Off the Wine Trail in Sonoma County

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Traveling on a Coastal California road trip is one of our favorite memories—the scenery—the food—the wine—it’s all good. But what if you’re not a wine lover? Will you find enough to do when your road trip reaches Sonoma County? 

Today’s guest writer and photographer, Noel Morata from behind Travel, says “absolutely” if you follow his advice for going off the wine trail in Sonoma County.

Sonoma County in Northern California is one of the most popular wine country destinations in the United States. But there are also many other wonderful activities and things to do, even if you are not a wine lover.

The California coastline view on Highway One on a trip to explore Sonoma County.
The California coastline view on Highway One. Photo courtesy Alan Hull.

The county spans from interior mountains and chaparrals to redwood forests to stunning coastlines that are naturally preserved for eternity. If you want to explore this diverse landscape, here are five alternatives to visiting Sonoma County without sampling a drop of the excellent wines from the region’s wineries.

Visit a redwood forest at Armstrong Redwoods in Guerneville

The breathtaking drive through California redwoods on a visit to Sonoma County.
The breathtaking drive through California redwoods. Photo courtesy Alan Hull.

A road trip along the Russian River in West Sonoma County to the funky town of Guerneville is a fun day trip. One of the popular attractions to visit is Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve, which is filled with giant redwood trees and native California plants.

There are many hiking trails at the base. You can also hike all the way to the top of the ridgeline for stunning views of the area and the Russian River.

Go antique shopping in Petaluma and Highway 116 in West Sonoma County

The area from Sebastopol through the Highway 116 to Petaluma city is full of antique malls and large vintage stores. The drive through this idyllic area is also very scenic with rolling farms, hills and vineyards. The downtown area of Petaluma is also known for a variety of antique and collectible shops for discovering those one- of-a-kind treasures that are so fun to bring home.

Explore Russian history at Fort Ross State Historic Park on the California coast.
Explore Russian history at Fort Ross State Historic Park. Photo courtesy Noel Morata.

Take a coastal road trip from Marin County at Point Reyes through Jenner

Taking a road trip on Highway One along the coastline that stretches through this portion of Sonoma County is breathtaking. The two lane road traverses stunning coastlines filled with sandy dunes, rocky island panoramas, secluded bays, jagged cliffs and rolling hills filled with cows and other domesticated animals.

This stretch from Point Reyes through Jenner is a wonderful drive; and if you want to see even more, the Russian Fort at Fort Ross State Historic Park is quite unique with its Russian history and heritage.

Gardens and wineries make a great combination in Sonoma County, California.
You’ll find plenty of gardens to visit in Sonoma County. Photo courtesy Noel Morata.

Visit a garden lover’s dream

For those who are into the heady combination of gardens, art and design, there is a plethora of amazing outdoor centers and gardens worth visiting. Just outside of Sonoma city is the colorful gardens and art galleries at Cornerstone filled with designer gardens.

At Santa Rosa, you’ll find the show gardens and experimental farm of famous botanist and grower, Luther Burbank. It’s fun to explore and see the popular fruits and flowers that he introduced to the world. Many of the wineries also have stunning gardens including Chateaux St. Jean.

Luxuriate in a spa retreat

If you’re into spas, Sonoma County offers a variety of choices. Consider pampering yourself at the cedar baths and a massage at Osmosis in West Sonoma County. Luxury travelers will want to visit the uber chic Kenwood Inn and Spa located along Highway 12 in wine country.

Further down the road is the world renown Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn, which has large thermal pools and spa treatments that aim to please all different types of therapies from lomi lomi massage to deep tissue massage or even some wine rubs.

Include a sculpture garden visit when exploring Sonoma County, California.
Include a sculpture garden visit in your Sonoma County itinerary. Photo courtesy Noel Morata.

As you can see, there are many fun activities to experience while exploring the chic cities and fun venues in Sonoma County that don’t require you to stop at any of the fine wineries in the region.

Just in case you think it would be a shame to miss the amazing history and landscape, not to mention the wines, of Sonoma County, include a garden tour, wine/food pairing, outdoor sculpture and art visit or wonderful road trip in Sonoma’s scenic wine country. Many wineries host tours, have gorgeous museums, gardens and art collections, offer food and wine pairings along with amazing landscapes to enjoy and photograph.

For more information and ideas about visiting, check out the Sonoma County Online Guide.

Planning a spring road trip to California? Start your research with our Coastal California road trip articles.

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