8 Sustainable Activities in Sonoma County
Whether it’s farm-to-table dining or eco-friendly vineyards, Sonoma County is all about sustainable travel experiences. Not only does sustainable travel help visitors lessen their impact on the environment, but it also supports local businesses.
Tour a Creamery or Farm
From fresh strawberries to goat cheese stuffed with caramel, Sonoma County’s farms produce fare that satisfy a wide range of tastes. What’s more, many of these farms and creameries offer tours, educating visitors about their craft and sharing notes about sustainability. The Bohemian Creamery, located on Occidental Road in Sebastopol, offers tours Saturday and Sunday at 1 p.m. with cheesemaker Webster Marquez, who is just as talented as he is entertaining. The tours run $35 and last an hour, and after getting a crash course in cheesemaking and a tour of the facility and aging rooms, guests enjoy a guided tasting of nearly a dozen cheeses. All cheese is made onsite (the main cheesemaking room has just one vat), and Marquez sources his milk locally. The storefront is open Friday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and gift baskets can be ordered online as well.
For those wishing to get up close and personal with the source of their favorite cheese, look no further than Redwood Hill Farm (aka Capracopia), where visitors can cuddle and feed the farm’s goats, and even learn how to milk them. The farm has run on solar power for more than a decade, and utilizes rainwater catchment tanks that can store 100,000 gallons of water for summer irrigation. Tours run in the spring and fall, and can be reserved online.
For more on local farm stands and tours, visit Sonoma County Farm Trails.
No matter what day of the week you visit Sonoma County, you’ll find a farmers market packed with vendors. Santa Rosa, Sonoma, Sebastopol and Petaluma have year-round markets, while others run from the spring through fall. If you’re looking for something specific, consider stopping by a local farm stand for seasonal produce. Tierra Vegetables has a small but fabulous shop located on the north side of Santa Rosa, and from greens to dried chiles, they grow everything onsite. If you want their fresh strawberries and handmade corn tortillas, be sure to get there early, especially in the summer. From June to December, the farm stand is open Tuesday though Sunday, and from January to May, it is open Thursday through Sunday only. Tierra Vegetables also sells produce at the Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers Market on Wednesdays, along with the San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers Market on Saturdays.
Go on a Guided Adventure
Hiring a guide not only supports local businesses, but it helps give visitors a deeper appreciation for the areas they’re exploring. Sonoma Valley Trail Rides was born from owner (and Sonoma local) Michelle Rogers’ passion for horses and wine, and they offer trail rides in two beautiful vineyards. The Vineyard Adventure Tour is an hour long, while the Bartholomew Estate Experience Ride is 45 minutes long, and includes a bottle of wine. As riders marvel at the bucolic surroundings, they learn about everything from the history of the region to grape growing. Guides carefully assess riders’ ability levels when matching them with horses, and lessons are also available. Tours are $150, and lessons are $80.
Paddling a kayak where the Russian River meets the Pacific Ocean is an experience unlike any other, and you are guaranteed to see all kinds of wildlife. Smart Tours offers three-hour kayak tours along the coast, and after a brief safety talk, guests are outfitted with everything they need. Tours run $125 per person, and depart at 10 a.m. from Jenner.
In the early spring, wildflowers splash vibrant colors all over Sonoma County, ranging from golden California poppies to purple lupine. If you’re lucky enough to visit during peak spring blooms and you’d like to learn more about them, consider attending a guided wildflower walk. The Pepperwood Preserve offers guided walks on easy and challenging trails for $15 per person, while Sonoma County Regional Parks offer free guided walks, though visitors must pay for parking, which is $7.
Explore Sonoma County on a Bike
Whether it’s cruising through a vineyard on an e-bike or tackling steep mountain bike trails, Sonoma County has options for all ability levels and interests. Wine Country Cyclery has a large rental fleet, and Sonoma Valley Bike Tours and Ace It! Bike Tours offer vineyard and brewery tours, with options for custom trips and multi-day rides. Trione-Annadel State Park has some of the best options both for beginners and more seasoned mountain bikers, with the North Burma Trail as a top pick for intermediate and advanced riders. Shiloh Ranch Regional Park and Taylor Mountain Regional Park and Open Space Preserve have a handful of multi-use dirt trails as well, and those seeking a more mellow option will enjoy the five-and-a-half mile West County Regional Trail, which is flat and paved.
Eat at a Farm-to-Table Restaurant
Barndiva, located in Healdsburg, serves brunch, lunch and dinner, and from the unique flavor pairings to the artful presentation, everything on the menu is begging to be tasted. The family-owned restaurant earned its first Michelin star in 2021, and sources ingredients from local farms, creameries and wineries, including its own Philo Apple Farm. Pastry Chef Neidy Venegas even sources her flour locally, and not only has Beverage Manager Scott Beattie written a book on artisanal cocktails, but he teaches Cocktail Classes in Studio Barndiva. Barndiva also includes a service charge on all orders, to help support a fair living wage and health benefits for their employees.
SingleThread, located in Healdsburg, is the top splurge option, offering farm-fresh fare from husband-and-wife team Kyle and Katina Connaughton. SingleThread is the only restaurant in Sonoma County that holds three Michelin stars, and reservations must be made well in advance. The Spinster Sisters, located in Santa Rosa, is an affordable yet stellar restaurant primarily serving locally caught seafood.
Visit a Sustainable Winery
Sonoma County has dozens of sustainable wineries, many of which feature both tours and tastings. Medlock Ames is one of them, offering guided and self-guided vineyard tours, which include an overview of their sustainable practices, plus a tasting paired with local cheeses. Medlock Ames has committed to leaving most of its land wild, only harvesting grapes on 44 acres of their 338-acre estate, and they run their vineyard and offices on solar power. They also work with neighboring Pepperwood Preserve to identify and preserve the several distinct ecosystems on the ranch.
Other notable eco-friendly wineries offering tours include Silver Oak Alexander Valley, Quivira Vineyards, and the Martorana Family Winery, the latter of which is the first winery to receive the Private Lands Fish and Wildlife Stewardship Award from the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.
Stay at a Green Hotel
Set on two and a half acres of land in Guerneville, Mine + Farm has just nine guest rooms, ensuring a relaxing and quiet stay deep in the heart of Sonoma County. Solar arrays with 92 panels provide the vast majority of the farm’s electricity, and the water filtration system offers both sparking and still water, eliminating the need for bottled water. For breakfast, guests are treated to farm-fresh eggs and seasonal herbs, vegetables and fruit grown onsite, while meats, breads and other produce are sourced from local purveyors. Food waste from the kitchen goes back to the hens, and the farm has also planted native flora to encourage bird diversity and nesting. The rooms are priced around $300 per night, making this B&B a great mid-range option for travelers who want to relax without breaking the bank.
For visitors with no budget restrictions, Farmhouse Inn, located in Forestville, is regarded as the top green property in Sonoma County, with luxurious accommodations, plus an incredible onsite restaurant. Astro Motel is a newly remodeled property with 34 rooms, which feature original mid-century modern furnishings, reclaimed materials, and an edible garden.
Sleep Under the Stars
Between reservable campsites in three state parks and five regional parks, plus a handful of private campgrounds, Sonoma County is the perfect place to sleep under the stars. Sugarloaf Ridge State Park and Spring Lake Regional Park have campgrounds with sites for tent campers and RVs seeking inland scenery, and Sonoma Coast State Park and Salt Point State Park each have two large campgrounds on the coast, which can accommodate tent campers and RVs. Regional parks with campgrounds by the ocean include Doran Beach, Gualala Point, Stillwater Cover and Westside. For visitors keen on sleeping in a luxurious canvas tent, consider Wildhaven Sonoma Glamping or AutoCamp Russian River.
Written by Sonoma Insider Elisabeth Brentano; all photos courtesy of Elisabeth Brentano unless otherwise noted.