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An Extreme Adventure Wine Country Honeymoon

A Sonoma County wedding naturally leads to thoughts of a Sonoma County honeymoon. Romantic inn or B&B? Yes, please. Sumptuous wines, mouthwatering farm-to-fork cuisine? Yes, indeed.

Going out onto the Pacific Ocean and catching your own Dungeness crab, hauling the pots hand-over-fist into the six-pack charter fishing boat, cleaning the crustaceans then making your own bouillabaisse to enjoy with your sweetie in front of a roaring fireplace at an oceanfront lodge? Absolutely.

It’s a different way to imagine a honeymoon, certainly, but an increasingly popular one. Adventure travel may have once been dreamed of a “bucket list” experience, but modern couples think, hey, it’s vacation time, it’s celebration, let’s do something truly memorable.

With its million-plus acres to explore, Sonoma County abounds with adventure, from deep-sea fishing, to piloting a small plane, to zip line through a redwood forest, to testing your skills as a NASCAR race driver. The adrenaline of the experiences might even tighten the bond between a newly wed couple, too. And it surely will heighten the appetite for love.

North Coast Air, Santa Rosa

So you want to soar through the clouds, swooping like a bird in flight, and maybe talking over the radio like a big shot (alpha-beta vegetable soup breaker-breaker…). But leaping into a contracted series of lessons seems like a big commitment. So try an introductory flight, and see how you like it, with a half-hour mini lesson in either a two-seat Cessna 152, or a four-seat Cessna 172. Under the guidance of a certified pilot, you get a preview of the mechanics, have the opportunity to fly the airplane, and see the gorgeous Sonoma County landscape from a whole different perspective.

Sonoma Coast Divers, Rohnert Park/Jenner

Abalone is actually a sea snail, but one that is such a delicacy, that people will go to extraordinary lengths to get it (think ocean escargot). Getting it is not for the timid, as swimmers must free dive along the craggy rocks and pounding wave shores of the Fort Ross/Jenner Coast, hoping to catch site of the shells that often blend right into their backdrop. No oxygen tanks are allowed, and you have to use an abalone iron to pry the tightly clinging mollusks loose. Eating isn’t easy, either, since the critters have to shucked, cleaned, pounded and seared in a sizzling pan just so, in order to taste slick and chewy instead of bland and rubbery. Oh, but when it’s done right, abalone, like oysters, champagne and chocolate, makes an excellent aphrodisiac. The skilled instructors here will show you the ropes, take you into the ocean, and even help you prepare your catch.

Sonoma Canopy Tours, Occidental

“You take my breath away.” You can say that to your honey, but also to your zip line instructor, as he or she straps you into the gear and Go Camera you’ll wear for this high-speed scream through space. That’s because hidden away off Bohemian Highway is a zip line course waiting to wing you up to 25 miles per hour through a redwood forest, over a ravine 300-feet below, and along a creek. Part of the challenge is just getting to the jump canopies, since eleven different platforms test your clambering skills, too, daring you to scale a skinny spiral staircase 30 feet up, and wobble across a 175-foot-long sky bridge. And when all is done, you’ll fall… straight into the arms of your new spouse, sharing the thrill of the zip.

Simraceway Performance Driving Center/Sonoma Raceway, Sonoma

It’s actually pretty amazing to realize that the general public is even allowed to do this, but it’s true. You can drive a turbo go-cart, a stock car, or the crème de la crème, an Audi R8 sports car, right on the same track that is home to NASCAR races. Your heart may belong to your sweetie, but for now, it’s in your throat, as you grip the asphalt on the 180-degree turn, then zoom out at more than 122 miles per hour. Thank goodness you’re not driving, but strapped in as a passenger with a Formula Car racer. Though, for some extra time and money, you can learn to drive like this in just a few days, via the Audi Sportscar Experience training classes.

NorCal Sports Fishing, Bodega Bay

Many Sonoma County stores sell fish so fresh it may have been swimming that morning. For even fresher, you can buy right off the boat, at the Bodega Bay marina. Still, for the freshest of the fresh, charter boats go out onto the great blue, hunting for Dungeness crab, rock cod, 25-pound-plus salmon, albacore, halibut, and even Humboldt giant squid. And you can be part of the crew, taking breaks between smooching with your sweetie to reel in your catch. Save your queasiness for the sometimes pounding waves, by the way – the crew will kill, clean and bag your fish for easy cooking.

Tip: An extreme honeymoon calls for an extreme hotel stay. As in dramatic views. Timber Coast Inn of Jenner is perched right on the coast, on the edge of cliffs overlooking the ocean. A suite is the most romantic choice, featuring panoramic views that help explain why, after the Timber Cove area was settled in the 19th century by Russians, it has since become a beacon for pristine Californian wilderness, viticulture and tourism.            

Planning a wedding? Get free wedding assistance from Sonoma County Tourism.

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