Horses graze in the green grass in Sonoma County

Southern Sonoma County Tour Itinerary

Share this story

In southern Sonoma County, guests 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 ideal for exploring everything Sonoma County has to offer. 

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

Carneros has long been known for its unassailable Chardonnays, elegant Pinot Noirs, Syrah, cool climate Merlots, sparkling wines, and new varietals emerging throughout the winegrowing region.

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

Schellville

Begin in the tiny Sonoma County outpost of Schellville, located off Highway 12, a short drive from the larger towns of Petaluma on Highway 101 and Sonoma in the Sonoma Valley.

Sonoma Valley Airport

Also known as the Schellville Airport, this property attracts airplane aficionados who enjoy viewing old aircraft and hobnobbing with others who have similar interests; the Vintage Aircraft Co. offers the chance to soar in a biplane. The airport is a gathering place for locals and tourists. The classic and vintage planes kept here are often open for inspection, with owners nearby eager to tell you all about their aircraft.

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

A person crosses the street in front of Victorian buildings in Sonoma County
Downtown Petaluma

Continue west on Highway 116 to the town of Petaluma. Experience the charm of one of the oldest cities in California, with one of the best-preserved historic downtown areas (it's on the National Register of Historic Places). Victorian homes and Iron Front buildings surround this charming Riverfront town. You will 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." The name is fitting, since the breads, pastries, and all of the foods in this side-by-side café and bakery have roots in the soil of their farm on the west side of Petaluma. The bakers and chefs here pride themselves on good, slow food that honors "place" and surrounding culture and culinary bounty. The café made the Zagat Guide's "Essential Sonoma County Restaurants" list in 2020, and 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 McClelland's Dairy 

Take East Washington Street west and stay on it as it turns into Bodega Avenue. Families and tour groups have the opportunity to get an up-close look and hands-on experience at McClelland's Dairy, located seven miles west of Petaluma, in the rolling hills of Sonoma County. The farm was founded in 1938 and is still run today by the McClelland family as a modern family dairy with traditional values.

Tours are scheduled for weekend dates throughout the spring and summer, with a typical tour lasting about an hour and a half. Visitors get to see and pet baby cows, learn how the business is taking care of the land with sustainable practices, and see how the dairy's creamy butter and crème fraiche are made. Farm tours are also offered during the Pumpkin Patch in October, and private tours are available. Reservations required for all tours.

Valley Ford

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

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.

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.

Valley Ford in Sonoma County
Valley Ford