48 Hours in Guerneville, California

AutoCamp Russian River

Rustic and elegant, sophisticated and quirky — all that and more describes the laid-back town of Guerneville in Sonoma County's Russian River Valley. 

Since its founding in the 1850s, Guerneville has been a logging town, a late-19th-century vacation destination for wealthy San Franciscans, a popular resort and concert venue from the 1930s through the 1960s, and, more recently, an LGBTQ+-friendly destination with a burgeoning food and wine scene.

If you’re able to spend time in this truly unique place, be prepared to eat well, drink well, and generally have a good time relaxing in a small, funky, river town. Here’s a suggested two-day itinerary for enjoying all that Guerneville has to offer, a little more than an hour’s drive north of San Francisco.

Day One

Breakfast at Big Bottom Market

Bottles of wine in Big Bottom Market in Sonoma County
Big Bottom Market

Start your day in downtown Guerneville at Big Bottom Market, a local hangout where the signature biscuits are the main attraction. Dense yet flaky, these biscuits made Oprah’s list of her favorite things. Try them with butter and jam, with mascarpone and honey, or with gravy, but you also can’t go wrong with a ham and cheddar biscuit or the Sea Biscuit with salmon (as well as a variety of breakfast sandwiches).

Stroll Downtown Guerneville

Stretch your legs by checking out the wonderful — and wonderfully eclectic — antique shops, art galleries, eateries, and more that line Guerneville’s retro Main Street. At the Guerneville 5 & 10, stock up on candy brands and toys from your childhood, along with collectibles, camp supplies, and novelty items. The nonprofit, volunteer-run Forest to the Sea Nature Store features pottery, jewelry, outdoor accessories, and educational books, toys, and games; proceeds help promote, restore, and protect local state parks.

Lunch and Champagne Tasting at Korbel

The exterior of Korbel Champagne Cellars is covered by ivy in Guerneville, Sonoma County
Korbel Champagne Cellars

Get a head start on an afternoon of wine tasting at Korbel Champagne Cellars on River Road (about three miles from downtown Guerneville). Their Korbel Delicatessen & Market is one of the best-kept secrets along the Russian River, offering gourmet sandwiches, handcrafted salads, and a large assortment of prepared foods in the deli case. Eat on the gorgeous outdoor deck under majestic redwood trees. Then, step inside the ivy-covered tasting room to enjoy complimentary tastings of up to four of Korbel’s finest champagne and wine products. Korbel is the oldest continually operating champagne house in North America, and tastings double as fascinating history lessons.

Read more about Wine Tasting in Guerneville and check our listings of Russian River Valley Wineries.

Beach Time On the River

Two people walk toward the Russian River at Johnson's Beach in Sonoma County
Johnson’s Beach

If you’d rather spend the afternoon relaxing on the Russian River, head to Johnson’s Beach, which for the past century has been a favorite summer spot for Sonoma County locals and visitors alike. It offers a spacious stretch of pebble beach surrounded by majestic redwoods. There’s a roped-off area for kids to swim, deeper water for more adventurous swimmers, a snack bar, and beer or wine at the Boathouse. You can rent a canoe, kayak, paddleboat, or inner tube, as well as chairs, beach umbrellas, and other gear.

Dinner at boot eat + drink

Like so many restaurants in Sonoma County, boon eat + drink features seasonal menus using local ingredients. These are crafted by chef and owner Crista Luedtke, who also owns the adjoining boon hotel + spa and helped found Big Bottom Market next door. The restaurant is sleek and urban-chic, with just 24 seats and a mural of dogs catching Frisbees, in honor of Boon, Luedtke’s late rescue pup.

Guerneville has been on the foodie radar for years, so you’ve got plenty of other options for dinner. Read Where to Eat: Guerneville Restaurants and check our listings of Guerneville Restaurants.

Drinks & Bar-Hopping

patrons at El Barrio in Guerneville in Sonoma County
El Barrio

Guerneville may be sleepy, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t great bars! El Barrio (yet another Crista Luedtke creation) showcases sensational cocktails and artisanal, handcrafted spirits like mezcal, tequila, and bourbon; there’s also a short bar bites menu featuring regional Mexican cuisine, if munchies should strike.

Main Street Bistro has live acoustic music, with jazz, blues, folk, swing, or oldies presented almost every night, and open mic sessions twice a month. Or if you’re there on a weekend, enjoy their Cabaret Dinner Shows. Other local options for a night out include the LGBTQ-friendly Rainbow Cattle Company, Mc T’s Bullpen Sports Bar, and Stumptown Brewery, which features a mix of house-brewed, small-batch beers, regional beers, and spirits.

Day Two

Rise and Shine at Coffee Bazaar

For a quick morning bite, start your day at the Coffee Bazaar, a quirky little joint connected to a bookstore in the heart of Guerneville. This place has been serving coffee, homemade baked goods, and breakfast sandwiches for more than 30 years.

Take a Hike at Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve

Hiking in Armstrong State Natural Reserve in Guerneville, Sonoma County
Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve

At the eastern end of downtown Guerneville, head north on Armstrong Woods Road until it ends in the quiet serenity and awesome beauty of Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve. As you stroll under this forest’s magnificent, soaring canopy, be sure to stop, tip your head back, and look up, up, up at the coast redwood trees, the world’s tallest living things. The self-guided Armstrong Nature Trail offers interpretive displays to help you learn all about redwoods, and the Discovery Trail offers an unusual feature you’ll want to try — a tree-hugging platform.

Pro Tip: For a completely different perspective on redwood trees, drive about 10 miles south to Sonoma Canopy Tours in the town of Occidental to soar above the forest on a unique course of seven zip lines, two sky bridges, a magnificent spiral staircase, and a rappel back to the forest floor.

Lunch at Timberline

After your walk, discover “Rustic Cabin Cuisine” at Timberline Restaurant. This unique style of traditional comfort food with a contemporary Sonoma County flair features locally sourced ingredients, all hand prepared, for lunch or dinner. Try to get a table in the second floor dining room, which has panoramic windows overlooking downtown Guerneville.

Relax & Restore at a Guerneville Spa

Couple in hot tub at Boon Hotel and Spa in Guerneville, Sonoma County
boon hotel + spa

An active morning means you’ve earned a little relaxing time this afternoon. Book a pampering massage or facial at boon hotel + spa, and be sure to take a soothing dip in the saline pool or hot tub after your treatment. Another option, West Sonoma Inn & Spa, is located right around the corner and offers a small menu of treatments plus intriguing add-ons like sound energy-field healing.

Explore the Russian River

Guerneville grew up around the Russian River during its logging days in the mid-1800s, and this beautiful — yet fragile — waterway is still the defining feature of the town. Enjoy the river, but do so responsibly and respectfully, and with the guidance of experienced local outfitters like SUP Odyssey (about four miles east of Guerneville on River Road). They provide standup paddleboard lessons, rentals, and self-guided 4.2-mile downriver trips (dogs welcome), along with a shuttle ride back to your vehicle. If you have your heart set on fishing, King’s Sport & Tackle on Main Street rents all the supplies and offers guided fishing trips.

Two people paddle board along the Russian River in Sonoma County
Russian River

Bike Around Guerneville (and Beyond)

Cycling is a great way to slow down and really appreciate Guerneville and surrounding areas. About seven miles east of Guerneville on River Road, bicycle rentals are available from Russian River Cycle Service, which posts tips about local cycling routes. In nearby Forestville, you can hop on the West County Regional Trail — a flat, paved, 5.57-mile walking/biking trail that links Forestville and Sebastopol, where it connects to the 8.47-mile Joe Rodota Trail to Santa Rosa.

Read more in our Guide to Cycling in Sonoma County.

More to Explore

Guerneville’s central location makes it a great jumping-off point for discovering Sonoma County. About eight miles west on Highway 116, tiny Duncans Mills offers Old West charm and a unique mix of antique and specialty shops, restaurants, and galleries. For details, read Three Things to Do in Duncans Mills.

Four miles farther west from Duncans Mills lies the Pacific Ocean and the spectacularly scenic Sonoma County coastline. For ideas about what to see and do, read Best Beaches on the Sonoma Coast, Discover Sonoma Coast State Park, and Where to Stay on the Pacific Coast with Stunning Ocean Views.

Where to Stay

guests outside of a tent at glamping spot at Boon hotel and spa in Sonoma County
boon hotel + spa

Guerneville is full of lodging options that match the quirky, laidback, and LGBTQ+-friendly vibe of the town. Stay in one of 14 former miners’ cabins — remodeled with understated design and affordable luxury — at boon hotel + spa, which also offers a vintage “lovebug” camper and three glamping tents. Find more glamping in posh platform tents at AutoCamp Russian River. Or, opt to spend the night in one of the adorable little cottages tucked under redwood trees at Fern Grove Cottages.

For more ideas, read 10 Getaway Resorts and Lodges in the Russian River Area and check our listings of Guerneville Hotels & Lodging.

Getting to Guerneville

From US 101 (the multi-lane freeway corridor running north-south through Sonoma County), take the River Road exit at the north end of the city of Santa Rosa. Follow River Road as it winds its way west along the river, all the way to Guerneville. It’s easy-peasy.

Discover more things to do in Guerneville.

Written by Sonoma Insider Patricia Henley

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