Grown-Up Getaway: Sonoma County without the kids

Sonoma County is certainly a kid-friendly destination, but to best enjoy the relaxed atmosphere, fine dining, and wine tasting opportunities of this region of Northern California, we suggest planning a getaway to Sonoma County without the kids. Here’s how we went about it, including our favorite wineries, dining opportunities and hotel options.

Grown-up Getaway: Sonoma County without the kids

Sonoma County runs parallel on the east with Napa County, and as such, all the wineries and tasting rooms of both counties are easily accessible to you. We think it’s best to break up the county into sections by city, then decide where to stay and what attractions you most want to visit. We drove from Southern Oregon and filled our days with wineries, quaint shopping districts, and restaurants.

Healdsburg:

This town represents some of the best of Sonoma County, with a pretty downtown shopping and wine tasting district and nearby wineries that will wow you. We came in on scenic Highway 128, so we could take in the rolling hills lined with wine grapes to immerse ourselves in our location. Along the way to Healdsburg, we stopped at Silver Oak winery, which has recently built a very impressive LEED-certified facility in the Alexander Valley, and at adjacent Hawkes, both of which produce big, bold Cabernet Sauvignon.

Tip: To enjoy popular Sonoma and Napa wineries without crowds and the need for reservations, consider visiting in the off-season, as we did. We had our share of rain during our January visit, but we also got the full attention of staff at wineries and felt completely relaxed.

Once in Healdsburg, we shopped along the central square where we found a lot of fun boutiques and fair trade stores that we doubt the kids would have had the patience to peruse. If you want to stay the night in Healdsburg, you have a wide array of options, from AirBnb rentals to traditional B&Bs and inns. Try The Girl and the Fig for lunch, if you want to linger over a meal here.

Santa Rosa:

We continued to Santa Rosa, where we settled in at The Sandman. Recently renovated in 2017, The Sandman has been elevated from roadside motel to an up-market boutique feel. The value is definitely there, especially in the off-season, as you get a heated outdoor pool and hot tub, free parking and WiFi, included basic breakfast, and a staffed poolhouse bar (during the weekends). During the summer months, look for weekend pool parties with food trucks and live music! The Sandman is pet-friendly and the rooms have been upgraded to have a chic, modern feel. We were within easy access to downtown Santa Rosa, where we ate a fun meal at Gerard’s Paella, and within just minutes of Healdsburg wineries.

Poolhouse at The Sandman

Sonoma:

From Santa Rosa, we drove about 45 minutes to downtown Sonoma the next day, where we once again browsed boutiques and bookshops, stopped in at Basque Bakery, and had our pick of dozens of tasting rooms. This is a great way to taste area wines more efficiently if you don’t have time to visit the wineries themselves. We spent the better part of a day here, before heading just outside of town to visit Cline Cellars, which we found delightfully down-to-earth (the most affordable wine we found in the valley, but also simply very friendly) and the adjacent Jacuzzi Winery, owned by the same family.

Shop window in Sonoma

 

Sonoma coast:

From the town of Sonoma, it’s easy to head out to the Sonoma coast on Highway 1. After a scenic hour drive, you’ll hit the coast at Bodega Bay. From here, we drove north up the beautiful California coastline to Jenner, where we were warmly welcomed for the night at the gorgeous and cozy Timber Cove Resort.  Built in the 1960s and modernized and updated beautifully since, I cannot recommend Timber Cove enough. After our drive, we were welcomed with a complimentary non-alcoholic beverage from their bar called The Remedy (made with ginger beer to ease any rolling tummies after curvy Highway 1). The spacious lobby had a warm fire roaring, and even in the off-season, the bar was well-populated. We settled into our room, which featured a record player (with a full library of records available to us!) and other retro touches, plus a fireplace (gas burning) and balcony overlooking the stormy sea.

We half-wanted to get right into our cozy robes and curl up with a record, but instead we made it back to the lobby to dine at Coast Kitchen, Timber Cove Resort’s restaurant. The oysters were among the best we’ve ever tasted, and the wine list, as you might imagine, was impressive. Definitely, plan to spend at least one meal here.

Tip: Timber Cove Resort’s WiFi is spotty at best, but that’s okay! There are plenty of board games in the lobby, you have music to listen to, and out on the patio outside the main building, ping-pong and pool tables await, as well as a nice paperback book and many seating options overlooking the ocean.

Timber Cove boosts 25 acres, dotted with benches, nature paths and hiking trails. Consider getting the lay of the land with a personal tour of area hiking options with Unbeaten Path Tours, a local business that introduce guests to nearby Salt Point State Park, Sea Ranch architecture, and the Point Arena Lighthouse and Stornetta Lands National Monument. Timber Cove guests on the Seascapes tour will get an on-site tutorial of our trails, the Bufano Peace Obelisk and the Yakutia Totem (called a Serge).

Fort Ross is also only a mile or so away, a California State Historic Park showcasing a Russian-era church and compound with a National Historic Landmark designation. Fort Ross is surrounded by sandy beaches, panoramic coves, and redwood forests. 

After a 1-2 night stay in Timber Cove Resort, we recommend heading back to Sonoma to round out your trip with a few more wineries, or heading north up Highway 1 to explore the Mendocino coast next!

Disclosure: We explored Sonoma County as guests of Timber Cove Resort and The Sandman. All opinions remain our own.

About the author

Pit Stops for Kids AUTHOR: Amy Whitley is the founding editor of Pit Stops for Kids and content editor of Trekaroo. She writes on staff monthly at a number of travel publications, and contributes to OutdoorsNW magazine as an outdoor adventure traveler. Find Amy at Google.

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