Guide to Northern Sonoma County
For your exploring pleasure, here's a focus on Sonoma County's northern section, home to rolling hills and small fertile valleys, premium wineries, and the towns of Healdsburg, Windsor, Cloverdale, and Geyserville.
The official Wine Road unites much of Northern Sonoma County, as it has for more than 40 years, guiding visitors through the many winery jewels throughout Alexander, Dry Creek, and Russian River valleys. The association's online maps are valuable for creating self-planned tours of the more than 100 wineries, though classic stops such as Joseph Swan Vineyards, and on to new treasures like the just-renovated Bubble Lounge at J Vineyards & Winery, showcasing a five-course culinary tasting menu paired with fine sparkling and/or still wines.
Town Centers in Northern Sonoma County
The heart of Healdsburg is its historic Healdsburg Plaza, sprawling across an acre of lawn, shade trees, benches for relaxing (plus certainly a picnic paired with wine), and a tiered pagoda gazebo with a stage for a variety of music performances. Locals and visitors flock to the oasis at Matheson Street and Healdsburg Avenue for numerous year-round special events ranging from concerts to art shows. Dozens of tasting rooms, fine boutiques, art galleries, and restaurants line the park’s perimeter, too, making it easy to spend an entire day here.
In Windsor, the community gravitates to the Town Green, for the weekly Summer Nights on the Green free concert series. The concerts also boast food and wine vendors in collaboration with the Windsor Farmers Market. For another attraction, the park anchors an area known as Old Downtown, along Market Street and McClelland Drive on the west side of Redwood Highway. Dining is a favorite pastime at the surrounding restaurants, in a delicious variety of American, French, Italian, Mexican, Vietnamese, Himalayan and pub cuisines. You can satisfy your sweet tooth at the Cravin's Candy Emporium, too, and buy fresh flowers, books, jewelry, crafts, antiques, and much more at the many shops around the park.
Cloverdale is located in the picturesque Alexander Valley wine region, just off California Highway 101. Small town charm abounds — indeed, the city proper covers just 2.7 square miles with a population of about 11,032 people. It’s a beautiful area, framed by oak-studded rolling hills, wineries, vineyards, and small farms. At the center of downtown, you’ll find annual events like the Farmers Market Friday Night Live free summer concert series in the main plaza. Produced by the Cloverdale Arts Alliance, family-friendly activities include music by bands from across the country, dining from mobile food vendors and nearby restaurants, premium Sonoma County wines and craft beers purchased by the glass, hand-crafted art for sale, and kids’ fun. The site, at Cloverdale Boulevard between First and Second streets, also hosts year-round community festivals.
Geyserville The entire town is the center of town, actually, since Geyserville covers an area of just 4.6 square miles, and is home to only about 862 souls. Its Main Street beckons with a small selection of restaurants, bed and breakfasts, tasting rooms, and yes, a tractor shop. Located on California State Route 128, close to US Route 101, the street is rustic with saloon-style storefronts and wooden boardwalks, though the businesses are acclaimed boutique destinations like Mercury Wine, Diavalo restaurant, and Catelli’s Italian cucina and bar. Shops offer art, antiques, collectibles, crafts, gifts, and yes, farming equipment.
Parks and Outdoor Recreation
Del Rio Woods, Healdsburg
As the newest addition to Sonoma County's park system, this lovely place just east of Healdsburg offers 1,000 feet of Russian River beach access. Naturally, the river is a popular swimming destination, and also a favorite launch point for kayaks, canoes, paddleboards, and inner tubes. Sunbathing and picnicking await on the rocky beach shore, complete with stairway access and picnic tables, while nature lovers thrill to fishing, birding, and wildlife viewing. Del Rio Wood Road, Healdsburg
Healdsburg Veterans Memorial Beach, Healdsburg
As the most visible swimming beach on the Russian River, this spot understandably is busy. Picnic areas, restrooms, and lifeguards (on-site daily from July through Labor Day) are nice amenities, while a par course jogging trail encourages extra exercise. New for 2017 are tube rentals for $5 a day, and the "Zoom Floom," an inflatable water slide that lets riders whoosh down the sandy beach and into the river. Just down the road, Soar Inflatables rents nimble canoes, too. 13839 Old Redwood Highway, Healdsburg
Riverfront Regional Park, Healdsburg
This destination on the Russian River features two gorgeous lakes for fishing, kayaking, canoeing, and stand-up paddling. Trails, meanwhile, beckon for biking, birding, horseback riding, and hiking. Options include a two-mile trail looping around the larger lake, Lake Benoist, including a side path to a small beach on the Russian River. Or, stroll the half-mile trail, meandering through coast redwoods and landing at a large picnic area outfitted with barbecues, volleyball fields, and a horseshoe pit. 7821 Eastside Road, Healdsburg
Foothill Regional Park, Windsor
Located in east Windsor in the foothills of the Mayacamas Mountains, this former ranch embraces 211 acres laced with nearly seven miles of trails. The terrain is stunning, crossing oak woodlands, wildflower meadows, rolling hillsides leading to expansive overlooks, and three bass and bluegill fishing ponds. Equestrians and cyclists enjoy private trails, while visitors in wheelchairs can navigate their own gravel trail. Full picnic facilities are perfect for relaxation. 1351 Arata Lane, Windsor
Shiloh Ranch Regional Park, Windsor
The rugged oasis sits in the foothills of the Mayacamas Mountains, encompassing 850-acres including nearly eight miles of hiking, bicycle, and horseback riding trails. The landscape is diverse, across oak groves, mixed evergreen forests, canyons, gentle hills, a shady creek, a pond, and a ridge cap boasting sweeping views of the Santa Rosa Plain. Equestrians especially appreciate the old ranch roads for comfortable pleasure riding, plus the convenience of a gravel parking lot for horse trailers, a flush restroom and a drinking fountain. Picnicking is another highlight, in an area set with barbecues, a gazebo, a lawn, and a small grove of oaks. 5750 Faught Road, Windsor
Cloverdale River Park, Cloverdale
The Russian River is the star here, accessed via a paved launch point for kayaks, canoes and drift boats. Seasonal fishing and picnicking are draws, as is wildlife and riparian habitat viewing. 31820 McCray Road, Cloverdale
Northern Sonoma County tempts with dozens of restaurants, offering a global array of cuisines. Uniting them all are premium Sonoma County ingredients, drawn fresh from area farms, ranches, dairies, creameries and grain sheds. The edible wealth has not gone unnoticed by the international food critics. In the 2019 edition of the Michelin Guide San Francisco Bay Area & Wine Country, Northern Sonoma County destination, Single Thread (3 stars) and Madrona Manor (1 star) in Healdsburg are honored with a highly coveted Star rating, as well as Farmhouse Inn in Forestville (1 star). Find all restaurants in Northern Sonoma County here.
Hotels and Lodging
Whether you’re desiring a quaint bed and breakfast, a posh resort, a relaxed hotel, a charming inn, or a rustic lodge, Northern Sonoma County is rich with options. Check out hotel and lodging choices here. You might even dream of staying at a winery, and indeed, you can.
Ketcham Estate and Wilson Winery in Healdsburg, for example, welcome with private guest houses. At Ketchum that means a one-bedroom, 1,000-square-foot guest house with amazing views of the vineyard. And Wilson offers a variety of accommodations just steps from the winery. Starlite Vineyards in Geyserville, meanwhile, invites you in with a three bedroom, two bathroom, two-story home decked out with a fountain garden, fireplace, and fenced yard. Gustafson Family Vineyards is another Geyserville hideaway, offering an estate residence with a private pool, spa and gardens.