Insider’s Guide to Guerneville

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Surrounded by natural beauty, the small, Russian River town of Guerneville is a popular destination in the summer months for its sunshine-filled days, river activities, and nearby hiking trails. Add in a great local food scene and down-to-earth vibe and it’s no wonder Guerneville — a longtime getaway for the LBGTQ community of the Bay Area — attracts visitors all year long. Whether you come for a dose of nature or to sip local wine, here’s an insider’s guide to what to do and see in the colorful town of Guerneville.

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Lodging / Guerneville

Applewood Inn

For a dose of romance in the Russian River, head to this Mediterranean-style boutique inn surrounded by peaceful gardens and towering redwoods. Each of the 19 rooms and suites are comfortable and inviting, and with a noteworthy gourmet breakfast, tranquil pool, and onsite day spa, you’ll have all you need for a relaxing stay in Wine Country. Dedicated to sustainability, the inn also composts, uses solar energy, and grows their own organic fruits and vegetables.

Insider Tip

Don’t miss dining at The Restaurant at Applewood, a Michelin-starred, fine dining restaurant serving Cal-Mediterranean cuisine inspired by the bounty of Sonoma County. The restaurant is closed during the winter months, but with cozy fireplaces in some of the rooms, you may not mind having an excuse to stay in.

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Lodging / Guerneville

Fern Grove Cottages

Located just three blocks from town, Fern Grove Cottages is a convenient place to stay near all that the Russian River has to offer, from shopping to swimming to hiking and more. Built in the 1920s, the rustic cottages have since been restored but still retain their throwback, woodsy feel, complete with wood burning fireplaces and gas log stoves. Cruise into town on complimentary bikes before taking a dip in the heated, saltwater pool, then retire for the night in your cozy room nestled amongst the trees.

Insider Tip

A stay at Fern Grove Cottages includes continental breakfast, where their not-to-be-missed homemade scones are served fresh with jam made from locally-grown fruit.

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Lodging / Guerneville

Boon Hotel + Spa

The modern, minimalist 14-room boon hotel + spa fuses upscale amenities and a hip vibe into an eco-chic hotel in the Russian River. Spend the day relaxing by the solar-heated, saline pool with cocktail in hand or opt for a spa treatment, then soak in the hot tub under the stars at night. Complimentary bikes, spa-like bath products, and breakfast delivered to your room sweeten the deal.

Insider Tip

For a slightly more rustic experience, stay in one of the hotel’s glamping tents, available during the summer season, or the vintage “Lovebug” camper available year round. You’ll enjoy the same luxuries as the rest of the hotel, like organic linens and breakfast in bed, but with a slightly more camplike vibe. Just know that much like staying at a campsite, bath facilities are shared.

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Restaurants /

Big Bottom Market

Whether you’re looking to start your day with coffee and a bite or need to pick up all the fixings for the perfect picnic, Big Bottom Market is a one-stop shop for all your wine country needs. From pre-made salads and artisanal cheeses to local jams and even a great selection of local wines, don’t be surprised if you visit here more than once.

Insider Tip

Don’t miss trying one of the breakfast biscuits, which made the list of Oprah’s favorite things. The Sea Biscuit is a local favorite, combining smoked salmon, créme fraiche, pickled onions, and capers for a salty, satisfying way to start the day.

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Restaurants / Guerneville

Boon Eat + Drink

This modern bistro serves up flavorful California fare from Chef Crista Luedtke in its inviting location in the heart of Guerneville. Local and seasonal items dominate the menu — some even grown in the restaurant’s own gardens — and in keeping with the theme, the restaurant serves exclusively Russian River-made wines and microbrews.

Insider Tip

While you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu, it’s certainly worth your while to order the famous Brussel Sprouts, served perfectly crisped with chili flakes, garlic, lemon, and olive oil.

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Things To Do / Guerneville

El Barrio

This modern Mexican cocktail lounge, owned by Chef Luedtke of boon eat + drink, is a fun place to cozy up for a night of south of the border-inspired snacks and drinks. Enjoy a handcrafted cocktail from the tequila, mezcal, and bourbon-focused list as you nibble on house-made corn chips and melty queso.

Insider Tip

While the cocktails may be the star of the show (El Jardin is a local favorite), there’s a small selection of beer, wine, and non-alcoholic beverages available. For food, even meat eaters will enjoy the Vegan Tacos made with roasted sweet potato, mushroom, and chipotle cashew crema, served alongside tasty bourbon-spiked beans.

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Wineries / Guerneville

Korbel Champagne Cellars

With over 135 years of experience producing sparkling wine, Korbel is a popular destination for fans of bubbly. Head inside the ivy-covered brick building for a complimentary 50-minute tour to enjoy a glimpse into the winery production facility and cellar while learning about Korbel’s history and dedication to traditional winemaking techniques. Afterwards, grab a bite from the onsite delicatessen and market to pair with your sparkling wine, best enjoyed on the deck surrounded by vineyards and majestic redwoods.

Insider Tip

Korbel offers a large selection of sparkling wines in a variety of styles and at different price points, but don’t miss their limited-edition bottlings that change with the seasons, like the 2018 summer special, The Wavecatcher — an eye catching, sweet sparkling wine perfect for celebrating summertime.

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Things To Do / Guerneville

Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve

Located just a short drive from Guerneville, Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve is a must visit destination while in the Russian River. Standing beneath the towering redwoods, most of which are over 500 years old, you’ll feel humbled by the endurance of the natural surroundings and awed by mother nature’s grandeur.

Insider Tip

All of the main park features can be found along the Pioneer Nature Trail, a mile and a half trail that’s mostly flat and ADA accessible. An easy 0.1 mile walk from the entrance will find you at the largest tree in the park, The Parson Jones Tree, which stands 310 feet tall and is an astonishing 1,400 years old.

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Restaurants / Guerneville

Guerneville Bank Club

Housed in a former historic bank built in 1921, The Bank Club is a place where history, local artisan goods, and design all exist under one roof. You’ll find handmade, organic ice cream in innovative flavors at Nimble & Finn’s, as well as delectable pies featuring local and seasonal ingredients at Chile Pies Baking Company. At Jam Jar, browse the modern, curated collection of local art and home decor before sampling wine at INIZI Wines, a small wine label dedicated to Italian varieties.

Insider Tip

For a unique artisanal treat, try the Green Chile Apple or Mexican Chocolate Pecan Pie before checking out the bank’s original vault, now home to a fun photo booth.

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Things To Do /

Johnson's Beach & Resort

While we’d never discourage spending a lazy afternoon floating the river on an inner tube, it’s also fun to experience a more lively side of the Russian River during one of the annual music festivals. The popular swimming beach, Johnson’s Beach, sets the stage for the Russian River Blues Festival in June and Jazz Festival in September, where you can sip on local wine with sand in your toes as you savor the sounds of music under the California sun.

Insider Tip

The beach doesn’t have parking, so plan to walk from town for these events, which take place rain or shine.

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Hana-Lee Sedgwick

Hana-Lee Sedgwick, based in her hometown of Santa Barbara, California, specializes in West Coast wine, food and travel. Her work has appeared in publications including Santa Barbara Magazine, The Tasting Panel, and 7×7. She loves to travel, stay active, and share food and wine with friends. Follow her on Instagram at @wanderandwine or visit her blog, wanderandwine.com.