8 secret gems in Sonoma County
It’s not as well known as Salt Point State Park to the north, but Stillwater Cove Regional Park is a prize in its own right.
Stroll down from the parking lot through what feels like primeval rain forest, cross Highway 1, and voilà … your own private inlet. Or head a quarter-mile north to explore glorious seaside meadows.$; 22455 Hwy. 1, Jenner; parks.sonomacounty.ca.gov.
In a quaint Arts and Crafts cottage in downtown Healdsburg, Bravas Bar de Tapas can start things off with a Spanish-style gin and tonic (made with fresh fruit and herbs like saffron and cardamom) before rolling out such tapas as duck meatball bocadillos, salt cod fritters, and Gulf prawns a la plancha. $$$; 420 Center St., Healdsburg; starkrestaurants.com/bravas.html.
3. Acre Coffee
When Petalumans need a pick-me-up, they head to Acre Coffee, downtown’s nerve center on weekend mornings. Order the dark chocolate mocha, made with Guittard chocolate, then pull up a chair at the communal table to listen in on local chatter. The shelves are stocked with such goodies as housemade granola and direct-sourced coffee beans. $; 21 Fourth St., Petaluma; acrecoffee.com.
Here, UC Davis scientists study everything from abalone parasites to the “singing” of the California midshipman fish, a vocal creature whose crooning can be heard just off the coast. On Friday afternoons, when the lab opens its doors to the public, docents lead tours of the facility, highlighted by a stop at an outdoor mesocosm—a manmade tidepool brimming with ocher sea stars, purple sea urchins, and other native species. $; 2099 Westside Rd., Bodega Bay; bml.ucdavis.edu.
Around lunchtime, pelotons of cyclists pull in and park by the old, rust red Ford pickup. They cram the aisles stocked with jars of jams and Etch-A-Sketches, and order sandwiches like pulled pork and smoked brisket with chipotle mayo. To avoid the weekend bike crowds, come for breakfast: pecan sticky buns and egg-and-cheese sandwiches—to enjoy on the red picnic tables on the patio. $; 6706 State 128, Healdsburg; jimtown.com.
This trail zips through a picturesque swath of Jack London State Historic Park’s 1,400 acres, past gnarled oaks and sweeping grass knolls, to the Sonoma Mountain summit. As part of the ever-expanding Bay Area Ridge Trail, it can be explored by foot, bicycle, or horseback. $; 2400 Jack London Ranch Rd., Glen Ellen; jacklondonpark.com.
Put down your rolling pin and take home a box from longtime local favorite Mom’s Apple Pie. The shop is basic looking, but the flaky-crusted pies come in a huge range of flavors, and the frozen ones heat up like a dream. $; 4550 Gravenstein Hwy. N., Sebastopol; momsapplepieusa.com.
Winemaker Luke Bass bottles all 1,000 cases of his Porter-Bass Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Zinfandel by hand in a wine cave behind his home near downtown. His tours include a tasting under a walnut tree and introductions to the resident chickens. Open by appointment only. $$; 11750 Mays Canyon Rd., Guerneville; porterbass.com.