I’ve driven through Guerneville for decades, and every time I stop and explore I’m so glad I did. This charming wine country hamlet offers bubbly, wine, outdoor recreation, great food, and a range of lodging options.
Bubbles, Wine, Gardens, History & More
Korbel Champagne Cellars, just east of Guerneville, was our first stop on a recent visit with out-of-state guests. We began our visit by taking the Korbel tour, and everyone in the group loved it. We gathered at an old train depot that is original to the property, then strolled to a museum-like room in the iconic red brick building where we learned the colorful story of how Korbel got started during the region’s early days. The tour also included a short video, an exploration of an old cellar, and concluded in the tasting room. The Korbel grounds are gorgeous, and there is also a garden tour, which we’ll do on our next visit.
In the tasting room, we tried both California Champagne (Korbel has been grandfathered in to call their sparking wine California Champagne) and still wines. The tasting room includes an extensive gift shop, along with knowledgeable staff who expanded on the information from the tour. After tasting and purchasing some bubbly, we stopped by the deli and took note of the vast array of food and gift items available.
If you are looking for a tour to learn more about how California Champagne is made and about the area, want a great tasting experience followed by a bite to eat, Korbel is a must-do on your itinerary to the Guerneville area.
The Guerneville area has been a vacation destination for almost 150 years, with San Franciscans taking the train as early as the 1870s to enjoy a relaxing time on the banks of the Russian River. Today, it continues to be a vibrant recreational and relaxing getaway, depending upon your desires.
The Russian River has long been the place to cool off on hot summer days. From late May through September, one ever-popular spot is Johnson’s Beach and Resort. Here you can rent canoes, single or double kayaks, pedal boats, inner tubes and beach umbrellas. Johnson’s offers lodging accommodations as well. There are several other venues along the Russian River that offer canoe and kayak rentals, and also other public beach access points.
Fishing on the river is available year round, even if catching isn’t. Options include fishing for prized but elusive Steelhead trout during the winter months, shad and catfish in the spring, and largemouth, smallmouth, and striped bass, along with bluegill during the summer.
One of my favorite spots is Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve, locally known as Armstrong Woods. This 805-acre park has numerous hiking paths either through the peaceful groves of coastal redwoods, or to higher ground offering transforming views across the tops of these majestic trees. The hikes range from easy strolls to strenuous nine-mile hikes with a 1500’ climb. There is even horseback riding available. This state-owned and maintained park offers picnic grounds among the redwoods and a gift shop at the entrance. Austin Creek State Recreational Area, connected to Armstrong Woods, encompasses over 6800 acres with many hiking trails, again some quite strenuous, and campsites.
Love to golf? Check out the Northwood Golf Club, just west of Guerneville. It’s open to the public, and a treat to play. I was awed as the golden sun filtered through the 150-foot tall Redwood trees onto the course. There is also a restaurant and a bakery/coffee shop on the grounds.
Prefer to bike? Bring your own or rent them if you are from out of the area. Other outdoor activities include tennis courts, pee wee golf, playgrounds, and reading on the beach with help from the public library.
Once you’ve had enough of the great outdoors, you can stroll through Guerneville’s many shops, antique stores and art galleries. This charming hamlet is best to explored by foot. You might have a bit of a walk between the antique stores, the Sonoma Nesting Company, the art galleries (I counted six, but might have missed one), and other quaint shops, and but the town isn’t so spread out that you’ll need to drive to get around.
All that exercise and shopping works up an appetite, and Guerneville teems with dining opportunities. We asked locals for recommendations, and were overwhelmed. Here are just a few of the recommendations: Betty Spaghetti, Big Bottom Market, boon eat + drink, Chef’s Patrick’s, Pat’s Restaurant & Bar, Seaside Metal, and Agriculture Public House. Our group opted to try a local family-run Mexican restaurant, La Bodeguita. The food was fresh, authentic, and delicious, and portions were generous.
A full spectrum of dining is available, including pizza, Mexican, Thai, sushi, basic grill and sandwich fare, fine dining, California cuisine, pasta, comfort food, sweet and savory pies, French cuisine, coffee shops, smoothies, ice cream parlors, delis, bakeries and more. No matter what you’re hungry for, you’ll be able to find it in Guerneville!
If I weren’t a local, I’d love to stay at one of the many lodging options. Here are a few we can recommend:
Applewood Inn – enchanted Mediterranean villa
boon hotel + spa – hip spa and lodging just minutes from Armstrong Woods
Creekside Inn & Resort – cottages nestled in the redwoods
Fern Grove Cottages – adorable and pet friendly in the heart of Guerneville
Northwood Lodge & Resort – next to the golf course
Sonoma Orchid Inn – charming bed & breakfast
The Woods Resort – centrally located cabins and cottages
Guerneville’s rich history dates back to the 1800s when the area was a logging community. If you’d like to learn more about “Stumptown,” check out some of its history on Wikipedia and be sure to take the Korbel tour.
Next time you are wine tasting along the Wine Road, schedule some time to hang out in Guerneville, or stay there for a few days and immerse yourself in all this delightful town has to offer.
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