Free Spirits Soar: Get Away to Guerneville
● By Megan Wiskus
When it comes to natural beauty, it’s hard to top the town of Guerneville. Sited in Sonoma County, the free-spirited city is surrounded by everything impossible to hate: old-growth redwoods, award-winning wineries, a navigable river, and charming downtown district that’s littered with just enough action to ensure it’s both lively and laid-back.
A recent renaissance on the once-sleepy Main Street means new restaurants dishing up seasonal fare, where plates change based on what can be picked; a historic bank that’s been revitalized to include an artisanal ice cream shop, baking company, wine tasting room, and home goods store; and independent market selling local craft brews and house-made picnic provisions. Whether you’re itching for a romantic escapade or girlfriends’ getaway, Guerneville is ready to show you a good time.
WHERE TO STAY
The 14-room, adults-focused Boon Hotel + Spa, named after the owner’s beloved canine Boon—who’s just as charming as the staff—is zensational. A little bit of Bali, a touch of boho, and a whole lot of luxury, it’s the kind of place that instantly sweeps your stresses away. Check in and chill out at the solar-heated saline swimming pool and spa that serves as the hotel’s hub, sip cocktails from the honor bar, play cornhole on the lush lawn, or unwind with a “Tip to Toe” treatment at the on-property spa. When it comes time to hit the sheets, expect organic Coyuchi cotton linens, in-room record players, modern meets minimalist décor, reclaimed redwood furnishings, and breakfast in bed that often includes scratch-made, buttery biscuits. For those who prefer glamping, avail of the vintage “love bug” trailer or luxury tent cabins (Memorial Day through end of September) and experience all the same amenities for a slice of the price. For some serious fresh air fun, hop on one of the complimentary cruisers and journey to town or toward the redwoods.
WHERE TO DINE
Book a table at the hotel’s restaurant of the same name, Boon Eat + Drink, to indulge in sustainably sourced dishes that morph with the months in an atmosphere that’s high-end without being hoity-toity. Whether you order polenta lasagna with garlicky greens or the grass-fed burger with aged cheddar, arugula and pickled onions on brioche, the modern Cali bistro is farm-to-table at its finest.
A few doors down sits Seaside Metal Oyster Bar, which pays homage to all things aquatic—from the blue-gray oceanic color palette to the hot and cold crudo offerings, bacon-y chowder and bevy of oyster options that’ll blow any seafood-lover’s palate away. The intimate interior, open kitchen, and creatively presented plates (I was particularly smitten by the arctic char with horseradish crème fraîche, wasabi tobiko and dill) make for a cozy, mouthwatering meal that’s worth the splurge.
Whatever the weather, ice cream is always a good idea, especially when it’s homemade and crafted using local produce and organic dairy. At Nimble & Finn’s you can expect all of the above (plus pie shakes!) in funky flavors to boot, like maple bourbon bacon brittle, lavender honeycomb, vegan coconut fudge, and meyer lemon olive oil.
If a nightcap is calling your name, El Barrio delivers with an impressive list of colorful, complex cocktails (hello, mezcal) in spirited environs.
WHAT TO DO
Between wine, water, and the woods, there’s a pastime to please everyone here. Grab a box lunch from Big Bottom Market (the curry chicken salad or smashed chickpea and artichoke sandwich are both prime picks) and jump on board with Falcon Mike’s Adventures for a personalized, vino-filled ride through the Russian River’s most scenic and buzzworthy vineyards. Though “Falcon Mike” himself is happy to select the stops, you’d be remiss to skip Korbel Champagne Cellars (complimentary tours and tastes), Sonoma-Cutrer Vineyards (bright, velvety Pinot Noirs, oaky Chards and a side of croquet), and La Crema Estate at Saralee’s Vineyard (multi-level, interactive tasting experience in a lovingly restored century-old barn).
Come spring and summer, the gently rolling Russian River beckons for a fun afternoon of floating. Rent a raft, canoe or kayak at Johnson’s Beach and laze your way down the mellow water for a sun-drenched day of play.
Head to Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve to see what originally put the tree-hugging hamlet on the map (in the late 1800s it was a logging community; hence the nickname “Stumptown”). Whether you choose to hike, go horseback riding or simply snap a quick pic of the oldest (Colonel Armstrong) or tallest (Parson Jones) tree, the 805-acre park is bound to take your breath away—just like Guerneville itself.