Charming, rustic, and quirky, the town of Guerneville blends towering redwoods, cool river waters, laid-back attitudes, and Sonoma Wine Country delights in a fanciful mix.
Visitors stay in cozy cabins, uniquely rustic resorts, campgrounds, vacation rentals, and B&Bs. They dine in trendy restaurants, food stands, or hip cafes reminiscent of the flower-power era. And the Russian River Valley wine region, which produces sensational cool-climate wines such as Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, is definitely a must for wine lovers.
An extremely popular summer family destination since the 1870s, these days Guerneville is also an established gay vacation resort.
Here are five fun things to do while you’re in Guerneville:
Celebrate the Bubbly
Established in 1882, Korbel Champagne Cellars is surrounded by extensive gardens, with hundreds of bulbs blooming each spring, 250 varieties of antique roses, and more than 1,000 other types of flowers.
A highlight here: complimentary 30-minute tours are offered daily, from 11 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. You’ll tour the historic champagne cellar, visit the museum, and end with a free tasting.
An on-site gourmet deli offers sandwiches, salads and box lunches to enjoy under the redwoods (or take with you to a Russian River beach). If bubbly isn’t your thing, no problem. More than 50 wineries showcase the fine cool-climate wines of the Russian River Valley wine region, all within a 20-minute drive of Guerneville.
Surround Yourself with Redwood Trees
Two miles north of Guerneville’s main street, you'll literally be surrounded by the world's tallest living things in the serene and majestic Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve — a living reminder of the magnificent redwood forest that once covered this area.
Armstrong’s remarkable redwood giants seem to soar skyward forever, with the sunlight filtering through their canopy and dappling the forest floor more than 300 feet below.
Pack a lunch and settle onto a picnic table, hike one of the trails, explore the 1930s amphitheater, and visit the Environmental Learning/Visitor Center. The park is open from 8 a.m. to one hour after sunset.
The Russian River is open year-round for fishing, and the varieties you can expect to see at the end of your barbless hook are large- and small-mouth bass, striped bass, bluegill, catfish, shad (in spring), and steelhead (in winter).
At King's Sport & Tackle on Guerneville’s Main Street you can pick up any fishing supplies you might need, from bait to fly rods and lines, along with a free fishing map and current info. King’s also offers guided fishing trips and rents fishing equipment.
Hit the Beach
From late spring through early autumn, Johnson’s Beach and Resort is the hot ticket, with visitors and locals alike, for fun on the Russian River. You can swim in the cool, clear river waters; rent a canoe, kayak, inner tube or pedal boat; enjoy a burger from the snack bar; play with the tots in the kiddies’ pool; or launch your own boat at no cost.
The family-friendly resort consists of a first-come campground with tent and RV sites, as well as simple cabin-type rooms built in the 1920s (they have bathrooms, showers, fridges and TVs, and some have kitchenettes). Johnson’s Beach is the site of the annual September Russian River Jazz & Blues Festival.
Stroll Guerneville’s Retro Main Street
For a great way to spend an afternoon, check out the wonderful — and wonderfully old-fashioned — shops, galleries, and eateries that line Main Street.
Among the diverse offerings are Guerneville 5 & 10, where you’ll find candy brands and toys from your childhood, collectibles, camp supplies, greeting cards and novelty items; Sonoma Nesting Company, which specializes in antiques, art, and collectibles for home and garden; and — beneath an antique Rexall sign — Lark Rexall Drugs, a full-service pharmacy.
And definitely dine in. Boon Eat + Drink highlights the local bounty; Chef Patrick's dishes up luscious California-French cuisine; and the Main Street Bistro serves up live acoustic music with its traditional menu items.
Written by Sonoma Insider Suzie Rodriguez.