Sonoma County: Proving that there’s so much more than to California than surf, sea and wine country

Battling through the devastating fires of 2017 and 2018, Sonoma County still perseveres as a beautiful tourism location, overflowing with delicious vineyards, spellbinding redwoods and famous residents. Alexandra Fraser paid a visit.

Ansel Adams, Beniamino Bufano and Charles M. Schulz: just three incredible humans who saw the innate beauty in peaceful Sonoma County enough to leave their mark on the area. After taking in everything from the majestic groves of redwoods to the rolling hills of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, it’s not hard to see why.

Watching the Golden Gate Bridge disappear in your rear-view mirror can be a little disheartening but try not to dwell on this: it is nothing more than a momentary malady only affecting those unaware of the tourism paradise that lies in front of them.

Sonoma Coastline California

Take it all in

The towns of Sonoma all offer their own little joys. Santa Rosa is home to the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Snoopy’s Home Ice rink, where the beloved cartoonist spent the last 30 years of his life.

Sebastopol is surrounded by some of the most beautiful vineyards in the region and Jenner, a quiet coastal town described as ‘a wide spot along two-lane Highway 1’, is a fantastic base to explore the adventure activities that Sonoma has to offer. Petaluma boasts to be the birthplace of arm wrestling and has several stunning award-winning restaurants and all are within close vicinity to California’s stunning redwood forests.

A week spent in each would hardly be enough to get used to the expanse of natural beauty they offer, a day in each became a whirlwind of biking, ice skating and wide open roads. Thankfully, there was always wine.

The first thing to be aware of when visiting the land of freedom: a car is almost always going to be required to traverse the vast swathes of Californian coastline. Around 40 times the size of our quaint kingdom, the sites of the US are spectacular – if often extremely spread out. Travelling under you own steam gives you the freedom to stop and admire the wild coastal scenery or, more likely, pop into any and all wine tastings you may pass on your route. Be sure to nominate a designated driver.

Sleep in style

Just up the Northern Coast, past the coastal town of Jenner (which you’ll discover is a haven for boozy bike tours in the colder months and guided kayaking in the summer) sits a quiet slice of heaven.

Timber Cove

The natural beauty of Timber Cove Resort, built in 1963 as a retreat to tranquillity, has attracted a number of artists including Beniamino Bufano (who built Timber Cove’s obelisk ‘the Bufano Peace Statue Monument’) and renowned photographer Ansel Adams, who returned to the site again and again, using it as a constant source of inspiration.

Timber Cove Resort

A 2016 refurbishment has left Timber Cove the epitome of casual sophistication, sporting clean, calm furnishings and record players in every room, most of which look out over the rugged Californian coastline.

Rooms at Timber Cove are priced at around £333 a night for a double room with a coastal view, click here to book.

While you’re there 

  • Walk among the Armstrong Redwoods and hike the trail to the Colonel Armstrong tree – if you visit in September you may even have the chance to see the Annual Old Grove Festival, which takes place at the historic Redwood Forest Theatre in the midst of the vast grove.
  • Visit the Lynmar Estate in Sebastopol and try their Estate Wine Flight of Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays, served on a patio which looks out over swathes of rolling vineyards, each containing a different soil type and planted with their own grape. To book, visit www.lynmarestate.com
  • Take a bike ride around Bodega Bay with Getaway Adventures; they may even let you stop at the renowned Patrick’s Salt Water Taffy shop. To see their full range of activities, visit www.getawayadventures.com.

Sonoma Coastline California

  • Travel further up the coast and explore the natural wonders of Northern California’s shoreline with Unbeaten Path Tours.
  • Travel to Petaluma, the birthplace of arm wresting, and eat dinner at The Shuckery, an absolutely stunning seafood restaurant which takes inspiration from the oyster bars of New Orleans.

For more information about Sonoma County, visit Sonoma County Tourism at www.sonomacounty.com.