As you follow the Russian River out to the coast, you’ll come across the tiny hamlet of Duncans Mills (pop. 175), once a stop on the Northwestern Pacific Railroad to Sausalito. Travelers rode the train to Duncans Mills to play along the Russian River.
Landmarks include The Depot Museum, a regional museum housed in a railroad depot built in 1907. And on nearby narrow-gauge railroad tracks you'll find a restored Northwestern Pacific railway coach, plus two box cars and a caboose that were part of the last train to Duncans Mills in 1935.
Follow your nose — the aroma of fresh roasted coffee beans will bring you to Gold Coast Coffee and Bakery (25377 Steelhead Drive, 707-865-1441). Enjoy a cup, along with a wood-fired-oven-baked pastry or slice of pizza on the sun-drenched porch in back.
Now that you are fully caffeinated and satisfied, venture across the road to wander through unique gift shops, exotic boutiques, antique stores, and art galleries. With all of this in one tiny town, plan to spend the day here.
You’ll find Worldly Goods (One Main St., 707-865-3025), with treasures sourced from all over the world. At Mr. Trombley's Tea (25185 Highway 116, 707-865-9979), you can not only sip on tea while you shop, but you will see hundreds (no exaggeration) of new and vintage teapots, all types of loose teas, and everything that goes with tea. Directly across the wooden boardwalk, Mr. Trombley's Table (25171 Highway 116, 707-865-9610) offers a wide variety of dishes, serving ware, and utensils, plus a complete spice shop.
For unique gifts and art, explore Pig Alley (25193 Main St., 707-865-2698) and Studio Nouveau (25195 B St., 707-865-2461). Roam through several art galleries, and don’t miss the collection of early California paintings, dating from 1860s to the 1940s, in in a museum-like setting at Christopher Queen Galleries (25171 Highway 116, Duncans Mills, 707-865-1318).
Antique lovers can explore three large stores with every kind of colleciton you can imagine — Jim & Willie's Antiques and Collectibles (25193 Highway 116, 707-865-9672), Thistledown Antiques (25193 Highway 116, 865-1628), and Antiquarian (25193 Main St., 707-865-9897). Inside Antiquarian you'll also find Floribunda, with beautiful and unusual cut flowers and plants, inluding the Protea grown in nearby Jenner.
With all this shopping, you are sure to work up an appetite. The Duncans Mills General Store (25200 Highway 116, 707-865-9564) offers deli delights, as well as basic groceries, local breads, smoked salmon, camping gear, and more. Cape Fear Café (25191 Main St., 707-865-9246) features California cuisine with a Southern flair, plus a wide selection of beer and wine. The Blue Heron Restaurant & Tavern (25300 Steelhead Blvd., 707-865-2261) serves up burgers, fish and chips, and homemade fare such as chicken pot pie, in a cozy rustic setting, with a full bar and live music Tuesday through Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoons.
At the end of the day, relax with a glass of wine on the patio (see photo) at Sophie's Cellars (25179 Highway 116, 707-865-1122), where you can taste hidden gems of Sonoma County limited production wines.
Duncans Mills, no longer just a quick railroad stop, has more than enough to catch your interest. So, pull the car over, get out, and stay awhile.