Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Preserve

Enchanting, 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.

Around nearly every corner of this charming haven are trendy restaurants, food stands, and groovy 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 and has cultivated an inclusive and caring culture. Enjoy a myriad of LGBTQ+-owned and -operated businesses while knowing your patronage supports noble causes.

While you’re here, check out these fun things to do in Guerneville.

1. Explore the Russian River Valley Wine Region

The outside of the historic winery is covered in ivy
Korbel Champagne Cellars

More than 50 wineries showcase the fine wines of the Russian River Valley wine region, all within a 20-minute drive of Guerneville.

Established in 1882, Korbel Champagne Cellars boasts impressive architecture crawling with green vines — including a replica of the tower that long ago incarcerated the winery’s founder — and extensive gardens with hundreds of bulbs blooming each spring. Tour manicured shrubs and literally stop to smell the red, pink, and orange antique roses — there are 250 varieties of them. Plus, thanks to their sustainability efforts, you can feel extra good while sipping on that glass of fizzing California Champagne.

If bubbly isn’t your thing, no problem. 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).

Check out Guerneville’s wine tasting opportunities.

2. Admire California Redwood Trees

two people hiking through Armstrong Redwoods
Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve

If a rejuvenating nature experience is what you’re after, Guerneville has the perfect all-natural amenity. Just north of Guerneville’s main street, you’ll be welcomed by the world’s tallest living things in the serene and majestic Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve — a conservation home for these majestic trees and a reverent reminder of the magnificent forest that once covered this area.

Armstrong’s remarkable redwood giants seem to soar skyward unendingly, with the sunlight filtering through their canopy and dappling the forest floor more than 300 feet below. Simply standing among the trees and hearing the peaceful sounds of the birds and bugs of the forest will help you connect with the Earth and revive your spirit.

The opportunities are endless at this reserve. Pack a lunch and settle onto a picnic table or hydrate for a hike on one of the trails, some of which are accessible. For entertainment and information, check out the nearly 100-year-old Redwood Forest Theater for live music and visit the Environmental Learning/Visitor Center to see seedlings growing in the greenhouse in real time.

3. Support LGBTQ+ Businesses

Come one, come all: Guerneville has a thriving LGBTQ+ community that’s fostered a culture of acceptance.

Take one look at the building’s glowing, multi-colored arch and you’ll know you’ve arrived at Rainbow Cattle Company, Guerneville’s welcoming neighborhood gay bar. Shoot some pool while sipping on a Long Island iced tea, or attend one of their Giveback Tuesday events, where 10% of the bar’s cash-only profits directly benefit charitable organizations. Some of these groups include River Arts and the When Pigs Fly Ranch, a sanctuary nonprofit dedicated to sheltering abandoned pigs.

Solar Punk Farms, the experimental farm designed to help plants thrive harmoniously with humans, was created by couple Spencer Cott and Nick Schwanz. Walk through 10 acres of this self-proclaimed “food forest” to see bouquets of bright sunflowers, observe clucking chickens in open land, or connect with the Earth by setting up camp near the peaceful woods — all while supporting a local, LGBTQ+ owned sustainable farm.

4. Fish in the Russian River

A canoe paddles by a beach where people are fishing
Russian River

The Russian River, open for fishing year-round, is home to a variety of fresh-water friends. Feel the gentle spring sun on your bucket hat as you reel in wiggling large- and small-mouth bass, striped bass, bluegill, catfish, and shad on your barbless hook. Or, when the weather is colder and you’re bundled in your warmest sweater, lure an iridescent, pink-striped steelhead on your line.

Need supplies? Purchase or rent them at King’s Sporting Goods & Kayak Rentals, from bait to fly rods and lines, and get a free fishing map and current river info, too. If you’d prefer an expert to show you the ropes, King’s also offers guided trips.

Find more fishing spots in Sonoma County.

5. Sprawl Out on Johnson’s Beach

People walk by the building where you rent paddle boards on the river beach
Johnson’s Beach

From late spring through early autumn, Johnson’s Beach is the hot ticket for fun and relaxation on the Russian River. You can swim in the cool, clear river waters; rent a canoe, kayak, float on an inner tube or pedal boat; enjoy a juicy burger from the snack bar; play with the tots in the kid’s pool; or launch your own boat at no cost.

For those nature enthusiasts who just can’t get enough of the beach’s tree-lined waters, the family-friendly resort has a campground with tent sites. Any glampers can stay in cabins with comfortable beds, functional appliances, and details from over a century ago, when they were first built.

Explore more beaches in Sonoma County.

6. Stroll Guerneville’s Retro Main Street

Colorful shops line the main street
Downtown Guerneville

For a laid-back and fun afternoon, check out the tightly knit and alluringly old-fashioned shops, galleries, and eateries that line Main Street.

Among the diverse offerings is Guerneville 5 & 10, a classic dimestore with candy and flashy, nostalgia-evoking toys, collectibles, camp supplies, greeting cards, and novelty items. Sonoma Nesting Company specializes in antiques, art, and collectibles for home and garden so you can find that perfect trinket or plant for your front lawn.

7. Nosh at Guerneville Restaurants

The restaurant patio has a giant mural that says Dig the Earth
boon eat + drink

Restaurants for any appetite abound in Guerneville. boon eat + drink highlights a local bounty, including melt-in-your-mouth, chili-braised pork shoulder on a creamy bed of polenta, and citrus-infused, rich bread pudding with tart currant and cherry. Timberline Restaurant dishes up “rustic cabin cuisine” — a unique style of traditional comfort food, like crispy fried chicken, with a contemporary Sonoma County flair. If live acoustic music is your jam, Main Street Bistro & Cabaret serves up jazzy entertainment as well as traditional fare like the Fireworks Pizza — supreme-style topped with sausage, olives, and green peppers.

Check out more Guerneville restaurants or places to eat in Sonoma County.

Discover more in Guerneville.

Written by Sonoma Insider Suzie Rodriguez.

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