Horses graze in the green grass in Sonoma County

Southern Sonoma County Tour Itinerary

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In southern Sonoma County, visitors are enchanted by the lush, rolling hills and acres of vineyards. This area often benefits from cool breezes from the nearby Pacific coast and from San Pablo Bay. Centrally located about 45 minutes north of San Francisco, southern Sonoma County is an ideal base for exploring everything Sonoma County has to offer. 

Sonoma Valley Airport

Also known as the Schellville Airport (0Q3), this property is a gathering place for locals and tourists who enjoy viewing antique aircraft.  The classic and vintage planes kept here are often open for inspection, and the Vintage Aircraft Co. offers the chance to actuallysoar in a biplane. The airport . with owners nearby eager to tell you all about their aircraft.

Shellville

Begin in the tiny Sonoma County outpost of Shellville, located off Highway 12, a short drive from the airport and the larger towns of Petaluma on Highway 101 and Sonoma in the Sonoma Valley. This unincorporated town began in 1887 as a South Pacific Railroad station, and today is home to Hanson of Sonoma, a distillery that offers tasting flights of its vodkas made from grapes, and Lou's Luncheonette, which focuses on locally sourced seasonal ingredients, with items like buttermilk biscuits and sausage gravy for breakfast and a variety of chicken platters and sandwiches for lunch.

Wine in Carneros 

Shellville is also a gateway to Carneros, the only American Viticultural Area (AVA, or wine region) shared by both Sonoma and Napa counties. The vineyards here are influenced by the cooling effect of the Pacific Ocean and San Pablo Bay, summer fog, warm days, and a long growing season.

Vineyard view in Carneros in Southern Sonoma County
Vineyard View in Carneros

 

Carneros AVA has long been known for its unassailable Chardonnays, elegant Pinot Noirs, Syrah, cool climate Merlots, sparkling wines, and new varieties emerging throughout the winegrowing region. Carneros wineries with tasting rooms — all of which require advance reservations — include Roche Winery & VineyardsSchug Carneros Estate WineryAnaba WinesGloria Ferrer Caves & VineyardsRam's Gate Winery, and Viansa Sonoma

Flowers in garden in Cornerstone Sonoma County
Cornerstone Sonoma

Cornerstone Sonoma

Taste wine, explore unique shops and galleries, visit Sunset Magazine's Test Gardens and Outdoor Kitchen, and stroll through a series of gallery-style gardens showcasing innovative designs from the world's finest landscape architects and designers in Cornerstone Sonoma. Each garden is unique; some are architectural, some more plant-oriented, and all encourage interaction and contemplation. Cornerstone hosts festivals and other events on weekends.

Petaluma

Pedestrians strolling past a busy corner in downtown Petaluma
Downtown Petaluma

Continue west on Highway 116 to the town of Petaluma to experience the charm of one of California's oldest cities, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Home to one of the best-preserved historic downtown areas in America, Victorian homes and Iron Front buildings surround this charming Riverfront town. You'll find numerous shops, galleries, restaurants, and markets that are worth exploring, including: 

Barber Cellars

This boutique winery crafts small production, single-vineyard wines from vineyards around Petaluma in the Sonoma Coast and Sonoma Mountain wine regions. Owners Mike and Lorraine Barber worked for months to create the perfect tasting room atmosphere. Located in the historic Hotel Petaluma, the tasting room features work by local artists, antique furniture, a refinished 100-year-old Douglas fir floor, and a barrel-stave bar and barrel-head tables that Mike Barber built, sanded, and stained himself.

Della Fattoria 

Della Fattoria means "of the farm," a fitting name since since all of the prepared foods, breads, and pastries made in this side-by-side café and bakery have roots in the soil of a farm on the west side of Petaluma. The bakers and chefs here pride themselves on good, slow food that honors its surrounding culture and culinary bounty. The café made the Zagat Guide's "Essential Sonoma County Restaurants" list in 2020, and for several years before that.

Petaluma Village Premium Outlets

Find impressive savings at 60 outlet stores including: Ann Taylor, BCBG Max Azria, Banana Republic, Bose, Brooks Brothers, Coach, Jones New York, Levi's, Nike, Puma, Saks Fifth Avenue Off 5th and more.

Farm Tours at Achadinha Cheese Company

Reserve an approximately two-hour tour of the pastures, milking parlor, loafing barns, and cheesemaking plant at Achadinha (Osh-a-deen-a), which includes tastings of their delicious cow- and goat-milk Farmstead cheeses. This 230-acre, family operated ranch also raises beef cows, pigs, sheep, horses, chickens, dogs, cats and ducks, and every animal here has a name. Be sure not to wear your nicest shoes, as this is definitely a working farm. 

Valley Ford

Valley Ford in Sonoma County
Sheep farm in Valley Ford

Continue west on Bodega Avenue to Valley Ford Road, heading to the quaint town of Valley Ford. This small, unincorporated community in west Sonoma County is just a few miles from the coast and full of charm and historical buildings. In the mid-19th century, the town had a grain mill and was a stop on the North Pacific Coast Railroad connecting Cazadero to the Sausalito ferry. Today it is home antique stores, art galleries, curio shops, and restaurants.

The historic building near the coast houses a hotel and a restaurant
Valley Ford Hotel

Valley Ford Hotel

The historic Valley Ford Hotel, built in 1864, has been reopened by new co-owners Shona Campbell and Brandon Guenther. The inn offers six charming guest rooms, each with a queen bed and private bath. The rooms feature comfortable high-thread count triple sheets and quilted beds, over-sized bath towels and local hand-made soaps. Guests can relax in the natural beauty and peaceful setting, sipping small-production Sonoma County wines in the oversize teak rockers on the front porch, or savoring local coffee and teas on the garden patio surrounded by old growth Cypress trees.

Rocker Oysterfeller's

The same couple who owns the Valley Ford Hotel also owns this restaurant. Rocker Oysterfeller's is a hip and cool spot with great southern-inspired food, created with fresh Sonoma County ingredients. There's a saloon where locals and tourists hang out and listen to good music.

For more on southern Sonoma County, see Petaluma Hotels and Lodging, Guide to Cornerstone Sonoma and Carneros Wineries, and Valley Ford Trip Ideas