The Russian River is a favorite Northern California stop for those vacationing as well as staycationing. Located a short drive from the city of San Francisco, the river winds scenically through Wine Country before flowing out into Pacific Ocean. Prepare for a different type of Wine Country experience, by exploring the majestic redwoods, scenic coastline campgrounds, river adventures, and the incredible dining and wineries alongside the Russian River.
This may not be the type of accomodation that most visitors think of when visiting Wine Country. But for those who want to experience nature at its most unaltered, there’s no better way than by snagging a quiet bit of campground along the scenic riverbed. Duncans Mills Camp Club offers private RV camping. You must be a club member or a club member’s guest, but with 37 private acres directly on the Russian River to choose from, a membership might be well worth it (especially with the host of amenities for you to enjoy). Still unsure? You can try out the membership for 3 days and 2 nights for just $60.
If that’s not your cup of tea, check out River Bend Resort, which has an assortment of cabins, RVs, and tent sites. This family-friendly campground is located right alongside the Russian River, perfect for calm river activities such as tubing or simply laying out to catch some rays. For the grownups who want to throw in a little sparkling wine action, the world-renowned Korbel Champagne Cellars is only a jaunty 2 minute drive away.
Wright’s Beach Campground also offers 27 campsites located adjacent to the beach, with picnic tables, fire rings, and a paved parking spur for your vehicle. Aside from the prime location and a view of the gorgeous, rugged Sonoma Coast, the best part (in our opinion, at least) about this slice of nature is that your dogs are allowed.
Ahh, glamorous camping. When you want less pack-in and pack-out, and more sleeping pack in luxury, but still wanted to be surrounded by nature. Boon Hotel + Spa is a modern, 14-room boutique hotel in the Russian River Valley. Boasting a 24 hour “honor bar”, a solar-heated saline pool, and an on-site spa, this zen woodland retreat is an adult-focused property, perfect for a couples’ retreat or an extended date-night for parentals.
For a more homey (but no less luxurious) stay, look into Russian River Vacation Homes, for a wide variety of vacation rentals. No matter if you’re looking to house 2 or 28, you can choose from luxurious estates, creek-front retreats, redwood-forested properties, hilltop getaways, or spacious riverfront homes.
For something a little less conventional, AutoCamp might be more your speed. Inspired by the wanderlust of camping and the great American road trip, this Airstream-heaven campground features modern and luxurious accommodations in a grove of Sonoma redwoods. Kayak the Russian River; stock up on local wine, beer, snacks, and essentials at the camp canteen; gather ’round fire pit lounges or bike to downtown Guerneville; whatever activity you choose, you can do so knowing you’ll be laying your head down to rest in refinement that night.
No matter where you stay, nothing should distract you from the natural beauty that abounds all along the Russian River. Get a bird’s-eye-view (or some romantic air time) with Up & Away Ballooning. Get a super-early start to your day with the sunrise flight and wake up to the unparalleled views of redwood forests, the river winding through the gentle rolling hills, and the vast vineyard estates. As a reward for peeling yourself out of bed before the crack of dawn, you’ll enjoy a meal and a sparkling wine toast at SHED restaurant after touchdown.
Consider getting your blood flowing again with outdoor activities with Getaway Adventures. This premiere adventure tour operator offers guided bike, kayak, and hiking tours throughout the Sonoma region and along the Russian River (and can accommodate all levels and abilities).
Stroll through the Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve, where you’ll find groves and groves of stately and magnificent coast redwoods. There are plenty of self-guided nature trails (the Pioneer Nature Trail is one of the most popular) and picnic facilities, where you can marvel at these silent giants — some of which are over 2,000 years old and can tower over 350 feet.
Once you’ve had your fill of gazing upward, try the Sunset Beach River Park, which offers easy access to the Russian River and perfect for swimming, paddling, picnicking, fishing, and bird-watching.
This is the beauty of camping in Wine Country — just because you’re sleeping in the great outdoors doesn’t mean you can’t also visit a fine winery or two. As we mentioned previously, Korbel Champagne Cellars is an easy stop if you’re camping at River Bend Resort, and who doesn’t want a little bubbly to sip while enjoying nature’s views? Take a 50 minute guided history tour with your complimentary tasting, and if the season is right, feel extra refined with a tour of Korbel’s antique rose gardens.
At Rodney Strong Vineyards, the winery is set up for you to customize your perfect experience, from private to group visits to guided self-tours. There’s also offer our favorite way to enjoy wine — outdoors, on a picnic table or blanket on lush green grass, with snacks and a bottle and good company.
Located just across the way is J Vineyards, a stylish and modern winery known for their varietal and sparkling wines that represent the terroir of the Russian River Valley. For a bite to go with the bubbly, visit The Bubble Room at J Vineyards, one of the first educational wine and food pairing programs in Sonoma County.
Looking to take a break from camping fare, and want to exchange the canned goods for something a little more upscale? Look no further than Spoonbar to turn the camping ritz up a notch with their Smoked Gouda Burger, Summer Squash Risotto, or Lobster and Asparagus Gazpacho. (It’s okay to cheat on your camping meals a little — we won’t tell.) The best part is, you don’t even have to miss out on dining al fresco with Spoonbar’s beautiful open-air dining space.
You can also take it back to the fire at the Piazza de Campovida. The chef creates traditional Napolitano-style pizzas in a wood-fired, brick oven, and gets much of the restaurant’s produce from the 7-acre garden at Campovida Winery.
Or skip the fine dining experience completely, and pick up some sandwiches (and wine, always wine) from Big Bottom Market. It’s a great place to stop mid-adventure and load up on some picnic supplies and a cup of joe. The biscuits and gravy is also a mouthwatering reason to stop by.
Just down the river bend, Garden Grill serves American fare and BBQ. Come for the breakfast, garlic fries, or the tri tip, and enjoy your meal on the cozy patio draped in greenery.
For those hot summer days, visit Nimble & Finn’s for ice cream. With an impressive, innovative flavor list that changes with the seasons (goodies like Strawberry Buttermilk, Maple Bourbon Bacon Brittle, Coriander, Icebox Cake, Lavender Honeycomb… we’re salivating a little bit over here), there’s something to scratch everyone’s ice cream itch.
Cover courtesy of AutoCamp, photograph by Aubrie Pick