Sonoma County: the California wine region that's ripe for exploring
Just 30 miles north of San Francisco is Sonoma County — home to gorgeous wineries, towering redwood forests, quaint villages, and more than 55 miles of dramatic Pacific coastline. It's no wonder the region was ranked among Forbes' Top Destinations for 2021 and Travel + Leisure’s Best Places to Travel in 2021.
Here's our guide to why Sonoma County should be added to your travel bucket list, so pop open a bottle and let's get stuck in.
First things first — you've got to taste the wine
Us Brits may be more accustomed to the wines of our Mediterranean neighbours, but it's safe to say the USA's grapes have definitely got it going on.
Sonoma County has over 425 wineries spread across the valley — with two nabbing the coveted platinum and several taking home the gold at the 2021 Decanter World Wine Awards.
Nearly 60,000 acres of Sonoma's vineyards fall within the borders of 19 American Viticultural Areas, each with their own distinct characteristics, so you can find the perfect one for you: choose from rustic, family-run wineries to internationally recognised estates.
Plus, some wineries also have a lot more to offer than just the grapes — you can grab a bite to eat in the restaurant, unwind in the spa, or go for a post-tasting dip in the swimming pool.
To make the most of your time, you can buy a Tasting Pass that includes entry to multiple venues.
Explore the great outdoors
It's not all about the booze, though — Sonoma County is a great destination for getting back to nature, with 11 state parks, a mild climate, and a commitment to sustainability. The more popular activities are hiking and biking, but many parks also offer horse riding, canoeing and kayaking, boating, and fishing.
Another great way to spend time outdoors is heading to the coast. Top up your tan, go for a walk along the awe-inspiring clifftops, or you could even go whale watching. Sonoma County has over 50 miles of rugged Pacific coastline, with gorgeous beaches that are perfect for a day out.
And of course, don't leave without standing amongst the majestic redwood trees of the Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve. This forest sanctuary preserves 805 acres of Coast Redwoods, and has 9.2 miles of hiking trails, all of which are an easy stroll along level trails.
Or, for a more thrilling adventure, head to the Alliance Redwoods to go ziplining through the leafy canopies — you can even book an overnight stay in a treehouse and cosy up under the stars for the ultimate forest experience.
Hang out with Snoopy and the gang
One of Sonoma County's most notable names is Charles M. Schulz, creator of the Peanuts comic strips. The Charles M. Schulz museum is well worth a visit for adults and children alike, to get to know this iconic artist and his lovable cast of characters.
Check out some of the original comic strips, watch some animated specials and documentaries, and learn all about the art of cartooning — plus create some of your own.
Have an al fresco massage, or relax in some hot springs
After all these exciting activities, it's time to chill. Sonoma County is home to over 40 spas and wellness centres for that much-needed downtime. Many spas use locally sourced ingredients like honey, lavender, and goat's milk, and offer al fresco treatments like outdoor massages.
There are also three hot springs in the area, providing the perfect opportunity for some rest and relaxation. These geothermal mineral springs were considered sacred by Native Americans, who would travel for days to soak up their healing properties.
Find your perfect home from home
There are a wide range of unique accommodation options in Sonoma County — from rustic farmhouses to glamping sites and 5-star hotels. You could unwind at a sea ranch overlooking the coast, book a riverside cottage for the family, or kick back in luxury at the Fairmont.
Whatever it is you're looking for, we can pretty much guarantee you'll find it, with a whole variety of options to suit all tastes and budgets. See a full range of accommodation options here.
Tie it in with a road trip
A great way to visit Sonoma County is part of a good old-fashioned American road trip. Fly into San Francisco (many UK airports run direct flights), spend a couple of nights exploring this fantastic city, then grab a rental car and head up Highway 1. Feel the wind in your hair as you cross over the Golden Gate Bridge, and zoom along the coastal curves of the highway.
The stretch of coast from San Francisco to Sonoma County is particularly picturesque, with pretty little towns like Bodega, Timber Cove, and Sea Ranch all making great pit-stops.
Ready to start planning your trip? Check out the official visitors guide for more inspiration.