California Dreaming: Nature, Wine and Luxury in Sonoma County

by Kristy Tolley

By Sam Boykin

As vaccines continue to roll out and a sense of relative normalcy returns, Sonoma County is the ideal destination for those interested in exploring the West Coast. Far less crowded than California cities like San Francisco or Los Angeles, Sonoma County offers a bucolic getaway filled with nature, food and wine.

Local businesses such as restaurants, wineries, bars, museums, spas and family entertainment centers are offering outdoor service with certain modifications. Hotels, vacation rentals and other lodging are also open with certain modifications. For up-to-date health notifications about Sonoma County go to:

Get back to nature

A perfect remedy for the past year of stay-at-home orders is Sonoma County’s nearly 60 regional and state parks. Here you can hike, bike, kayak and connect with natural wonders like the area’s iconic towering redwoods.

Adventurous types may want to try Trione-Annadel State Park, which has about 40 miles of mountain bike trails that wind through forests, oak woodlands and grasslands. There’s also the 1,100-acre Taylor Mountain Regional Park and Open Space Preserve, where you can pedal along nearly six miles of dirt trails that run past creeks and through thick forests and grassy meadows, with sweeping views of Santa Rosa and the Mayacamas Mountains.

For something more laid back, paddle down the gentle Russian River. It flows for 110 miles from Cloverdale in northeast Sonoma County, through multiple scenic valleys, and empties into the Pacific Ocean. Along the way you can stop at family-friendly spots like Healdsburg Veterans Memorial Beach and go for a swim, play in the sand or enjoy a picnic.

The popular Doran Regional Park is a great way to enjoy the ocean, with a 2-mile stretch of beach on Bodega Bay. Spend the day surfing, flying kites, fishing, bird watching or simply strolling along the shore. There’s also a boat launch that provides access to Bodega Harbor, a great spot for kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding.

Finally, behold one of Sonoma’s natural wonders at Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve. Located near the town of Guerneville, the 805-acre park has trails shaded by towering trees, some 16 feet in diameter and 400 feet high. Be sure to seek out the Reserve’s oldest tree, Colonel Armstrong, which is more than 1,400 years old.


Among the many idyllic towns in California’s Wine Country, Healdsburg stands out for its gourmet restaurants, award-winning wineries and 19th-century plaza, a focal point for visitors. Nestled along the Russian River, Healdsburg sits at the juncture of three wine-growing regions — the Russian River Valley, Dry Creek Valley and Alexander Valley wine appellations.

Some not-to-miss spots in this small town (pop. 11,254) include Armida Winery, which is housed in a geodesic dome and boasts sweeping views, picnic areas and a full-size bocce ball court. Ferrari-Carano Vineyards & Winery is situated on five scenic acres with colorful Italian/French-style gardens and walking paths that meander past waterfalls, foot bridges and streams.

There’s also the Healdsburg Museum & Historical Society. Built in 1910-1911, the museum is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and features a variety of creative and offbeat exhibits about the town’s past and its people. Permanent exhibits look at local Pomo and Wappo Indian tribes. Though the museum is currently closed due to COVID-19, make sure to add it to your list when it reopens. Finally, be sure to check out some of the town’s two dozen art galleries, most with within walking in the downtown area.


One of the newest attractions in the area is Montage Healdsburg, a new luxury resort that opened in January. Situated on 258 picturesque acres dotted with some 22,000 oak trees, the resort boasts 130 bungalow-style guestrooms and suites, with private balconies or decks and floor-to-ceiling windows.

Keeping true to the region’s culinary excellence, the resort’s signature restaurant, Hazel Hill, serves California cuisine with French influences, highlighting locally sourced ingredients. There’s also a lobby bar and poolside grill where guests can indulge in creative cocktails, craft beers and delectable fare including fresh seafood.

And, of course, with this being Sonoma County, Montage offers wines from the region’s top wine-producing regions. The resort itself features 13 acres of rolling vineyards, all overseen by internationally renowned partner and winemaker Jesse Katz.

Guests can also enjoy a host of fun activities at the resort. Elevated 20 feet above the grapevines, the 11,500- square-foot spa features 11 treatment rooms, state-of-the-art fitness facilities and a zero-edge pool. There’s also family-friendly games like bocce ball, pickleball and archery, along with electric bike rentals. And for something truly unique, check out the resort’s bee apiary, featuring an up-close view into the working world of bees.

Craving more California inspiration? Check out these articles:

California Wine Country Getaway

Explore the Great Outdoors








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