Affordable Wine Country River Getaways

Looking for a sun-filled getaway? A road trip to the river communities of Sonoma County might be just what you’re dreaming of. If you’ve already been to Sonoma County wine country you probably went wine tasting or drove along the coast, but when’s the last time you set out to explore the three rivers that flow through the famous wine region? If you do, I can promise you that many of your sentences will start with, “Wow, I never knew.” 

I’m always amazed at how few Northern Californians have even seen the emerald-hued Gualala River, or explored the local shops and galleries of charming Russian River towns such as Forestville, Cazadero, and Monte Rio. Even the placid Petaluma River has something to offer visitors, such as renting a stand up paddle board and taking a self-guided wildlife tour. 

A weekend river getaway to Sonoma County will be filled with fantastic dining, eclectic shopping, world-class wineries, laid back towns, and outdoor adventures ranging from redwood forest hikes to riverside camping. And it’s all just an hour’s drive north of San Francisco.

Here are just a few suggestions for fun-filled late-summer getaways to the riverside communities in Sonoma County.

Featured Photo: Courtesy of Dick Lyon via Wikimedia Commons
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Photo: Courtesy of Jimpp via Wikimedia Commons

Take the family for an affordable overnight weekend getaway along the Russian River at the pet-friendly Casini Ranch Family Campground in Duncans Mills.

Spend the first part of your day exploring Historic Downtown Petaluma. Then, when the afternoon heats up, head over to Petaluma Stand Up Paddle and rent some paddle boards for a self-guided adventure on the Petaluma River.

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Photo: Courtesy of Rubicon Adventures

Take a guided Stand Up Paddle Board (SUP) tour of the Russian River with Rubicon Adventures. Whether you’re a beginner or expert paddler, this is a phenomenal way to explore Sonoma County’s Russian River region. Hugely recommended!

Take an art & antiques tour of the numerous galleries and shops in the river communities of Petaluma, Guerneville, Gualala, Rio Nido, and Duncans Mills.

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Photo: Courtesy of Burke's Canoe Trips

One of my all-time favorite summertime excursions in Northern California is spending a weekend with friends canoeing down the Russian River. Here’s how it works: You pack a lunch (ideally wrapped in a waterproof bag), drive to the town of Forestville to Burke’s Canoe Trips, park the car, pay $75 for a canoe that can comfortably fit two adults, throw on a bathing suit, sunscreen, and a life vest, and launch yourself onto the Russian River. 

From there it’s a leisurely 10-mile journey past sandy beaches, redwood forests, and kids jumping off rocks and rope swings. In the late afternoon you arrive at a well-marked beach where Burke’s staff will pick you up and take you back to your car. Though you can make the journey in about 3.5 hours, you’re more likely to spend four or five with pit stops to swim, eat, and laze the day away. Definitely reserve your canoe in advance, as this is a very popular summer activity in Sonoma County. Camping at Burke’s is an option too.

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Photo: Gualala Point Regional Park courtesy of Jason and Sarah Sewall via Wikimedia Commons

If you’d like to bring your dog along, Russian River Adventures welcome dogs on their super-stable inflatable canoes. I’ve done this canoe trip at least a dozen times with friends and it’s always the dogs that are having the best time, hanging out on the bow sniffing the river’s scents, swimming around the boat, and being the center of attention. 

Now, here’s a recreational getaway idea you probably haven’t considered: Driving up the coast to Gualala (about a three hour drive north of San Francisco), renting a canoe or kayak, and paddling the gorgeous Gualala River. Imagine silently gliding through thousands of acres of private forest filled with wildlife, including osprey, herons, egrets, and river otters. 

You can picnic on the sandy banks of the Gualala River and swim in the water, which is about 70-74 degrees in summer. It’s an ideal setting for a safe, self-guided outdoor adventure for the whole family. Believe me, this is a getaway you will take year after year. You can rent canoes and kayaks in the town of Gualala at Adventure Rents.

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Want to go wine tasting after drying off? Some of my favorite wineries in this region include: Korbel Champagne Cellars, Ferrari-Carano Vineyards & Winery, (a hands-down winner for most stunning landscaping) Bella Vineyards + Wine Caves, Preston Farm & Winery of Dry Creek, and J Vineyards & Winery, best known for its sparkling wines. 

These suggestions are just a fraction of the dozens of summer getaway ideas that await you along the rivers of Sonoma Wine County. It’s tough to go wrong on a weekend getaway to the rivers of Sonoma County.

Looking for more things to do in the area?

Visit our What to Do in Northern California page!

You so deserve a vacation. 

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