Travel journalist Liz Beatty shares these tips for exploring like a local from San Francisco to Northern Sonoma (and back).
Stop, Eat, Stay, Enjoy —
San Francisco to Northern Sonoma
In San Francisco:
Escape all the tourists by renting your own spot in the edgy Mission District, home to all the SF tech hipsters. Try Lolo for luscious local Mexican fare. Then loiter at Dog Eared used books, before indulging at Dandelion Chocolatiers — all on trendy Valencia Street.
The Scenic Route to Healdsburg:
Take Highway 1 right after the Golden Gate Bridge, through Stinson beach (love to rent a spot here too). Stop for a cold one at the Old Western Saloon in Point Reyes (Prince Charles and Camilla did).
In stunning Mendocino, stay at historic Joshua Grindle B&B. Unpack for a night or two to hike through redwoods, explore windswept coves and beaches, sea kayak, horseback ride, peruse galleries, or just take a spa day.
Next, head south and east, via 128 through Navarro River Redwoods State Park down HW101 to Healdsburg. A stunning drive.
NOTE: On the way back to San Francisco from Healdsburg, head west through Forrestville to Monte Rio in the Russian River Valley then follow the aptly-named Bohemian highway through chill Occidental before hooking back onto the 101.
Local Stuff in Healdsburg:
• Tuesday night jazz in the park and the August jazz festival.
• Wine and food fair in early November
• The crush each fall, join local festivities or help with the harvest
• Biannual flea-market in the town square — check local event calendars
• Healdsburg Vintage — With the groovy detritus of some of Sonoma’s most interesting attics, I could happily get lost in this store for hours.
Where to eat:
Among many wonderful options…
The Shed Café: housewares, pantry staples, a larder, farm and garden store, a coffee bar, and fermentation bar.
Dry creek kitchen in Hotel Healdsburg is a favourite of Wilson Winery chef, Donna Parsons.
Diavola Pizzeria & Salumeria is an Italian eatery set in an early-1900s building, serving gourmet pizza, pasta, panini & craft beer.
Valette: Classic upscale Californian cuisine.
Breakfast at the Jimtown Store en route to tastings in the Alexander Valley like nearby Robert Young Estate Winery.
Bravas Bar de Tapas: Rated one of the top 20 tapas bars in America by Travel & Leisure. Extraordinary cocktails on the back patio, including Buddha’s Last Stand with Hangar One Buddha’s Hand vodka, Kaffir-grapefruit syrup, house-made Grapefruit Bitters… and the like.
Werowocomoco — Frances Ford Coppola’s new restaurant at Virginia Dare Winery feature indigenous people’s cuisine. Bison ribs anyone?
Wine Country Bikes is owned by a Canadian champion cyclist. These guys know all the routes for all levels. Great bikes. Their guides love the regions almost as much as they love pedaling.
I heartily recommend our guide Tac — steeped in local wine lore and traditions.
Where to stay:
A place for all tastes…
Grape Leaf Inn
These caught our attention among the Dry Creek Valley vineyards:
Dry Creek Vineyards
Coppola (of course)
Ridge Vineyards Lytton Springs.
But always take a chance and find your own to add to the list.