Winding its way from Sonoma County’s eastern border with Napa County to its northern border with Mendocino County, Highway 128 offers a delightful way to explore the beauty and bounty of Wine Country away from the usual hustle and bustle.
This unique stretch of highway varies from two-lane country roads on its eastern and northern ends, to a four-lane section where it becomes part of Highway 101, Sonoma County’s main north-south corridor. Here are 10 reasons to take this scenic drive.
As it meanders across the northeastern corner of Sonoma County, Highway 128 passes through the beautiful scenery of the Alexander Valley, Dry Creek Valley, and Northern Sonoma American Viticultural Areas (AVAs, official wine regions). With more than 100 wineries in this area, there are choices to please any palate. Take a vineyard tour and savor food-and-wine pairings with 360-degree views at Jordan Vineyard & Winery; check out the wines, Oscars, and movie memorabilia at Francis Ford Coppola Winery (a wine wonderland for the whole family); or sample vintages from 11 award-winning micro-wineries at the Locals Tasting Room.
Whether you want to pick up a picnic lunch, grab a luscious burger, or sit down to a casual but delicious farm-to-table gourmet feast, you can find it in this northeastern corner of Sonoma County. Here, Mother Nature is generous, and cooks and chefs typically use fresh local vegetables, fruits, meats, seafood, and other ingredients to create wonderful food.
Savor the aroma of fresh baked goods as you walk in the door of this iconic country store and café. The café serves great homemade food for breakfast or lunch, with vegan and vegetarian options; get take out for a picnic, or enjoy your meal on the patio. The store offers a delightful mix of gifts, local artisan food products, and a charming collection of vintage memorabilia.
4. Lord Snort
Standing 20 feet high and 30 feet long, and weighing six tons, this massive sculpture of a galloping mechanical boar is an arresting sight in front of the Soda Rock Winery. Dubbed “Lord Snort” by its creator, acclaimed Sonoma County sculptor Bryan Tedrick, this dynamic artwork can spin 360 degrees on its pedestal, and its head can nod up and down. Crafted with new and reclaimed steel, it took more than 1,000 hours to create, was delivered to the site in four pieces, and lifted into place with a crane.
Highway 128 takes a sharp turn in the middle of “downtown” Geyserville (which is only a few blocks long). Named for the geothermal springs just east of town, this tiny town charms visitors with its Wild West storefronts and wooden boardwalks. Chat with locals at the coffee shop, try one of the delicious restaurants, shop for everything from nails to cowboy boots at the general store, sip vintages in several wine tasting rooms, or browse for gifts or antiques in local stores. And on a hillside just north of town, you can try your luck at the River Rock Casino.
Many places along Highway 128 have Healdsburg addresses, but the historic plaza at the center of this charming Wine Country town is actually about six miles south of the highway. It’s worth an exploratory detour, by heading south on Alexander Valley Road, then left on Healdsburg Avenue, and into the center of town. A wine, foodie, and shopping haven with a hip small-town vibe, downtown Healdsburg makes a great place to get out of the car, stretch your legs, and explore.
Located at the point where Highway 128 splits off of the Highway 101 corridor and heads northeast into Mendocino County, family-friendly Cloverdale offers a compact downtown filled with rambling Victorians, a thriving arts community, and highly regarded Zinfandel wines. Strolling along Main Street reveals intriguing stores, galleries, restaurants, and tasting rooms, as well as a performing arts center and local history museum.
Scattered throughout the communities of Geyserville and Cloverdale, and along Highways 101/128, you’ll find more than 30 outdoor sculptures. Walk around them, touch them, take photos; in some cases you can walk on, under, or through the piece. It’s a yearly exhibition; a few of the sculptures are on permanent display, but most are changed each May. Sculpture Trail maps are available in stores and at each town’s Chamber of Commerce, or you can download a map online.
Swim, paddle, fish, or splash in this lazily meandering waterway, or hike or bird watch along its banks. Cloverdale River Park features a picnic area with tables, a launch area for kayaks or canoes, and a 1.3-mile paved multi-use trail for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. Healdsburg Veterans Memorial Beach offers a shady picnic facilities and a wide, sandy beach.
10. Lake Sonoma
Located east of Highway 128 (where it heads up Highway 101 near Geyserville), Lake Sonoma offers 8,000 acres of blue water surrounded by oak-studded hills. The lake holds plenty of trout, bass, and catfish; there is shore access for fishing, but it’s best from a boat. You can rent anything from a canoe to a powered fishing boat at the Lake Sonoma Marina.
Of course, these 10 are just a sampling of what you can discover along Highway 128 in Sonoma County. Take the scenic drive, and find what you like best in this corner of Wine Country.