If you follow the two-lane Highway 116 as it winds its way through central Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley, the ribbon of roadway becomes known as Front Street for the three blocks where it bisects “downtown” Forestville (pop. 3,293).
That’s appropriate for this laid-back, slow-it-down, family-oriented community where coffee shops roast their own beans, dining options vary from down-home to gourmet, and the Ideal Hardware store stocks just about everything you might need — including license plate holders with the town’s unofficial motto, “Forestville, The Good Life.”
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.
Surrounded by rolling hills, tall redwoods, and neat rows of vineyards, Forestville offers much to do and enjoy. Check out the renowned Nightingale Breads, which uses a wood-fired oven to produce fragrant European-style loaves and other baked goods. Or visit the Tiny Town Café & Pastry for a cup of coffee and some local conversation. And the Forestville Farmers Market is held 4-7 p.m. on Tuesdays, mid-June to mid-October.
South of town, the family-owned Kozlowski Farms produces jams, vinegars, wine jellies, and fruit butters, all sold in the original apple-packing house. And don’t forget to taste local vintages in Forestville’s tasting rooms and nearby wineries.
Dining options in Forestville include burgers, pizza, deli delights, Italian, Mexican, and more. Ideas for imaginative daily specials at Twist Eatery are world-sourced, but depend on what’s locally available from their Sonoma County farmers.
Another great choice in the heart of downtown is Backyard, known fow it's locally-sourced fresh ingredients and non-gmo, organic and sustainable practices. Just outside of town, the Michelin-starred Farmhouse Inn & Restaurant offers superb service, a fantastic wine list and a seasonal farm-to-table gourmet menu.
Recreational opportunities abound. Russian River access is available at numerous nearby spots, including Sunset Beach River Park, Steelhead Beach, and Mom’s Beach (aka Forestville River Access). Explore farther on the waterway with help from Burke’s Canoe Trips, which offers canoes, kayaks, shuttle service, and riverside campsites.
The Forestville Youth Park provides shady spots for picnicking and play, and hosts baseball, soccer, and other community events throughout the year. Or wander along the West County Trail, a paved pathway for walking, bicycle riding, horseback riding, and roller skating that stretches about 5.5 miles from Forestville to Sebastopol, where it connects to the 8.47-mile Joe Rodata Trail to Santa Rosa.
Find more info about things to do in Sonoma County.