The ceremonial posts in the meadow at Gualala Point Regional Park were created by wood carvers from the Sakha Republic in far northeastern Russia
Ceremonial posts in the meadow at Gualala Point Regional Park, Gualala

5 Fun Things To Do in Gualala

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Perched just outside of the northern-most edge of the Sonoma County coast in Mendocino and nestled into craggy bluffs at the mouth of the Gualala River, the peaceful village of Gualala has a uniquely mild micro-climate.

Ocean winds tend to keep the fog offshore, so on days when other coastal areas might be foggy, Gualala often offers sunny skies. That's why it's known locally as "the banana belt."

This part of the world is definitely geared to those who love the outdoors.

Pursuits include sport fishing, golf, horseback riding, hiking, flying a kite, wildlife watching, camping, or just sitting on a beautiful beach watching the day unfold or the sun set. In a place this great, you just can't go wrong.

Together, we can protect and preserve the beauty and natural resources of Sonoma County for generations to come. Check out our page on Sustainable Travel, and look over the Leave No Trace Seven Principles.

Here are five fun things to do in Gualala:

Wildflowers grow along the coast at Salt Point State Park, Sonoma County
Salt Point State Park

Stand Taller than a Redwood Tree

One of the world's coastal wonders, the Pygmy forest in Salt Point State Park features stands of mature but miniature Bishop pine, Bolander pine, Mendocino cypress, and even petite redwood trees (normally the world's tallest living things).

Some trees are more than a century old, but they are only a few feet tall. Their stunted growth is caused by the inhospitable combination of highly acidic, nutrient-free soil and a hardpan layer that prevents drainage.

The 3.8-mile Pygmy Forest Trail loop takes you through a mixed evergreen forest, grassy prairies, and (in season) lots of mushrooms and wildflowers on your way to the miniature trees.

Explore the Arts

The Gualala region teems with excellent artists - painters, sculptors, musicians, dancers, photographers, writers, glass workers, jewelry makers, potters, and more. Many are former city folks who are happier pursuing art in an environment that fuels creativity.

You can enjoy their work through changing monthly exhibits at the Gualala Arts Center and its Dolphin Gallery. The Center also hosts performances throughout the year that include a chamber music series, jazz, lectures, and theater, as well as five yearly festivals (Whale & Jazz Festival in April/May; the Fine Arts Festival, May; Art in the Redwoods, August; Studio Discovery Tour, September; and the Holiday Festival of Trees in November). Many other events take place at the Center some are free so check the calendar to see what's happening during your visit.

People look off the cast for whales at Gualala Point Regional Park, Gualala
Gualala Point Regional Park

Hike the Dunes and Coastal Bluffs

With its vast expanse of white sandy beach and dunes, Gualala Point Regional Park offers the opportunity to stroll beside the Gualala River as it travels seaward.

As you walk, you can construct driftwood castles, run up and down sand dunes, hunt for sea glass, collect shells, try your hand at fishing (depending on the season), enjoy the views, or just sit and daydream. 

The park's Bluff Top Coastal Access Trail meanders along the cliff edge, affording wonderful views; stop a while at Whale Watch Point to check for passing gray whales. It's also pleasant walking up-river to the freshwater marsh (or beyond to the redwood grove populated by bristling sword ferns and rhododendrons).

Golf right on the ocean at The Sea Ranch Golf Links, The Sea Ranch
The Sea Ranch Golf Links

Go Golfing in Scottish Style

Immediately south of Gualala is the world-famous Sea Ranch Golf Links, an 18-hole, 6,649-yard, par 72 Scottish links-style course designed by Robert Muir Graves. He designed two nine-hole courses at the same time, but they were built 22 years apart, which gives the feel of playing two different but equally exciting courses.

Considered one of the premier courses in California, Sea Ranch is both challenging and beautiful. On site are a pro shop, driving range, and putting green; instruction and rental clubs are available, as are pull and electric carts.

The Gualala River meets the Pacific Ocean at Gualala Point Regional Park, Gualala
The Gualala River

Go Paddling

Choose your vessel, single/tandem kayak or canoe, and Gualala's Adventure Rents will shuttle you upriver, help you stow your gear, give you any lessons needed, and then set you free to mosey on downstream at your own speed.

Bring a picnic lunch, because at some point you'll enjoy pulling onto a gravel bar and kicking back to watch the river move lazily along. Bring a camera, too, because you'll see lots of birds and other wildlife, not to mention all those happy-looking people doing just what you're doing.

See Sonoma County's safety tips for water activities here.

Written by Sonoma Insider Suzie Rodriguez.