The Russian River area in Northern California is a wonderful place for people of all ages to visit. Whether you’re enjoying a laid-back tube ride down the river, picnicking on one of the many hidden beaches, or taking a stroll through an enchanted redwood forest, you’re going to fall in love with the scenic beauty. There are quite a few eclectic cities, towns, and communities near the Russian River, each with their own unique personalities. Book your stay at a Russian River vacation rental today. Without further ado, here are nine of the best places located within close proximity to the gorgeous Russian River.

1. Guerneville

towering redwoods
Source: Flickr/Anthony Quintano

Guerneville may be the largest town on the Russian River, but it still has a welcoming, community-oriented vibe. It’s a great spot for vacation rentals because it gives you quick access to other towns and cities such as Santa Rosa, Petaluma, and Sebastopol. At the same time, the area is cloaked in towering redwoods, and it’s secluded enough to provide plenty of privacy. Besides its location just minutes from the river’s shores, Guerneville has a wide range of attractions, including one-of-a-kind shops, restaurants, and bars, as well as places to rent boats and bikes. Be sure to visit Armstrong Woods State Park, where you can see redwoods that are more than 300 feet tall—longer than the length of a football field!

2. Forestville

boat at the watercourse
Source: Flickr/apasciuto

A popular getaway for San Francisco residents, Forestville is teeming with stunning nature. As you might assume by the name, it’s known for its rich, thriving forests. Besides the river itself, there are also multiple beaches, as well as plenty of farms, wineries, and vineyards for you to visit. Many of the area’s vacation rentals are located in the Hacienda Bridge area, where you’ll have quick access to a favorite neighborhood hangout, Hacienda Beach. The Forestville area provides excellent fishing, bird-watching, boating, and hiking.

3. Santa Rosa

beautiful meadow along the trail
Source: Flickr/David Berry

Santa Rosa is the largest city on California’s Redwood Coast. While there is a bustling downtown area, don’t expect a typical fast-paced city. Santa Rosa has plenty of rural areas and sleepy neighborhoods that are perfect for families. Grab a world-class beer downtown at the Russian River Brewing Company, and visit the Charles M. Schultz museum to learn about the creator of Peanuts who called Santa Rosa home (you’ll even see human-sized Peanuts statues throughout the city). Head to Safari West to see a wide range of exotic African animals, including giraffes, rhinos, and cheetahs. Pack a picnic, and enjoy a leisurely stroll around Spring Lake Park, or enjoy a slightly more challenging hike through the picturesque Annadel State Park.

4. Jenner-by-the-Sea

seals resting at the beach side
Source: Flickr/bettyx1138

If you’re looking for a vacation rental on the ocean, check out Jenner-by-the-Sea. It’s a quaint village located where the Russian River and the Pacific Ocean meet. This small town holds some outstanding restaurants as well as some charming shops. Rent a kayak or canoe for an adventure down the river, or just enjoy sunbathing on one of the serene beaches. The area has some breathtaking views, and the natural beauty can’t be beaten. Popular outdoor destinations include Salt Point State Park, Fort Ross Historical Park, and Kruse Rhododendron State Reserve.

5. Monte Rio

river inside the forest
Source: Flickr/Seán A. O’Hara

Once one of the area’s most popular resort towns, Monte Rio remains a wonderful vacation destination for travelers of all ages. Many of the vacation home rentals are located on Redwood Drive in the Northwood neighborhood. Monte Rio is the only town in the area with a movie theater, so check out the calendar at the Rio Theater, and stop in for a flick and some old-fashioned buttered popcorn and hot dogs. Monte Rio Beach is the largest public beach on the lower Russian River, and there are boat rentals readily available for your aquatic adventure.

6. Sebastopol

wide vineyards
Source: Flickr/((brian))

Sebastopol is just a stone’s throw from Santa Rosa, giving you convenient access to the city. It’s a laid-back, eclectic town with friendly locals, quaint boutique shops, and world-class eateries. It’s known as one of the best towns for antiquing, and there are quite a few new unique age shops that you won’t find elsewhere. Stop by the Laguna de Santa Rosa Wetlands, and don’t forget to bring your camera. You’ll be treated to beautiful views of forests, grasslands, marshes, wildlife, and plenty of other natural beauty. Stop by one of the area’s many wineries for a tour and tasting. Bring the kids to the magical Hallberg Butterfly Gardens, where you’ll see a variety of breathtaking species.

7. Rio Nido

public pool
Source: Flickr/Suzanne LaGasa

Rio Nido boasts a wide range of outdoor amenities that you won’t find anywhere else in the area. The Rio Nido pool is an outdoor public pool complete with a snack bar, video arcade, and a grassy picnic spot. The area also hosts basketball and tennis courts, as well as a playground for the kids. Tee off with the whole family at Peewee Mini-Golf. You’ll also find plenty of spots to rent a bicycle or boat so you can really explore the area. Of course, floating down the river on a tube is one local activity that can’t be beaten.

8. Bodega Bay

rock formations at the seaside
Source: Flickr/mtch3l

Bodega Bay is the place to look for a vacation rental if you enjoy water sports. The area is known for its picturesque beaches, with the bay leading right to the mouth of the Russian River. Charter a boat for a relaxing day fishing the bay, and then bring your catch home to cook up in your vacation rental kitchen. Don’t worry if you weren’t lucky — there is no shortage of fresh-caught, local seafood available. Explore the fascinating tide pools, or just read a book in the sun while you listen to the gently crashing waves.

9. Cloverdale

sulfur creek
Source: Flickr/David Berry

Cloverdale gives you access to the Russian River, as well as to scenic Lake Sonoma. It’s a small town with a lot to offer, including a thriving arts community. City Park is a great place to spend the day, featuring a playground, volleyball and basketball courts, a baseball field, and even an area where you can throw horseshoes. Sculpture Trail is one of the more unique places for a stroll, featuring a variety of outdoor sculptures for you to admire.