This Sonoma Coast loop will take you through southwestern Sonoma County to sleepy Bodega Bay and the Sonoma beaches beyond.(Drive the Russian River Day Trip to see the north coast starting at Jenner.) Use the free map for this Sonoma Coast self-guided day trip that wends through what were once apple- and plum-producing orchards and are now vineyards.
Starting from Highway 101 just north of Petaluma, you’ll take the Highway 116 West exit. Plenty of picturesque countryside and old buildings still exist on the way to the Sonoma Coast. You’ll pass the historical Llano Road Roadhouse at 4353 Gravenstein Highway South.
Traffic might slow down a bit for the Sebastopol Flea Market. On weekends the jumble of stalls set up in the woods becomes a beehive for bargain hunters, and traffic can back up a bit.
A little farther north at Bloomfield Road, get pumped for the day with a stop at the Hardcore Espresso stand on the left side of the highway. You’ll recognize it by the motorcycles, farm trucks, and occasional tractor parked in front.
When you come into Sebastopol resist the temptation to linger in this bustling rural town. As this will be the end point for this day trip, you will have plenty of time to shop, dine and explore later in your full day.
You might want to stop at the Sebastopol Visitor’s Center to arrange your night’s lodging. There are two wineries included on this blue route, but if you’d like to include more wine-tasting in your day, you can also get winery and tasting room information at the Center.
Continue on to the intersection with Highway 12, turn west and follow the two-lane rural road approximately ten miles to the Sonoma Coast. Horticulturist Luther Burbank had gardens in this fertile area. There are many wonderful nurseries along the way, some offering tours.
Bodega Bay and Beaches
Slow down for the colorful strip of antique and curio shops at the little town of Bodega. Alfred Hitchcock’s 1963 film The Birds was filmed in this 19th century village. Make a photo stop at the historic school and church that were featured in the film.
Highway 12 meets up with Highway 1, which will take you north to the Sonoma Coast at Bodega Bay. This fishing port is always picturesque, regardless of frequent foggy mornings.
Doran Beach, at the south end of town, is a long, sunny sandspit with a stretch of swimming beach on one side and the mud flats for birding on the other. There is a scenic golf course in the recreational development nearby. Enjoy fresh seafood and local oysters at one of the rustic waterside restaurants. Fishermen sell their catch dockside. You can book deep-sea fishing and seasonal whale-watching trips from this port.
Go north on Highway 1 and turn left to drive around the bay on your way to Bodega Head. During low tide you can observe many species of seabirds on the mud flats. On your left just before drive up Bodega Head, there is a cozy cove where locals like to swim.
Hiking trails criss-cross Bodega Head, offering breathtaking views of the Pacific ocean, the Sonoma Coast and Bodega Bay. During the Grey Whale migration you can view the whales from the cliffs.
Sonoma beaches north of Bodega Bay stretch for 17 miles, bordered by gentle sand dunes. There are access roads to the beaches from Highway 1. Highway 1 continues on to Jenner, situated at the mouth of the Russian River. (Jenner and the Sonoma Coast north is included on the Russian River Loop. Today’s tour doubles back south to Highway 12.)
Bohemia and Country Roads
Traveling inland from the Sonoma Coast, when you come to Bohemian Highway turn left. Freestone is just ahead. Stop in at Wild Flour Bread. Hand-kneaded breads, scones, and biscotti come warm and crusty from the wood-fired oven, making this a must-stop with locals. Stretch your legs on a stroll through their pretty little herb, vegetable and flower garden.
The Osmosis spa nearby has a meditative Japanese garden. They offer a Japanese enzyme bath. Visit the Wishing Well Nursery to see its 100 types of fuchsias and handsome garden sculptures.
Just a few miles ahead the road runs through the bohemian town of Occidental, nestled between steep forested hills on either side. The Victorian buildings house shops and restaurants, each with its own unique character and offerings. A mile down the road you can view some of the most exotic plants in the United States at the Western Hills Rare Plant Nursery.
Turn off Bohemian Highway at Graton Road and drive through a vineyard valley to an undiscovered delight of a little town called Graton. In the village of prettily-restored old buildings you’ll find shopping an adventure. There is a co-op gallery exhibiting the best of local artists’ works, and a potpourri of antique and import shops.
Country markets and cozy restaurants sell gourmet items and fresh-baked goods. Take a walk on the hiking trail through the vineyards, and in the late summer pick wild blackberries roadside by the bucket.
Drive up the hill to Gravenstein Highway and turn right onto Highway 116/Gravenstein Highway N. When you get to the intersection with Occidental Road, you can turn either way to do some winetasting.
To go to the Taft Street winery, turn right on Occcidental Road and at Barlow Lane turn left. To go to the Hanna winery turn left on Occidental Road. It’s a beautiful drive that crosses the Santa Rosa Laguna.
When you are finished wine-tasting, go back to Highway 116/Gravenstein Highway N. and head south to Sebastopol, the end of today’s day trip.
Click here to learn more about Sebastopol.
Print out the free South Coast Map and guide for your personal use and follow the blue route.