If you’ve spent any amount of time in Sonoma County, you’ve probably already experienced the Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve, the Russian River resort area, Sonoma Valley’s wineries, and the historic downtown plazas of Sonoma and Healdsburg. But no matter how much you may think you know Sonoma County, there’s always more to discover. The region is incredibly vast, covering more than 1,500 square miles of coastline, forests, and valleys. The county is also home to 30 small towns, villages, and cities—each with its own distinctive array of amenities and experiences. With all that ground to cover, even longtime locals don’t know every nook and cranny.
Here are some essential restaurants, wineries, shops, and experiences to help you discover Sonoma’s hidden wonders.
What a Chicken!, Petaluma
This casual restaurant is named for its tasty grilled chickens, but the Mexican fare is the real star of the show. We’re talking housemade tortillas, salsas, and aguas frescas, and some of the most delicious, filling, and underpriced tacos in Sonoma County. The rice and refried beans—an afterthought at many Mexican joints—are insanely good at What a Chicken!.
Jessica Biel, Ashton Kutcher, and Oprah are among the fans of Sumbody’s locally crafted skincare products. The line features organic, all-natural, handmade goat milk soaps, bath and body care products, and a vegan skincare line. The shop also includes a spa if you’re in need of some extra pampering.
Sonoma Canopy Tours, Occidental
See towering redwoods from a new perspective as you zipline through the treetops. The two-and-a-half-hour eco adventure includes multiple ziplines, sky bridges, and a chance to rappel down to the forest floor. Along with daytime and sunset tours, Sonoma Canopy Tours offers a Night Flight experience that invites zipliners to gaze up at the stars from treetop platforms.
Stump Beach, Jenner
Set within Salt Point State Park, this little gem is one of the few sandy beaches north of “downtown” Jenner. It’s rare to see more than a few people hiking along the quarter-mile trail that leads down to the sand, so you might just have the place all to yourself. While you’re in the park, take time to explore its scenic grasslands, pygmy forests, and 20 miles of hiking trails.
Fort Ross Vineyards, Jenner
Experience the “Extreme Sonoma Coast” in a spectacular setting less than a mile from the Pacific Ocean. Located in the remote Fort Ross-Seaview wine region, Fort Ross Vineyards’ tasting room is set above the coastal fog, surrounded by forests and meadows. Relax on one of the winery’s expansive outdoor decks and enjoy the ocean views while sampling top-notch Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and even Pinotage—a South African grape rarely found in California.
AutoCamp Russian River, Guerneville
This is glamping, Sonoma-style. There’s no need to pitch a tent when you can settle into a comfy Airstream camper or a luxurious canvas tent—each outfitted with modern, upscale interiors. The property is set in a grove of majestic redwoods, and it’s an easy walk or bike ride to the Russian River for swimming and sunbathing, or to downtown Guerneville’s funky shops and restaurants.
HenHouse Brewing Company, multiple locations
A darling of the Sonoma County craft brewing scene, HenHouse began as a one-beer operation in Petaluma and grew to include a bustling brewery/taproom in Santa Rosa and the Palace of Barrels in Petaluma. Both locations have an unpretentious, industrial vibe and a terrific lineup of ever-changing brews. Try the Oyster Stout, made with the meat and shells of locally harvested oysters.
Christopher Queen Galleries, Duncans Mills
The tiny town of Duncans Mills is home to one of Sonoma County’s most impressive fine art galleries. The museum-like space houses an extensive collection of Early California art dating from the 1860s to the 1940s, plus Contemporary landscape, floral, and figural paintings by award-winning artists.
Abbot’s Passage Supply Co., Sonoma
Housed in a historic red barn in downtown Sonoma, this eclectic winery tasting room/mercantile carries a great selection of clothing, home decor, adventure gear, and curiosities. You’ll also find maker workshops and a wine salon featuring small-lot field blends from sixth-generation vintner Katie Bundschu.
Rio Nido Roadhouse, Rio Nido
Summer camp meets friendly dive bar at this Russian River classic. The roadhouse serves American pub grub and beer in a converted trailer, and its inviting outdoor space features a stage for live music and umbrella-shaded picnic tables for noshing under the redwoods. There’s even a family-friendly swimming pool (open from Memorial Day to Labor Day) if you fancy a dip.
Bodega Marine Laboratory, Bodega Bay
Join volunteer docents at this working research lab for an educational tour that includes a 24-foot-long display of colorful local fish, plus multiple aquarium displays of Bodega Harbor’s aquatic residents, and an inside look at the institute’s research projects. (Check website for the reopening of tours.)