Summer in Sonoma County beckons with getaways to beaches, ocean, rivers, streams and swimming pools. Because even while we’re blessed with a temperate Mediterranean climate, when the sun warms things up, who doesn’t love escaping for a cool splashdown?
Pack your swimsuit for these refreshing stay-and-play destinations.
This oasis is so romantic and serene on its seaside perch overlooking the Pacific Ocean. As the only AAA Four Diamond hotel on the Sonoma Coast, it offers a luxury escape, in rooms outfitted with real fireplaces, warm, snuggly down comforters for that sometimes chilly ocean breeze, and private balconies for stargazing. The resort’s onsite restaurant, Drake’s Sonoma Coast Cuisine, celebrates the bounty of this spectacular coastal region with a menu highlighting loca, sustainably farmed produce, seafood, and meats (open for breakfast and dinner). The spa, too, sits above the Sonoma coastline, anchored by an outdoor heated swimming pool and whirlpool spa. So embrace your location, and indulge in beach-theme signatures include the warm shell massage with Tiger Clam seashells.
The drive to Timber Cove is an exhilarating one, hugging Highway 1 on the edge of the cliffs soaring above the crashing waves and jagged rocks of the Sonoma Coast.
But just a bit north of Fort Ross and Jenner awaits a miniature town with a very big reason to visit: this secluded inn and its Alexander’s restaurant. Recently renovated for a more modern lodge mood, the inn offers rooms with ocean or forest view rooms, private spa tubs, fireplaces, skylights, and the drama of ancient wood trim against crisp white bedding. The restaurant is celebrated for its rustic luxury charm and extraordinary ocean views from floor-to-ceiling windows in the dining room – indeed, guests travel from all over for a spectacular cliffside meal, relaxing before a roaring fire in the huge stone fireplace in the Sequoia Lounge, then taking a brisk, post-dinner stroll in the crisp Pacific air.
Check out the two Olympic-sized pools, including the glamorous original that once welcomed sunbathing celebrities like Jayne Mansfield. Today, the kitschy landmark is a point of pride, and a beacon of all that’s fun and funky in Wine Country. In 1996, in fact, the hotel was designated a Historic Landmark. Though it now caters more to families and groups than A-list stars, it’s still a beloved destination for its stylish wood-trimmed rooms and lovingly restored ballrooms that now play host to fun activities like salsa dancing lessons.
The low-slung style of dramatic stone and glass spans several wings of suites around a lavish pool and expansive gardens, and all the rooms are contemporary, furnished in sleek fixtures in cozy palates of gold and cream.
All stays in the newly remodeled luxury rooms include a breakfast buffet and free wine tasting passes - just a few of the values found at this 1950’s retro-chic destination marked by a revolving, neon trimmed 50-foot tower capped with a spindly legged pink bird.
Elim Grove Cottages, Cazadero
This isn’t the kind of place most people will just stumble across, deep in the heart of the Russian River. It’s about a mile from downtown Cazadero, and to get there, you need to travel on Highway 116, approximately eight miles through the woods west of Guerneville or four miles east of Highway 1. Then you turn north on Cazadero Highway and continue another 5-1/2 miles until you see the lodge and bakery nestled beneath the majestic old growth redwoods that tower above Austin Creek. Yes, bakery. The five private cottages sit in a romantic compound, decorated in themes of antique knotty pine, bamboo garden, and the Baker’s Loft, finished in hardwood. They overlook the bakery garden, where Mark and Elizabeth Weiss send out a mouthwatering array of fresh-baked-daily breads, muffins, cinnamon rolls, buttermilk blueberry scones, croissants, lemon bars, apple coffeecake, cookies, fruit tarts, turnovers, fougasse, double chocolate brownies, biscotti, palmiers, Danish, and so much more.
Bay Hill Mansion B&B, Bodega Bay
It truly is a mansion, sitting like a white and blue-trimmed wedding cake on a coastal bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Each of the five guest rooms are individually designed, including three king suites, with restful, Victorian-inspired decor, and a choice of super-pillow-top or luxury memory-foam beds. It’s all about luxury, actually, from the deep soaking tubs in the marble baths, to 1000-thread-count linens and Turkish cotton towels, to remote-controlled infrared fireplaces, a personal concierge for kayaking, horseback riding and such, and a choice of two homemade breakfast menus daily. Note: the property is home to “Fox” the friendly dog, and also welcomes canine guests.
It really should be called Monte Rio Vacation Cottages, Suites or Cabins, since there are three types of accommodations. Cottages and suites feature luxury touches like private hot tubs on large decks, fenced and gated yards, hanging flowers pots, and cute birdhouse themes like Heron, Hummingbird and Stellar Jay. Other luxuries include premium bedding, robes, toiletries, fully equipped kitchens or kitchenettes, Smart or Apple TV's with free Netflix, HBO streaming and Comcast cable, free Wi-Fi, daily housekeeping, phones, gas or electric fireplaces, and outdoor dining areas. For the cabins, think “glamping,” tucked into 120 square feet but hardly roughing it phones, Wi-Fi, premium bedding, robes, housekeeping, en-suite water closet, private outdoor shower, private deck, private gas grill, and umbrella dining table. For all, the secluded Russian River setting is serene, cradled amid the redwoods with Mother Nature in all her finest.
An intimate Cliffside retreat with 16 rooms nestled around a hot tub and picturesque gardens, the lodge is just minutes from State Parks, sandy beaches, ancient redwood forests and glittering blue ocean coves. Tip: the upstairs rooms have private sun decks, Jacuzzi tubs, and spectacular ocean views. The rest of the place is rustic but charming, and updated with 32” HDTV including Direct TV and HBO, oak furnishings and original artwork, mini-refrigerators and microwave.
Sure, you’re roughing it some, but fire pits await firewood purchased from the park rangers, and your portable cook stove is perfect for warming coffee (or hot toddies). On-site hot showers and multiple restrooms with electrical outlets are available, and you can park your car right near your tents. And it’s impossible to beat the beautiful ocean and dune views, the shady canopies of trees, and the well-spaced sites that offer seclusion.
Tucked away off Hwy. 1 in Jenner, the pastoral property is just 30 miles west of Santa Rosa, yet brims with all the joys of a far-away vacation. Perched on a bluff overlooking the Russian River entrance flowing into the majestic Pacific Ocean, it’s a destination of no cell reception, no Internet, no TVs, no radio, and no newspapers on site. The only distractions are breathtaking vistas, beaches, and a lovely restaurant. As owner Bert Rangel notes, “It’s where a mystical river ends, and a celebration of food and wine begins.”
Originally built in 1927 as a restaurant and inn for area loggers and fisherman, the property now encompasses a clutch of just five cabins, including three dating back 89 years, but all meticulously renovated to modern luxury with sleek wood walls and ceilings, sliding glass doors leading to balconies and decks, and some with gas fireplaces and/or semi-private garden areas. And welcome your neighbors - depending on the time of year, you’ll see migrating whales, playful seal pups teasing their mothers, roaring bull sea lions, and always, soaring gulls dancing above the crashing waves.
This two-mile stretch of sandy beach is quiet, secluded, and dog friendly (leashed, please, to protect the abundant wildlife). Protected by the bay, the water is calm, perfect for dipping toes, and there’s a rock jetty at the harbor mouth for fishing and crabbing under gentle wind-scudded clouds dancing across the sky. Bring your picnic basket, your camping gear, your RV, and even your boat. If you can pack in your horse, do that, too – part of the beach is equine accessible.
Written by Sonoma Insider Carey Sweet.