If an adventure full of lush glamping, wine tastings, forest bathing, and cycling sounds like something you’d be down for, add an active vacation in Sonoma County to your bucket list! This northern California road trip destination is the perfect escape into nature and tranquility. Here’s your guide to an all the things to do in Sonoma and outdoor activities in Sonoma.
About my Trip
Let me recap for those who don’t follow me on Instagram @BellaBucchiotti. I recently took my first trip out of Canada after 19 long, very long months! California is all set up for responsible travel, so it was the perfect first destination outside my home border.
On top of that, no matter how many times you have visited, you will find so many things to do in California no matter what the season or time of year! From checking out wine tasting rooms, seeing historic buildings, taking in the natural beauty, and taking a scenic drive there is so much to do.
California is one of my favourite places in the US, so a California road trip was calling my name. My friend Kim aka @WestCoastLife who is an amazing photographer (that took all these photos) came along for a road trip to Sonoma, San Francisco, and Monterey to soak up the October air the best way!
Things to Know About Sonoma County
Sonoma County is in northern California, just north of San Francisco. It’s easy to love Sonoma County. It has all that you could want from a Californian county: charm, excellent wine, lush scenery, the ocean, and proximity to cities like San Francisco and Sacramento.
The Sonoma County wine region is a great alternative to Napa on a northern California road trip! It’s more affordable, and it even has almost 20,000 more acres of vineyards than Napa. And if that hasn’t sold you, Sonoma County is the birthplace of California’s wine industry.
It not only has the oldest continuously family-run winery in California called Gundlach Bundschu, which was founded in 1858, but it also has Buena Vista, California’s oldest commercial winery, founded in 1857.
And good news! If you want to visit Napa, it’s just a hop away! Some parts of Sonoma are just half an hour away from Napa. Here’s my guide to an active vacation in Napa.
Getting to Sonoma County
There are a few ways to get to Sonoma County, but the easiest way is to fly into a nearby airport and drive there.
The closest airport and shuttle service to Sonoma County is Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport (STS) in Santa Rosa and the Sonoma County Airport Express, which runs between Sonoma County and San Francisco and Oakland airports.
However, flying into San Francisco will probably be the most suitable option, as it’s an international airport and well-connected. We flew into San Fransisco International Airport (SFO) and then rented a car to begin our northern California road trip.
As a frequent traveller, I can say that SFO is one of my favourite airports and there are so many things to do at San Francisco Airport. It is a great place for a layover or to explore while you wait for your flight.
For reference, Sonoma County is:
- 75 miles north of San Francisco International Airport (SFO) – 1-hour drive
- 76 miles drive northwest of Oakland International (OAK) – 1.5-hour drive
- 119 miles west of Sacramento International Airport – 2-hour drive
What to See and Do in Sonoma County
An active vacation in Sonoma is packed full of excitement and good times. Here are some of the very best experiences and best places in Sonoma County.
Sonoma Coast State Park
If you’re looking for the best places in Sonoma, start here! The Sonoma Coast State Park runs along the coast and is vividly picturesque. Imagine tranquil mornings with fog rising over coastal rocks and the soft waves of the Pacific Ocean. Dreamy!
It has a rocky and grassy peninsula that offers some amazing scenic walking paths and even a four-mile stretch of beach! My favourite areas were Genesis Point and Portuguese Beach! Strap on your walking shoes, bring your camera, and get ready to enjoy one of the best places in Sonoma County!
One of the best outdoor activities in Sonoma is trail walking. The Bodega Head Trail takes you on a scenic loop along the Bodega Bay and the Pacific Ocean. You’ll get tons of Instagram-worthy shots – the area is gorgeous!
Another hike at Sonoma Coast State Park is Duncan’s Landing Overlook, which is a short trail leading to a lovely, sandy beach called Duncan’s Cove. There are many more hikes in the area for more fun outdoor activities in Sonoma.
Forest bathing is not what you might think of right away. It comes from the Japanese term hinrin-yoku, which means “taking in the forest atmosphere” or “forest bathing.” Since the 1980s, this practice has become a keystone of preventive care and healing in Japanese medicine.
Basically, forest bathing is not literally taking a bath in the forest, but in many ways it is. It is based around a slow, mindful walk in a forest environment. In the ways that meditation and some yoga practices are peaceful and meditative, so too is forest bathing.
So, we joined a Red Car Wines for a meditative walk with EcoWisdon Wellness and Jenny Harrow-Keeler (who is a Certified Forest Therapy Guide and Sonoma County wine professional) through their Zephyr farms vineyard.
Jenny took us through the vineyard and surrounding forest. We tasted local cheeses, fruit, Pinot Noir for a total mindful travel experience on our active vacation in Sonoma.
Red Car Wines are known for their rosé wine, but my favourite was their white. I bought some to enjoy at home, too.
Private Dry Creek Bike Tour: Getaway Adventures & Rentals
An active vacation in Sonoma Valley is hardly complete without a cycle and wine tour. What screams “wine country” more than cycling among vineyards and indulging in tastings along the way?
The Dry Creek Bike Tour from Getaway Adventures is all of that and more! Cruise along lush vineyards, lively olive trees, gold-tinted hills, and so much more. Plus, you can savour the lovely flavours of wines of the Dry Creek and Alexander Valleys and a full picnic spread among rolling vineyard hills. Sign me up! Their award-winning guides will also give you the full scoop on all things grapes, wine, and Sonoma.
It’s a full-day tour and it’s so worth it! We loved every minute of combing through vineyards, feeling the fresh air on our skin, and (of course) sipping quality wines among the beauty of California.
A bike tour is definitely one of the best outdoor activities in Sonoma. It packs so many must-dos into one experience!
Horseback riding at The Ranch at Lake Sonoma.
Feel like you’ve been transported back in time with a horseback ride at The Ranch at Lake Sonoma. You’ll be taking in some of the very best views of the Dry Creek Valley wine region from a lush mountain top. It was one of my favourite things I did on my active vacation in Sonoma!
You’ll first make your way through a redwood grove and then ascend the mountain for those rewarding, 360-degree views over Sonoma!
This horseback riding in Sonoma is 30 minutes, but give it about 40-50 minutes with loading time. Don’t miss out and plan your trail ride. The views are just amazing! If you are looking for outdoor activities in Sonoma, then add this to the list.
Dry Creek General Store
If you’re looking for souvenirs, gifts, and local artisan products, venture to the Dry Creek General Store in Healdsburg. There’s actually more to find than just take-home goodies. They have a variety of freshly prepared soups, sandwiches, salads, and seasonal items. Their coffee is good too! The store is open 7 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 7 a.m. – 6 p.m. Friday to Sunday.
If you are looking for other California road trip ideas, check out California Road Trip – Gold Country, Huntington Beach – Southern California Road Trip, Temecula Valley – Southern California Road Trip or Greater Palm Springs – Southern California Road Trip.
Where To Stay in Sonoma County
From glamping at Wildhaven to cosy resorts, here is where to stay in Sonoma.
Wildhaven Sonoma Glamping Tents
We had the amazing experience of glamping at Wildhaven during our northern California road trip! The cabins are so cosy, spacious, and perfectly equipped with all the essentials. Bonus! They even gave us a s’mores kit to make our own s’mores over the fire pit. All the autumn vibes!
Our cabin had two double beds, a heater, towels, storage, outlets, a fire pit outside, a perfectly cozy porch and everything we needed.
Their tents have gorgeous nature views, and there is a selection to choose from! Whether you’re travelling with a friend, as a couple, or a group, glamping at Wildhaven is a must-do on an active vacation in Sonoma.
Even though it was cooler at nights in October, the tents were toasty warm. It was the perfect place to stay while we enjoyed all the outdoor activities in Sonoma.
Other Sonoma County accommodation options that were recommended to me are:
Soak up gorgeous sunsets along the Pacific Ocean and Russian River at River’s End. This place to stay in Sonoma offers comfortable cabins with great views and a restaurant attached.
If you don’t want to give up any amenities, Flamingo Resort has nice rooms, heated pools, a fitness centre, and a restaurant on-site in Santa Rosa.
Where to Eat in Sonoma
I’m celiac (gluten free) and dairy-free, but I found it easy to enjoy delicious food at restaurants in Sonoma! Here are the best places in Sonoma for food.
One of the loveliest Italian restaurants in the area, add Catelli’s Restaurant to your Sonoma bucket list! It’s so lovely that it was even voted the best Italian restaurant in Sonoma! Have fresh, indulgent pasta or a beautiful salad and pair it with wine following your waiter’s suggestion. You won’t be disappointed!
As a farm-to-table restaurant in Sonoma, The Matheson crafts classic dishes with a unique twist. They have amazing drinks, seafood, Italian dishes, and a beautiful outdoor patio to complete the experience.
What can I say….the food was AMAZING here. Seriously, the best restaurant! We got the bruschetta and peaches, steak, a salmon pizza and the sashimi platter. It was a feast and we were hungry after a busy day outdoors in the fresh air.
Pascaline Patisserie & Bakery
I loved this bakery in Sonoma! Pascaline Patisserie & Bakery focus on French bites like croissants, sandwiches, and quiche. The interior is rustic and cute! Have a coffee, a bite to eat, and maybe a pastry for later. It was a great stop during our northern California road trip!
Another lovely bakery, Criminal Baking is one of the best places in Sonoma for either breakfast or lunch! It is a great spot for hearty and healthy breakfast bowls, fantastic sandwiches, cakes & pastries with a homey setup!
Criminal Baking has many options for gluten free pastries, and they are identified by green writing on their display cases. The breakfast bowls all looked amazing!
The Noble Folk Ice Cream & Pie Bar
Vacation means… ignite your sweet tooth! Noble Folk did just the trick. This Healdsburg spot has a variety of creamy ice creams and even dairy-free and vegan alternatives! Add this spot to your Sonoma bucket list.
If you are gluten free, you will be happy to know that they also have gluten free cupcakes, too. Yum!!
Other Sonoma County dining options that were recommended to me were:
Diavola Pizzeria & Salumeria
At Diavola Pizzeria & Salumera they are serving up gourmet pizza, pasta, and paninis in an old early 1900s buildings. It has all-around cool vibes and even craft beer to go along with it.
Geyserville Gun Club
Pub food never looked so good! Geyserville Gun Club offers craft cocktails and American-style food in a stylish venue.
An active vacation in Sonoma County is sounding pretty good, right? Soak up the charm of northern California, breathe in the fresh air, sip good wine, and feel alive in the best way!
Let me know if you have been to Sonoma or planning a stop on your Northern California road trip. You won’t be disappointed, and it is a great place to get outdoors, get some fresh air and take a much-needed break. There are so many options for outdoor activities in Sonoma for those of us that like to have an adventure.