Wanderlust: 48 Hours in the Bohemian Highway

By Laura Braden Quigley

The Bohemian Highway is a magical spot in Sonoma County filled with rivers and redwoods with minimal cell phone service.

Anchored by small towns of Duncan Mills, Monte Rio, Guerneville, Cazadero, Occidental and Freestone, the area offers locally-sourced restaurants, art galleries, dive bars and one of the most scenic drives in California.

Head 30 minutes west, and you’ll hit the Pacific Ocean…head 30 minutes east, and you’ll hit the heart of Sonoma wine country…making the Bohemian Highway a perfect spot for meandering and exploring the Golden State.

Distance from Sacramento = approx two hour+ drive / 120 miles

The Vibe

One local explained that the Bohemian Highway is for all the true hippies that got priced out of San Francisco. Not sure how accurate that is, but the area is super chill, open and friendly.And super LGBT and cannabis-friendly. Come as you are, and pack plenty of layers.

Russian River in Guerneville
Russian River in Guerneville

Pet-Friendly?

Our dogs were welcomed everywhere (patios, stores, galleries etc.), but as always, check ahead of time.

Hungry, Thirsty

Our rental home had a grill and a deck overlooking Austin Creek, so we cooked a lot, but here are the bars/restaurants I can vouch for:

  • Sophie’s Cellars (Monte Rio) – Need reinforcements? Check out this adorable market featuring a multitude of charcuterie, olives, fresh breads, cheeses and local wines.
  • Seaside Metal Oyster Bar (Guerneville) –  Variety of oysters, hearty clam chowder (scallops, clams, calamari and more!) and the best crudo I’ve ever tasted. Totally laid back spot with impeccable service.
  • El Barrio (Guerneville) – Best margarita I’ve had in a long time. Be sure to order the hibiscus-flavored La Adelita….and the Queso Fundido. #NotSorry
  • Gold Coast Coffee – Bakery & Pizza (Duncans Mills) – Great coffee, smoothies, baked goods and brick oven pizza.
  • Negri’s (Occidental) – Old-school and family-style Italian restaurant located right downtown. Full bar and casual atmosphere.
  • Barley & Hops Tavern (Occidental) – Laidback bar/restaurant with a huge selection of beers/local wines (order Tilted Shed’s barrel-aged cider!), “fancy” burgers and live music.

A Place to Lay Your Head

Hot tub on the redwood-filled deck of the “Willowhaven”

The area reminds me of Tahoe in that while there are some hotel/B&B options, your best bet is renting a house for the weekend.

Proximity to San Francisco means plenty of CUTE options on Airbnb. Couples should check out the cozy A-frame cabin or the architect-designed cabin in Cazadero. Larger groups should consider this slick 3-bedroom loft in Occidental, and I’m dying to stay at this treehouse complete with hot tub and huge deck in Guerneville.

I’ve also stayed at the Willowhaven, which had an open layout, fireplace in the bedroom and hot tub built into the deck (surrounded by redwoods). It was cute, clean and completely affordable.

Be sure to also visit Russian River Rentals‘ website – they have a variety of sizes, prices and amenities throughout the various towns along the Highway.

Funtivities

Whether you want to chill out with a book on a hammock by the Russian River or hunt for redwoods, the Bohemian Highway has got you covered…

Take your dogs to a quiet section of Austin Creek for some easy strolling. The water rarely gets deep, so our pups were going nuts running wild around the creek banks.

Austin Creek
Austin Creek

Those in the mood for shopping have to hit up Boho Bungalow (Occidental), Commerce Fine Goods (Guerneville) and the Sonoma Nesting Co. (Guerneville).

  • Boho Bungalow
    Boho Bungalow

    Boho Bungalow is ahhhhh-mazing. Think Anthropologie, yet affordable and lovingly curated by the woman likely to be working the register. The owner, Faith, is actually from Sacramento, and I had to be restrained from buying everything in the shop. Swing by even if Yelp says they’re closed – she regularly stays open late, depending on foot traffic.

  • Commerce Fine Goods is a tiny and bright shop tucked into the Guerneville Bank Club, which makes homemade pies and ice cream, BTW. Mostly decor, clothing and jewelry, I scored an amazing pair of turquoise marble studded earrings for $45.
  • Sonoma Nesting Co. has an eclectic mix of art, antiques and home decor. Fun place to wander around for a unique find you didn’t even know you needed.
Cheesy stock photo aside, one of my fave things to do on the BH.

After a day of hiking, crawl on over to the Japanese-style Osmosis Day Spa (Freestone). While they offer a full menu of services, they’re the only place in the U.S. to offer a cedar enzyme bath, which was heavenly! You start in a small room to enjoy tea and the view/sounds of a Japanese tea garden. They then move you into another room that has giant vats of steaming cedar pulp (smells delicious). Plunk down, inhale deeply and relax as the hot, fermented cedar works its detoxifying magic. After you wash off, you can either take a nap to “metamusic” (supposedly helps relax and balance your brain waves) or receive a 75-minute massage or facial.

Drive approx 30 minutes west to Bodega Bay and hike any number of trails. My favorite is Bodega Head, which has great views of cliffs/rocks, restrooms and free parking. Be sure to also visit Goat Rock State Beach in Jenner for killer views and handmade forts/teepees made out of driftwood.

Guerneville has several art galleries and a super cute “First Friday Art Walk” with local vendors stationed throughout the sidewalks.

And if none of that sounds like your cup of tea, then check out the cycling options, Northwood Golf Club in Monte Rio (challenging course open to the public situated among redwoods), hiking in the Armstrong Redwoods in Guerneville or the community beach with kayaking in Monte Rio.

Happy trails!

Goat Rock State Beach
Goat Rock State Beach

(Updated from July 2010.)

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4 Comments

  1. Nimmi Solomon says

    I just stumbled across your blog and wanted to thank you for using (and crediting) my picture. I’m quite flattered. Thank you. btw…my favorite scenic drive, the Bohemian Hwy! Nimmi

  2. Amanda says

    My family and I both thank you for mentioning Negri’s in Occidental! Wish I could have met you when you came through town.

  3. Marie-Christine Kollock says

    Love Boho Bungalow ! What a wonderful store ! Also don’t forget Hazel a delicious restaurant in Occidental that also serves a delicious brunch !!!

  4. Penny Sadler says

    I just skimmed this area last April. Looking forward to returning this year and spending more time to stop and smell the redwoods. 🙂

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