Redwoods. Vineyards. Mountain towns nestled in pine trees. Scenic coastal views. Otters. Sea lions. Ponies, for some reason? Fresh oysters. It kinda sounds like I’m describing a bunch of different locations, doesn’t it? Nope: I’m describing one small destination in Northern California, located just a couple of hours north of San Francisco: Guerneville, in Sonoma County. It’s the PERFECT weekend getaway from San Francisco!
Tucked away into Sonoma County you’ll find all of the best that Northern California has to offer, conveniently located close to the redwoods, wine country, and the coast. The area, comprised of several small towns including Guerneville, is referred to as the Russian River and it spans just west of Napa over to the stunning California coastline. This is where we chose to spend the first part of our 2-weekend anniversary celebration (look, our anniversary fell on a Wednesday, and we’ll take any excuse to travel 2 weekends in a row). We holed up in the most luxurious accommodation we could find on Glamping Hub for a cozy, romantic weekend getaway: this stunning cabin just outside of adorable little Guerneville.
If you’re looking for a Russian River getaway, we gotcha covered. From the exact Russian River accommodation where we stayed to our romantic weekend itinerary, we’re pretty much handing you your next Valentine’s Day, anniversary, or birthday present. Don’t worry, we won’t tell bae it’s actually from us.
Pack your coziest flannel shirt (because historically, this area was known for logging – fun fact!) and let’s head north from San Francisco to the Russian River.
Table of Contents
Psst: Looking for more San Francisco weekend getaways? We’ve got some posts you’ll definitely want to check out!
- The 10 Best Weekend Trips from San Francisco, California: A Local’s Guide
- The 8 Best Hikes Near San Francisco
- 12 Off-Beat & Awesome Places to Stay Near San Francisco (on a budget)
Russian River Getaway Destination: Guerneville, California
Guerneville is one of those adorable little Northern California towns that often gets overlooked by tourists en route to more popular Northern California travel destinations, such as Napa or Mendocino. The result is a town that appears much like I imagine it looked decades ago, when gay tourists from San Francisco began flocking north to enjoy this laid-back liberal haven tucked into the redwoods of Sonoma County.
Walking down the main street in town and you’ll get a distinct gay lumberjack kind of vibe (rainbow storefronts, stuff made out of wood), mixed in with some Northern California hippie/artist (weed, patchouli, thrift stores, artist enclaves), plus a heaping dose of modern cool in the form of some new businesses that appeal to exactly the sort of foodie, boujie Bay Area yuppies that Jeremy and I like to pretend we’re totally not but really totally are.
Guerneville is perfectly situated within a few minute’s drive of all of my favorite Northern California things: redwoods, vineyards, and some of the most stunning coastline in the world. It’s also inexplicably got a lot of ponies. Like, driving through Guerneville, around every corner is a redwood grove, a vineyard, or a farm with some fluffy, frolicking ponies.
We tried to figure out why, of all things, there were so many ponies in Guerneville, but Google was unhelpful and the locals we asked seemed equally bemused. Although one winery owner did give us a few choice words about his neighbors’ poorly behaved ponies: apparently there isn’t a pony behavior school in Guerneville, and the undisciplined ponies sometimes get up to pony shenanigans.
As a result of this conversation, we now very badly want to meet a rebellious pony, but the ones we saw mostly just munched quietly on grass.
The history of Guerneville stems from the logging industry in the late 1800’s. The familiar story goes like this: humans show up, find something beautiful and precious and special, and decide to destroy it in exchange for money.
Thankfully for Guerneville, redwoods (and sequoias) grow very quickly in the right conditions. And the coastal fog and fertile Russian River valley are the perfect conditions. So despite being nicknamed “Stumptown” for a while, the redwoods of Guerneville have returned.
You can see some absolutely enormous, majestic AF redwoods in Armstrong Redwood State Nature Reserve. Or, just look outside: they’re everywhere! Our cabin alone had 2 massive redwoods just chillin’ right outside the floor to ceiling windows. Oh, and about that cabin….
Russian River Accommodations: Where to Stay
Here’s the good news: there are a LOT of places to stay near Guerneville. Here’s the bad news: that makes deciding where to stay in Guerneville REALLY hard. Trying to find a Russian River cabin rental can be overwhelming, which is why this was actually our first time staying in the area. Many of the vacation rentals in the Russian River area & near Guerneville are privately owned, and there are TONS of options for Russian River accommodations, from cottages to lodges and everything in between.
Enter Glamping Hub, which we found to be the easiest way to browse for stunning Russian River vacation rentals. Glamping Hub is basically AirBnB for luxury camping and glamping: it’s got all the coolest, most unique places to stay that you can sometimes find on AirBnB, like yurts and cabins and even airstreams, minus that dingy basement closet with the dirty couch that you slept on the last time you tried to rent an AirBnB. Also, the company isn’t semi-universally despised and causing housing prices to skyrocket while skirting local legislation and neglecting their own customers, like AirBnB is. I’m STILL pissed about that time we got our AirBnB account hacked, by the way. Ahem. I digress.
Anyway, we found this beautiful cabin listed on Glamping Hub, our new favorite accommodation obsession. Floor to ceiling windows with stunning views? Check. Instagram-worth A-frame silhouette? Check. Babbling brook? Redwoods? Airstream? Indoor fireplace? Adorable little red Le Creuset French Press? An outdoor sauna? Hammocks? Checks all around! It was perfect.
Like, the only thing missing was a pony, and they had a few of those just down the road.
Each morning during our romantic weekend getaway, we awoke to a vista of redwoods and the babbling of Austin Creek. We made coffee in the bright red Le Creuset French Press while waiting for the sun peek over the hills and warm up the cabin. And each night, we built a fire in the fireplace, put on our cozy PJ pants and warm socks (Northern California is colder than you’d think), stuck an old Pink Floyd album on the vintage record player, curled up in the awesome swinging egg/nest chair, and just like, chilled out, man. It was wonderful.
This particular cabin has room for 2 couples, plus space in the outdoor airstream: perfect for when your other couple friends want to have a couple’s weekend. Um, we’re selfish, and it was our anniversary, so we didn’t bring anyone. Sorry, friends!
Looking for a group, or just you & bae? There are tons of options for beautiful cabins like this one at different price points on Glamping Hub! Take a look at all of the gorgeous getaways in Sonoma County, or click this big fancy button:
Once you’ve got your beautiful, romantic cabin booked, all that’s left is to to plan out your weekend! Here is our itinerary for a weekend getaway to the Russian River.
We recommend driving up on Friday night. We left Oakland around 7pm so that we didn’t hit Bay Area traffic and drove the 1.5 hours north on the 101. It was foggy and dark, but we could tell as soon as we entered the redwoods: their beauty is stunning even in the middle of the night.
As soon as we arrived in our cabin, we cranked the heat up, put on some Pink Floyd (that wasn’t like, an exaggeration. Pink Floyd on an actual record player is phenomenal) and relaxed.
Saturday in Guerneville: Hiking, Kayaking, & Wine Tasting
On your only full day in Guerneville, you’ll want to take full advantage of everything the area has to offer! We recommend starting your day early and grabbing a filling breakfast at Garden Grill (or if you’re REALLY a morning person, Coffee Bazaar, which opens at 6).
- Garden Grill | Address: 17132 Hwy 116, Guerneville, CA
- Coffee Bazaar | Address: 14045 Armstrong Woods Rd, Guerneville, CA
Choose Your Own Outdoor Adventure: Hiking or Kayaking
For the first half of your Saturday, get to know the stunning natural beauty of the Russian River area by either hiking through the redwoods, or kayaking down the river to the sea. It’s hard for us to pick just one! So we’re making you pick, instead, and including both. 🙂
If you choose to go on a hike, pick one of the many trails at Armstrong Redwood State Nature Reserve. You’ll get a chance to gawk at the coastal redwoods, the tallest & oldest living things on planet earth. Rad.
- Armstrong Redwood State Nature Reserve | Address: 17000 Armstrong Woods Road, Guerneville, CA
If kayaking is more your speed, you have 2 options: river, or sea.
- Kayak on the Russian River! You can take a guided tour like this one or rent a kayak yourself (Option 1, Option 2, Option 3). You’ll be kayaking down the calm waters of the Russian River and you’re likely to see otters, coastal birds, and maybe even sea lions if you’re lucky.
- Kayak on the Jenner Coastline, where the Russian River meets the sea. This is a super cute cove, and there are always sea lions, otters, and other critters lounging on the beach underneath the pastel houses of little coastal Jenner. Check pricing & availability
After your nature-filled morning, head back to your cabin and shower – you’ll want to look presentable for the second half of your day!
Wine Tasting in Guerneville
After you’re all showered and cute again, head to wine country to spend the rest of your Saturday getting unapologetically day drunk. Designate a driver and split your tastings, or book a tour to escort you to each spot safely. If you’re like, way more athletic/coordinated than we are, you can even tour the Russian River wineries by bike on a guided bike & wine tasting tour!
If you’re opting for a DIY wine tasting afternoon, we recommend wine tasting at these 3 local Russian River wineries:
Korbel Champagne Cellars: You’ve definitely heard of Korbel. They’re the go-to New Years Eve champagne replacement. A bottle of bubbly Korbel is ubiquitous at every holiday and every brunch, mixed into every mimosa. So we were delighted to realize that their winery was right here in Guerneville! In fact, it’s been here since 1882, making it one of the oldest wineries in Sonoma County.
In addition to being gorgeous, Ivy-covered and historic, Korbel Champagne Cellers offers complimentary 50-minute historic walking tour daily at 11 a.m. to 3p.m. Also complimentary? The wine tastings!! Yasssss. How great is that? Sample a side of Korbel you’ve never tried, such as still wines and even brandies. There’s also a deli at the winery where you can get lunch and sample some of Sonoma County’s local specialties.
- Korbel Winery | Address: 13250 River Road, Guerneville, CA
Porter-Bass Winery: Unlike many popular wineries in Sonoma & Napa, Porter-Bass Winery does not have a tasting room. Or a gift shop. Or a restaurant. They literally have some chairs outside their front door, with a slab of wood thrown across 2 wine barrels. It is exactly as unpretentious as it sounds.
But their wine? It’s world-class. Grown biodynamically and organically, there are 3 varietals to choose from: Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, and Chardonnay. Be sure to schedule your $10 tasting in advance (click here for more info)!
- Porter-Bass Winery | Address: 11750 Mays Canyon Rd, Guerneville, CA
Sophie’s Cellars: Located just down the street from our cabin, this quaint little tasting room & shop is full of delicious wine and artisanal cheese (aka the best pairing since pb&j). Get a $10 tasting and sample several local wines, plus some delicious snacks to tide you over until dinner.
- Sophie’s Cellars | Address: 25179 Hwy 116, Duncans Mills, CA
Dinner in Guerneville
For dinner after your afternoon of relaxation & wine tasting, head to Boon Eat and Drink for a romantic, cozy meal. Owned by the same folks as Big Bottom Market, Boon’s modern, seasonal, locally-sourced foodie menu would fit right into San Francisco’s boujie food scene (we say that lovingly). We particularly recommend the short rib, if it’s on the menu that day.
- Boon Eat and Drink | Address: 16248 Main St, Guerneville, CA
Save some room for dessert: you’re going to want to get pie and ice cream at Guerneville Bank Club, which sounds like a stuffy old white dude convention but is actually home to a delicious pie shop, an ice creamery, and a cute little boutique! Try the Green Chile Apple pie (less desserty, more savory) or the Mexican Chocolate Pecan pie, a la mode – of course. Or if you left like, a LOT of room, try a Pie Shake, which is exactly what it sounds like (we did not leave enough room, so please report back if you get one, because we are SUPER curious what it’s like to drink a pie).
- Guerneville Bank Club | Address: 16290 Main St Guerneville, CA
After a long and exhausting day, head back to your cabin, light a fire, put on a record, read a book, play a board game, and relax!
Lazy Sunday: Road Tripping Down the Coast
The second day on your romantic Northern California weekend getaway is as lazy as the day before was packed. Feel free to sleep in: as long as you’re getting close to San Francisco before sundown, you’ve got all the time in the world.
Breakfast in Guerneville
The first stop on your lazy Sunday is breakfast at Big Bottom Market in downtown Guerneville. Big Bottom Market, aside from being named after one of my best features (and the original name of the region), is famous for delicious, fluffy biscuits.
Unlike San Francisco, there was no wait for a table, even during peak brunch hours. We ordered our smoked salmon biscuit & biscuits and gravy at the counter and then enjoyed having the restaurant mostly to ourselves.
- Big Bottom Market | Address: 16228 Main Street, Guerneville, CA
After breakfast, explore tiny downtown Guerneville – all 2-3 blocks of it – and peek into whatever little boutique, art gallery, or thrift store catches your fancy. We wandered into a thrift store and were delighted to find a few pet birds chirping in cages and legitimately inexpensive vintage clothing.
If downtown Guerneville sounds a bit sleepy and quaint, you’re not wrong. It felt like we were light years away from bustling, busy San Francisco, and it was wonderful.
Road Tripping Down Highway One
When you’re ready, hop in the car: it’s time for a road trip! You took the short way up on Friday night, so now it’s time to take the scenic way back down south along Highway One.
Famous for its stunning coastal views, most folks think of the stretch between San Francisco and Los Angeles as the quintessential Highway 1 road trip, not realizing that just north of San Francisco the Pacific Coast Highway continues and is every bit as beautiful as its southern stretch.
We were thrilled to be driving the perfect car for this exact kind of road trip: the 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport. The roomy car is equipped with a HUGE panoramic roof, which is tailor made for sunny California road trippin’ vibes. Crank up our Driving in California playlist, roll back the panoramic roof, and head out of the redwoods to the coast!
You’ll start your road trip in the cute little coastal town of Jenner, where you’ll be greeted by candy colored houses, sea breezes, and a large group of sea lions basking on the beach. If you have extra time to spare, drive a bit north to get some epic coastal views before you head south.
Highway 1 from Jenner to San Francisco takes about 3 hours to drive, but you also have to account for all of the times you’re going to have to pull over to take a picture. Each new vista is even more stunning than the last!
Along your drive, you’ll see jagged coastline, stunning cliffs, little coastal towns, possibly a herd of elk near Tomales Bay, and several seaside oyster shacks.
Oysters for Lunch on Highway One
Let’s just talk about those oyster farms for a sec: the route you’re driving is known as the Point Reyes Oyster Trail. And if you’re anything like I was when I first moved to California and associate oysters with “ick,” you could not be more wrong. Eating fresh oysters on the side of the Pacific Coast Highway is like, the most Northern California thing you can do next to wine tasting and hiking through the redwoods – both of which you already did this weekend, so you might as well go for the trifecta.
Oysters are cheapest here, where they’re farmed fresh in Tomales Bay. They’re delicious with a little bit of champagne vinegar or cocktail sauce. If you’re lucky, there just might be some fresh Dungeness crab on the menu, too!
The first oyster place you’ll pass if you head inland just a bit is Bodega Bay Oyster Company. It’s a bit off the beaten path which makes it nice and empty – no reservation needed. If you stay on the 1, you’ll pass by The Marshall Store where you can get delicious oysters Rockefeller, as well as Hog Island Oyster Co. – but you’ll want to snag a reservation in advance, as it’s very popular!
- Bodega Bay Oyster Company | Address: 12830 Valley Ford Road, Petaluma, CA
- The Marshall Store | Address: 19225 California 1, Marshall, CA
- Hog Island Oyster Co. | Address: 20215 Shoreline Highway, Marshall, CA
After you stop for lunch, take your time driving down the coast. At any point if you start feeling pressed for time, you can head inland and cut to the 101 to take a shorter way back.
Otherwise, you’ll drive all the way south, through Point Reyes National Seashore – one of the most stunning spots in North Bay and home to a few of our favorite Bay Area hikes – past Stinson Beach and Muir Woods, through Marin and right across the Golden Gate Bridge and right into San Francisco. Welcome back!
Need some more glamping inspiration? We love this article featuring 10 stunning glamping spots we’re DYING to stay in – all from Glamping Hub, of course! I think we’ve actually stayed in the first one before. No, seriously, I wrote about it here!
Hey, looking for some more weekend getaways in California? We have a bunch of other posts about traveling in California! Take a look:
- The Booze & Food Guide to Paso Robles, California
- The 10 Best Weekend Trips from San Francisco, California: A Local’s Guide
- The 8 Best Hikes Near San Francisco
- 12 Off-Beat & Awesome Places to Stay Near San Francisco (on a budget)
Did our weekend itinerary make you want to jump in a car and head to the Russian River? Which is your favorite: redwoods, wine country, or the coastline? Drop us a comment below!
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Disclosure: This post was created in partnership with Glamping Hub and Mitsubishi. As always, all opinions, bad jokes, pony-stalking, etc are 100% our own and totally not their faults.
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