“West County” is what locals fondly call the part of Sonoma County that is west of the Laguna de Santa Rosa and north of Petaluma. West County is full of friendly characters, amazing restaurants, and natural beauty in every view. We are so glad you’ve chosen to stay at our little farm & enjoy the experience that is west Sonoma County. The following is a guide to some of my favorite places and adventures in this beautiful part of the country. I hope you come to love it as much as I do.
Sebastopol is a small town with big personality and culture. The people tend to be a mix of earth-loving opinionated folk, yogis, hippies, ranchers, young permaculture farmers, musicians, artists, & inventors. On every weekend there will be some kind of musical event or community gathering. Here is a list of some of my favorite spots:
Restaurants: I’m a foodie and love really GOOD food, especially local organic farm-to-table food. These are the places I eat regularly:
- Peter Lowell’s – hands down the best restaurant in town. They serve breakfast, lunch, dinner, & weekend brunch. This place calls itself a Califonia-style Italian restaurant but it’s much broader than that. Expect fantastic egg breakfasts, baked goods, hand-made pasta, hearty salads & soups. This place has something for everyone – vegan, vegetarian, meat-lover, & gluten intolerant. If you’re a meat lover, try the lamb burger. If you’re vegan, the macro bowl is amazing. If you love variety, the antipasti plate is a little bit of everything in their “deli” case and a meal for two. The owners also farm and 60% of their produce comes from their land. I recommend reservations on the weekend or during peak hours.
- Zazu – Have you ever watched Iron Chef? The owner of this restaurant, Duskie Estes, was a contestant and the food tells you why. Her style is comfort food with a twist and local ingredients. Duskie’s husband John raises pigs and they use them in their restaurant. This place is GREAT for meat-lovers, so-so for vegetarians. You’ll find a few (very tasty) vegetarian options on the menu but less so than Lowell’s. They serve lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch. Try the bacon-bourbon cocktail, the homemade pasta dishes, the bacon apple brussels, and on the weekend you can get a maple donut with bacon jimmies. And if that’s not enough bacon for you buy some to bring home & have for breakfast later. My favorite thing on the menu? The Zaza-Q burger with fries. Local grass-fed beef, pimento cheese, caramelized onions, BBQ sauce, & two sauces for dipping fries. It only appears on the lunch menu but you can usually ask them to make it for dinner.
- Ramen Gaijin – I LOVE ramen and this place satisfies. They make their own broth & noodles in house and have a great list of other dishes for appetizers. They also have a seriously inspired cocktail list. The downside of this place? They don’t take reservations…and they are extremely popular. Go here expecting an hour wait and you won’t be disappointed. And feel encouraged to good-naturedly heckle them for their lack of interest in taking reservations…I sure do.
- Handline: This one rivals Peter Lowell’s, but it’s owned by the same couple so it’s no surprise. If you love quintessentially Californian cuisine this is the place. Try the amazing fish tacos, chicken tostadas, or the seasonally changing BBQ oysters. Vegetarians will love it too with veggie tacos, tostadas, and Handline’s own veggie burger. Don’t miss this place!
- K&L Bistro – Great food & fun cocktails. K&L has both a dining room and a bar, with two menus. The dining room can be a bit noisy and the bar suffers from the presence of three TVs (great if you have a sports lover with you). There are two tables in the bar against the wall and these are the best spots in the house if you can get them. I greatly prefer the bar menu to the dining room menu. There are all kinds of tasty seasonal tapas: taco del dia, flatbread, steamed pork buns, chicken & waffle, salads, and fantastic oysters. This restaurant is really the only one in town that serves food late into the evening.
Farmer’s Market: The Sebastopol Farmer’s Market is the perfect way to get to know the culture of the town, and so much fun! It is held Sundays from 10 AM-2 PM in the town square. There are friendly farmers, artisans, food vendors, usually music, and even a petting zoo. I highly recommend visiting Farmer George at the Earthworker Farm stall to buy a bag of his beautiful microgreen and edible flower salad mixes.
Coffee, Tea, & Bakeries: Oh, there are so many. To name a few of my favorites:
- Taylor Maid – This is probably the hippest place in town to take your laptop and sip amazing coffee. They have a good selection of goodies and of course, their drinks are fantastic.
- Infusions Tea House – If you love tea this is the place for you. They have some of the best quality teas I’ve ever had. You can get tea to sip there with a cookie or buy bulk tea to bring home. Be warned – if you try their Earl Grey no other will ever satisfy. This is not a place to go if you are in a hurry.
- Muir Teahouse – A quaint teahouse & lunch location for the vegans in your life. This non-vegan likes it too.
- Pascaline – a lovely French bakery on the outskirts of town. If they have caneles (pronounced can-uh-lays) available TRY THEM. This bakery has amazing sweets, quiche, sandwiches, and good simple coffee. The owners and employees are super friendly.
- Patisserie Angelica – Another great French bakery. They focus mostly on sweets. If you like high tea, they have the best in town.
- Village Bakery – This is a classic bakery with all the usual favorites: croissants, muffins, cookies etc. They serve breakfast, lunch, and have an espresso machine for excellent coffee.
Grocery Stores: There are several stores in Sebastopol. These are my favorites.
- Community Market: This store is great for organic produce, and most other things. They also have a deli, butcher counter, and bar. Think of it as what Whole Foods was like in the good old days.
- Andy’s Produce: If you are north of town, Andy’s is a great place to get local produce. They have a full store but are limited in the meat department.
- Bill’s Farm Basket: Bill’s is pretty limited but has all the basic supplies you need. It is a convenient place to stop if your between Sebastopol and Freestone on Bodega Hwy.
- Rialto Cinemas – our local movie theater features both popular feature-length films and intriguing indie films. You can order a glass of wine, a pint of beer, or a whole meal and bring them into the movie with you.
- Main Stage West – There’s usually an interesting play put on by the community happening at Main Stage West. Summer time is often dedicated to Shakespeare.
Ragle Ranch Regional Park: Ragle Ranch is a great place to enjoy a picnic or go for a walk. The front part of the property looks like a city park and the back is wilder with a creek running by and nice mellow trails.
Wineries: These are some of our earth-friendly wineries in Sebastopol:
We strongly recommend avoiding Paul Hobb’s Winery. Sadly, they are not good to their neighbors nor the school and children nearby.
Music: The two best places to enjoy live music and a beer are Hopmonk and Auberine. There are several bulletin boards in town where you’ll find out about other local music events tucked into the hills or studios around town – one in Community Market near the deli and one in the back of Infusions Tea House.
Yoga: Throw a rock in town and you’re likely to hit a yoga studio. My favorite is Devi Yoga, but there is something for every kind of yoga lover.
Antique Stores: There are too many to name. Sebastopol is second only to Petaluma in its number & quality of antique stores.
Art: There are a number of talented artists in town but one of the most prominent is Patrick Amiot. You can find the whimsical painted junk Amiot sculptures all over town, but a stroll down Florence Ave and past the artist’s house will give you the best experience. The gardens in the neighborhood are lovely too.
Misc. Things You Need:
- Sebastopol Hardware: Our hardware store has a little bit of everything: tools, kitchen supplies, sporting goods, clothes, shoes, hats, and much more. Think of it as an old fashioned country store. Did you forget your sun-hat? Head to the hardware store. Want to try out fishing? Get your gear at the hardware store. Need some camp-chairs? Hardware store. You could even get a go-pro if you fancied one.
- eStuff: If you forgot your phone charger or need some other tech equipment, the eStuff store is your place.
The adorable historic town of freestone is one of my favorite places in west Sonoma County.
Small but beautiful, filled with Victorian era homes and businesses,the town of Freestone is en route to the ocean and makes a great stop on your way out to the beach or a lovely place to spend the day. The best part of Freestone is Wildflower Bakery, where they sell legendary bread, scones, and great coffee. My favorite breads are the Fougasse (stuffed with cheese, peppers, onions, and other seasonal veg) and the Egyptian (think giant sticky bun with pecans, apricots etc.). Wildflower has a gorgeous garden out back that is a great place to sit and munch. They are open Friday-Monday and accept cash or check only.
A great way to spend the day is to stop in at the Freestone Artisan Cheese Shop, buy some cheese and olive oil, walk down the road and pick up a loaf at Wildflower Bakery and enjoy a picnic in their gardens.
From Freestone you can choose to continue on Bodega Hwy out to Bodega Bay, or head into the redwoods on Bohemian Hwy. If you choose to head into the redwoods, the first town you’ll come upon is Occidental.
Occidental is a sleepy forest town with lots of personality. Stop in at Howard’s Station for great breakfast, lunch, juices, & coffee (cash only!). If you’re looking for dinner and in the mood for something more upscale with a focus on seasonality, Hazel Café is adorable with amazing cuisine. For a local bar experience and inexpensive Italian food, the Union Hotel is your place to stop. There are many cute shops filled with local artisan creations in Occidental.
You can also wander a bit to take in the redwoods on a walk. The Grove of Old trees is the only free & privately owned preserve in Sonoma County and is just above Occidental. To get to the Grove take Coleman Valley Road out of town and continue straight as it turns into Joy Road. Make your first left onto Fitzpatrick Lane. Drive VERY slowly up Fitzpatrick Lane. There are many neighbors who live on the road and they get grumpy when visitors speed up & down their lane. The parking area is on the right-hand side of the road. The Grove is a small property and fairly flat. It’s quiet and a beautiful place for a picnic under the ancient trees. If you spy a tree with a blue paint line on it, those were slated to be cut down and were saved by the community coming together to protect the trees. Learn more about the Grove here. If you would like to get a more vigorous hike, the Bohemia Ecological Preserve is just down the road. This preserve is open for guided tours (most are free) that require registration. Both the Grove & BEP are owned by the Sonoma County non-profit LandPaths. You can check out the events calendar for Bohemia and a lot of other beautiful lands they visit at LandPaths.org. As I mentioned, all of these events require registration so check out the calendar early!
Occidental is a big draw for cyclists who love to ride Bohemian Hwy on the weekends. Be sure to use caution when trying to pass cyclists on the curvy backroads. If you get stuck behind one, it’s a great opportunity to enjoy the view rather than creating a risky situation by trying to pass with low visibility. The one time of year to absolutely avoid Occidental is during the Gran Fondo ride in October. There will be more bikes on the road than cars by far and it will never be safe to pass them.
If you choose to continue from Freestone out to the ocean on Bodega Hwy, you’ll end up in the lovely ocean-side town of Bodega Bay. For a fantastic artisan fish shop, visit Fishatarian. I highly recommend the fish & sweet potato chips with chipotle aioli or the fish tacos!
There are a hundred things to do in Bodega Bay, so I won’t list them all here. A few of my favorites: Visit the Bodega Marine Lab and take a tour to geek out (check their website for tour schedule), play in the sand at Doran Beach, stop in at one of the many galleries to check out local art, eat more salt water taffy than is good for anybody.
Drive north a bit and park at the Shell Beach parking area. From there you can hop on the Kortum Trail that goes along the coast with breathtaking views and gorgeous wildflowers in spring & early summer. This trail is a birdwatcher’s paradise. Or, from the parking lot you can cross over Hwy 1 (be careful!) and hop right onto the Pomo Canyon Trail ascending 800 ft to get breathtaking views of the ocean and grasslands. On the Pomo Canyon Trail you can hike up to Redhill, a beautiful bluff overlooking the ocean, or you can head further into Pomo Canyon and enjoy the woodlands. Here is a map of the Sonoma Coast State Park area including the Kortum & Pomo Canyon trails.
Driving north up Hwy 1 from Bodega Bay & the Shell Beach parking area you’ll come to the lovely little town of Jenner. Just before Jenner you must stop and visit a Sonoma County oddity for a bite – Russian House #1. What to expect? Great food with a community vibe. What not to expect? Prices, or a bill. When you’re done with your meal you may ask “What do we owe you?” The answer will be, “Pay us what you think the meal was worth.” Bring Cash.
From Russia House #1 you can turn inland and drive along the Russian River towards Duncan’s Mills, or continue along the coast out to Jenner, where the Russian River meets the ocean. As you drive out to Jenner keep your eye out for creatures in the River including the occasional bald eagle.
Upon entering Jenner the best place I can recommend is Café Aquatica. If you didn’t stop at the Russian house (or don’t like Russian food) you can grab a sandwich here and great coffee. There is a patio right on the water and you can watch the river flow into the ocean. Often there will be live music. If you are the sporty type, Jenner is a great place to rent a kayak. From Jenner you can kayak out to see the seals near the mouth of the river. Be cautious you don’t get too close and get caught in the ocean currents. You can also go on a fairly easy paddle (if it’s not too windy) out to Penny Island to explore & have a picnic. On the island you can visit the grandmother eucalyptus tree and check out the abandoned building that was once inhabited. Penny Island has a rich history.
If you headed north and followed the Russian River inland, you’ll soon come to the bucolic town of Duncan’s Mills. The coffee shop and bakery is a great place to stop for a bite. Across the road you’ll find Cape Fear restaurant, a good place for comfort food, and several antique & artisan shops.
If you are a tea fanatic like myself you must stop in Mr. Trombley’s Tea Shop. It is filled with tea accouterments lining the walls and loose leaf tea for sale. This is a great tea shop to visit if you like flavored teas.
Thar Be Dragons Beyond here!
A word to the wise…
Gas stations in West County are few and far between once you leave Sebastopol. In Sebastopol there are plenty, there is one in each of Forestville, Guerneville, and Bodega Bay. Freestone, Occidental, and much of the rest of West County do not have gas stations. It’s best to fill up before you head west!