Beautifully situated in Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley amidst rolling hills, soaring redwood trees and lush vineyards, the tiny town of Forestville offers much to do.
It’s a laid-back, slow-it-down, family oriented kind of place where coffee shops roast their own beans, dining options vary from down-home to gourmet, and people are friendly.
The town was established in the late 1860s, and although the spelling was changed later, it was originally named after saloon owner Andrew Jackson Forrester. Forestville was the home of the first powered sawmill in California, as well as a chair factory that, at the time, was the largest manufacturing plant in Sonoma County.
Here are 5 fun things to do during your Forestville visit:
Browse “Downtown” Shops
The Russian River Valley’s major road, Highway 116, becomes Front Street for three short blocks when it hits the “downtown” area of Forestville. This is a great spot to park your car and stroll around.
You’ll feel as if you’ve stepped back into time at Ideal Hardware, with its ancient wooden floor, solicitous clerks, and shelves of things you’ve been seeking forever but couldn’t find anywhere else.
The Lucky Mojo Curio Co. is a magic store, stocked with items such as kits that help you cast magic spells, occult oils, spiritual soaps, amulets and charms — and they’ll help you find the right person to give you a psychic reading.
And just a bit south of Front Street you can buy specialty, natural and gourmet foods — no-sugar fruit spreads, mustards, jams, jellies, and much more — at Kozlowski Farms.
Visit the Forestville Farmers Market
The lively Forestville Farmers Market is held from 4 to 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday under the shady oaks in the downtown park (6990 Front St., Forestville) from the beginning of June to the end of October.
Here, local farmers offer up their finest seasonal produce, artisans vend imaginative crafts and gift items, and local food purveyors offer pizza, bread, cheese, wine, and more for your dining pleasure. Enjoy live music as you browse the market booths, or relax with a massage.
Paddle Down the River
Canoeing or kayaking down the Russian River from Burke’s Canoe Trips and Campground, finishing up at the mouth of the Pacific Ocean, has been hugely popular with generations of summer visitors.
And why not? It’s pure pleasure!
The river’s flowing in the direction you’re paddling, you’ll stop once or twice on a river bank to picnic or relax in the sun, and you’ll probably even jump into the water now and then to cool off.
At the end a shuttle brings you back to your car. Burke’s also offers camping on the riverfront and in the redwoods (tents, trailers and RVs accommodated).
Burke’s Canoe Trips and Campground (8600 River Road, Forestville, 707-887-1222)
Bike the West County Trail
The 5.57-mile West County Trail runs between Forestville and Sebastopol. Flat and paved, it proceeds through vineyards, orchards, and other farmlands to make for a beautiful, easy, and safe bicycle outing (you can also walk or skate).
Along the way you could go wine tasting, visit Hallberg Butterfly Gardens (8687 Oak Grove Ave., Sebastopol, 707-823-3420), hike a trial at Ragle Ranch Regional Park (500 Ragle Road, Sebastopol, 707-433-1625), or cruise down Sebastopol’s Florence Avenue to delight in artist Patrick Amiot’s big colorful sculptures made from recycled objects.
Enjoy a Russian River Beach
Forestville is home to three regional parks along the river: Steelhead Beach, Sunset Beach, and Mom’s Beach (also known as Forestville River Access). They all offer beautiful river and forest views. All are great for birding, fishing, watching paddlers move slowly by, enjoying a picnic (grills are available), and much more.
There are no lifeguards, so life vests are advised if you enter the water. Steelhead offers river access for small craft such as kayaks, canoes, and drift boat; it also has a few short hiking trails that create a nearly one-mile loop through a forest.
Written by Sonoma Insider Suzie Rodgriguez.