Monte Rio may have just one thousand residents, but the population swells to double, triple the size come summertime. This “Vacation Wonderland,” is a nostalgic town with remnants from its glory days of the 1930s, 40s and 50s. Once the place to hear Big Bands play, Monte Rio is now popular for other reasons: its local theater, world-class wineries and riverside attractions. Resting along both banks of Sonoma County’s Russian River, this California town is a little burg with big personality.
The town, just two square miles in area, is situated along the banks of the Russian River near the Pacific Ocean. Naturally, the river provides a source of amusement for vacationers and locals alike. Kayaking, paddling and swimming are popular activities for warmer weather, as well as fishing, hiking and picnicking along the river beach. The Armstrong Redwoods are crossed with winding roads for biking and hiking, and the Russian River Resort Area offers a place for enjoyment and exploration. The Monte Rio Movie Theater is a local landmark that’s built into a World War II-surplus Quonset Hut. The Monte Rio Amphitheater is where you might go for concerts, outdoor theater and other events. Even Monte Rio’s accommodations can be considered landmarks with over a century’s worth of history. The Village Inn & Restaurant was a backdrop in Holiday Inn, a Hollywood film starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire, and the Highland Dell Hotel site of the local OktoberFest.
Sonoma County is one to explore, with vineyards, farms and Redwood forests dotting the Pacific coast. Guerneville, a town 4 miles east of Monte Rio, is also set along the Russian River. Its shops and eateries are main street attractions, but the Armstrong Woods State National Reserve is nature’s best. Sebastopol, just 30 minutes away by car, is the center of the area’s wine country, while Woodfour—also 30 minutes away—is a new-ish brewery of Belgian beers and sours. Head into seafood territory as you get closer to Bodega Bay, where you’ll catch the best views of the Pacific Ocean. The main attractions in Bodega Bay are Tides Wharf and the Sonoma Coast State Park. Though Tides Wharf can get overrun with tourists at times, the State Park is a true getaway with secluded coves and spectacular coastline views.
Because Sonoma County is such a top wine country destination, there is a bounty of accommodation options in the area. Romantic inns, boutique hotels, trendy resorts—you can take your pick. In Monte Rio itself, there are a few noteworthy lodgings that deserve some recognition. The aforementioned Village Inn & Restaurant, between $145-$235/night, offers stunning river and mountain views. The Rio Villa Beach Resort is the place to relax on the banks of the Russian River for around $100-$260/night. The River View Garden Resort is a B&B with a private deck and full kitchen in most units, available for $99-$170/night. Highland Dell Resort and Huckleberry Springs Inn & Spa are also two popular lodgings in Monte Rio. For something a little more out there, booking a private cottage, a cabin for ‘glamping,’ or a luxury suite is another option.
Sonoma County Transit provides local transit around Sonoma, Sebastopol, Guerneville, Petaluma and the 101 corridor north to Cloverdale. Fares are based on zones and how far you ride, and you can calculate fares online at sctransit.com. Cash or a Sonoma County Transit pass are accepted forms of payment. There are also airport limousine services between Sonoma County and San Francisco or Oakland airports. Check out the local list of private service providers at sonomacounty.com. If you’re checking out a local wine tour, some wineries or companies offer transportation services as well. Taxis are another means of transport; you’ll find a range of private companies providing metered cabs to luxury taxis.
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