.
Breakfast Downtown - At Coffee Bazaar - 14045 Armstrong Woods Road - (707) 869-9706, you'll find bagels, muffin, yogurt and breakfast burritos (Personal Favorite: their Pumpkin Tea Bread ribboned with cream cheese) . At Pat's Restaurant - 16236 Main Street - (707) 869-9904 - you'll find classic American breakfast fare - at the counter, in comfy booths or in the back dining room. Personal Favorite: their Western Omelette. Oh. And the awesome Bloody Marys you can get from their bar. Mustn't forget those.
Play at the Beach - At Johnson's Beach - 16241 Main Street - (707) 869-2022 - Lounge in a chair on the beach, or rent a canoe, paddle boat, inner tube, or canoe. Enjoy the view of the historic pedestrian bridge, enjoy the crowd on a summer day, or the silence on a spring day. The beach is closed in the winter, but you can still enjoy a stroll across the bridge and back.
Lunch and Shopping Downtown - Main Street - Guerneville is a small town, but the downtown area is packed with restaurants and fun little stores. Pick a place to eat and then walk off your lunch strolling up one side and down the other, taking your time to poke in everywhere.
Personal Favorite Lunch Spots: Pat's Restaurant - 16236 Main Street - (707) 869-9904 - super great Club Sandwich! The Guerneville Taco Truck - Safeway parking lot, 16632 Main Street - yes, a taco truck! Great Mexican food served by friendly staff - ask for the extra love! Just west of downtown, try The Garden Grill 17132 CA-116 - (707) 869-3992 - try their hot grinders - SO GOOD.
Personal Favorite Store: Guerneville 5 & 10 - 16252 Main Street - (707) 869-3404 - games, toys, art supplies, vintage candy - what's not to love?!
Downtown Nightlife - Main Street - You have your pick of restaurants for your dinner, and then, afterwards, your choice of several bars and places to catch live music. Personal Favorite for Live Music: Trio Restaurant & Bar - 16225 Main Street - (707) 604-7461 - great cocktails, great acts.
The Bohemian Highway
Since 1893, members of San Francisco's Bohemian Club have held their summer encampment in Monte Rio, and, in 1899, they purchased the 2700-acre piece of land now known as Bohemian Grove. It is only open to members, but a trip along the highway named after it makes for a lovely drive.
Starting in Monte Rio, you wind your way through the tree-filled Bohemian Highway at a leisurely 35 mph.
The first town you reach will be the charming hamlet of Occidental, which occupies two blocks on either side of the highway, but, with several great restaurants and a bunch of great shops full of lovely things, it is full of reasons to stop. Personal Favorites: Union Hotel - 3731 Main Street - (707) 874-3444 - Love their coffee and anything I ever tried off of their menu. Howard Station Cafe - 3611 Bohemian Highway - (707) 874-2838 - amazing garden salad full of crunchy veggie goodness, and super amazing juicy freshly grilled burgers. Hand Goods - 3627 Main Street - (707) 874-2161 and Galleria - 3692 Bohemian Highway - (707) 874-1927 - two wonderful stores packed full of amazing art, jewelry and gift items. I could spend half a day browsing these two stores alone.
Careful or you might miss it. Freestone is teeny tiny - just a handful of retail buildings. But here's why you need to stop - Wild Flour Bakery. They are only open Friday through Monday and do not sell their breads to any stores or restaurants, so, this is the only place you can get their incredible bread. I can't even begin to have a Personal Favorite because everything there is wonderful. Stop there even if you're not hungry so that you have something amazing for later when you are. And then just try to resist the smell coming out of that bag for the rest of your trip.
The Bohemian Highway ends when you get to the Bodega Highway. You can go east if you want to visit Sebastopol or Santa Rosa, but, I recommend that you head west in order to make my very inland/coastal loop. Take the Bohemian Highway to Highway One and continue west to Bodega Bay.
Highway One hugs the edge of the California coast and winds its way through the fishing town of Bodega Bay. There you can enjoy amazing views of the harbor and bay, visit the fish market, stop for salt water taffy, or have lunch in one of the restaurants, many of whom specialize in seafood. Personal Favorites: Bodega Head - 3799 Westshore Road - Dramatic, breath-taking views!
North of Bodega Bay, you will hit a fork in the road. Bearing left, you will stay on Highway 1 and be able to visit Jenner.
Following Highway 1 north out of Bodega Bay will lead you to Jenner, which sits on the coast, at the mouth of the Russian River. There are only a handful of businesses there, but, there are plenty of options to enjoy the outdoors there. Even on a foggy day, Jenner is beautiful. Personal Favorites: Goat Rock Beach - 5600-5900 Highway 1 - My favorite local spot, even on a rainy day. The sunsets here are amazing. Expect wind, no matter what time of day it is. River's End Restaurant - 11048 Highway 1 - (707) 865-2484 - Everything here is amazing, from the on point cocktails to the perfectly executed seasonal fare. Time your visit for sunset to really get the full experience - everyone emerges onto the deck for those few minutes, enjoying the magic as a group.
To head back to the river after your Jenner visit, head east on Highway 1 until you return to the fork in the road. Take a left onto River Road to get to any of the towns along the river or all the way to Santa Rosa.
The Russian River area is one of the most beautiful in the country, so, basically, everywhere you go, you're on a scenic drive.
But, if you want to enjoy the best of the best, try a leisurely drive along River Road out to the Coast, or try an alternative route there by taking the Bohemian Highway. If you want to head north, try taking Coastal Highway 1 up to 128 before heading back down to the Russian River area.
For glorious inland drives, check out Coleman Valley Road, starting in Occidental and ending in Bodega Bay, or the unparalleled King Ridge Road.
And if a drive through wine country is more your style, you'll enjoy Westside Road/West Dry Creek Road.
The Bohemian Highway ambles through the trees between Monte Rio and Freestone, and is a pleasant, slow-paced drive that will take you through the charming town of Occidental.
Coastal Highway 1 to 128
Start in Bodega Bay or Jenner and head north. Enjoy breathtaking views as you leave Sonoma County and cross into Mendocino County. Just past Elk, you can take the lovely Highway 128 back out to Highway 101.
Coleman Valley Road
Take the Bohemian Highway from Monte Rio or Freestone to Occidental. From downtown Occidental, take Coleman Valley Road all the way out to Coastal Highway 1. This is a back road with a few opportunities to get lost, so, be sure to consult a map first.
King Ridge Road
This is my favorite local drive. I can't even tell you with any accuracy how long it takes to drive because I have never once been able to drive it without stopping several times just to inhale the views. I have probably driven this road a dozen times and not once have I encountered more than half a dozen other cars. Is you like scenic drives, I cannot recommend this enough.
Start the day by driving up to Cazadero on the Cazadero Highway from River Road. Cazadero is another tiny Russian River town flanking a main thoroughfare. Unless you are headed up there for a summer performance at the Cazadero Performing Arts Camp, there is only one reason to stop in Cazadero - Raymond's Bakery - 5400 Cazadero Highway - (707) 632-5355 - stop for coffee and amazing baked treats (if you're really lucky, you'll get the best mini chocolate croissants you have ever had) at this charming bakery nestled in a redwood grove. Once you leave Cazadero, however, you will not encounter another business or phone or public building for another 31 miles. Please have a map with you in case you take a wrong turn. These back roads go on forever and you want to be sure of where you are. This is a pretty easy route, but, better safe than sorry.
River Road stretches from Highway 101 out to Coastal Highway 1, following the Russian River and passing through the towns of Guerneville, Monte Rio, and Duncans Mills, leading you to Jenner.
Westside Road/West Dry Creek Road
Westside Road starts off of River Road at the Hacienda Bridge in Forestville. Take it all the way up to Healdsburg, where you can jump on Highway 101 to return to the Russian River area, or, take West Dry Creek Road to continue your drive through the vineyards. To get back to 101, take a right on Lambert Bridge Road (or Yoakim Bridge Road, if you want to continue up a bit more) and another right onto Dry Creek Road, which will lead you back to 101. (Or you can take a left onto Dry Creek Road and drive up to Lake Sonoma).