A sizzlin’ summer day in Sonoma County — the kind of day that’s absolutely made for a beautiful beach where you can relax, take a dip, and cool off.
Here are a few suggestions for doing just that:
Sonoma County Regional Parks
The county system boasts more than 50 parks, and several offer good swimming beaches. Two include lifeguards:
- The Swimming Lagoon at Spring Lake Regional Park: One of many reasons that Spring Lake ranks high in park visitation is its wonderful three-acre swimming lagoon with beach. This place is extremely family friendly, park admission is free (but parking is $7), and there are picnic tables for bring-your-own eats (as well as a seasonal café and a lakeside grill if you’d rather have someone else do all the work). You can also rent a canoe and paddle about, observing the wildlife. Lifeguards are on duty. New in summer 2016: an inflatable Water Park in the swimming lagoon, where children and adults can bounce, climb, slide, and balance on a series of colorful floating play stations. Children must be at least 6 years old to use the Water Park, and admission is $10 for children age 6 or older, $15 for adults, or $45 for a family of four. 391 Violetti Drive, Santa Rosa, 707-539-8092
- Healdsburg Veterans Memorial Beach: Swim, wade, and splash in the Russian River on this great sandy beach. Lifeguards will be on duty from 10 a.m. to 7:45 p.m. on weekends and holidays from Memorial Day weenend to Labor Day weekend. The park will be closed weekdays for two weeks at the end of June, for the installation of the dam that creates the swimming area. Facilities include picnic areas, restrooms, and a par course. It’s best to arrive early on weekends, because the parking lot can be full by mid-day. 13839 Old Redwood Highway, Healdsbrug, 707-433-1625; parking fee $7.
Regional park swimming beaches on the Russian River without lifeguards on duty include:
- Cloverdale River Park 31820 McCray Road, Cloverdale, 433-1625
- Forestville River Access (Mom's Beach) 10584 River Drive, Forestville, 707-433-1625
- Riverfront Regional Park 7821 Eastside Road, Healdsburg, 707-433-1625
- Steelhead Beach Regional Park 9000 River Road, Forestville, 707-433-1625
- Sunset Beach River Park 11403 River Road, Forestville, 707-433-1625
Due to unseen water hazards and changing conditions, it's a good idea to wear a life jacket when wading or swimming in the river; loaner life vests will be available at some beaches along the river.
Regional Park beaches along the Sonoma Coast are not patrolled by lifeguards. With the exception of Doran Regional Park (201 Doran Beach Road, Bodega Bay, 707-875-3540), swimming is not advised on coastal beaches because of the potential for powerful waves and currents. At Doran you’ll find two miles of terrific sandy beach; even if you don’t get in the water you’ll have fun building sand castles, flying a kite (for which that beach is famous), or taking a stroll.
Admission to most regional parks is free; however, a $7 parking fee usually applies; parking is free with a Regional Parks membership.
To find other swimming opportunities at Sonoma County Regional Parks, search the online list of county parks.
Other Swimming Beaches
- Lake Sonoma (Healdsburg), with 50 miles of shoreline, has no lifeguards at all — all swimming here is, as the website makes clear, “at your own risk.” You are welcome to swim anywhere that offers safe entry. There’s a designated swim beach at Yorty Creek on the north side (reached by Hot Springs Road through Cloverdale). It’s a sandy beach, with picnic areas, a playground, a fisherman’s trail, and a public boat ramp. Lake Sonoma is managed by the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers. Get more details about the Lake Sonoma Visitors Center and Fish Hatchery (3333 Skaggs Springs Road, Geyserville, 707-431-4533); Lake Sonoma Marina (100 Marina Drive, Lake Sonoma, 433-2200); and Liberty Glen Campground at Lake Sonoma (3333 Skaggs Springs Road, Geyserville, 707-431-4533).
- Johnson's Beach & Resort (16241 1st St., Guerneville, 707-869-2022) on the Russian River, is a longtime tradition, and extremely popular with summer visitors to the area. There’s no lifeguard, but you’ll find a roped-off area for kids to swim, a snack bar, and you can rent a canoe, kayak, paddleboat, or inner tubes. Johnson’s Beach is also home to the yearly Russian River Jazz & Blues Festival.
- Monte Rio Community Beach (20488 Highway 116, Monte Rio, 707-865-2487) has no lifeguard, but the water is calm, and the place is dog- and family-friendly. There’s a really nice beach area, a concession stand, boat rentals, volleyball and horseshoe pits, and a good-feel summertime atmosphere. And a tip if you're staying in the area: Don't miss going to a movie at the Rio Theater(20396 Bohemian Highway, Monte Rio, 707-865-0913), which is housed in a World War II Quonset hut.
Find more info about the Sonoma Coast State Beaches here.
Written by Sonoma Insider Suzie Rodriguez