Taking the scenic route in Sonoma County

Weekends never seem to last long enough, and weekends at the River seem especially short—there’s really something to that old saying about time flying when you’re having fun. But what takes some of the sting out of the weekend drawing to a close is the beautiful landscape that we get to enjoy all around the North Bay as we head home.

One of our favorite routes follows the Bohemian Highway south from Monte Rio through the forest, where the towns of Occidental and Camp Meeker are nestled, and then on to open meadowlands and pastures, and the lovely little burgs of Freestone and Valley Ford. We often pick up treats at Wild Flour Bread or Freestone Artisan Cheese in Freestone, but even when we don’t, the drive itself is a treat, with equal helpings of peaceful forest and wide-open landscapes.

On the scenic route near Valley Ford.

Our backroads explorations have helped us discover new-to-us corners of the North Bay—whether it’s a winery or a farm tucked along a quiet country lane, or another amazing new landscape and stunning view.

This spring, we were meandering along with the Lakeville Highway on the outskirts of Petaluma when we found a funky, laid-back bar perched almost by itself right off the highway. Ernie’s Tin Bar is a bit of a roadside oasis, with a good beer selection, live music on some evenings and even a designated driver shuttle that operates within a certain radius of the bar (We didn’t take any photos since they also have a no-phone policy, which we acknowledge, as phone addicts ourselves, is a desperately needed respite in the Bay Area.)

The view across the street from Ernie’s Tin Bar

Even when we’re not headed home, we enjoy taking the scenic route whenever time allows. One rainy day, after visiting relatives in Sonoma, we enjoyed watching the storm clouds roll over the mountains as we drove up highway 12 towards Santa Rosa.


On the highway near Kenwood.

Taking the detour whenever we can has become a big part of how we spend time in Sonoma County. It gives us a chance to go exploring in a beautiful area. Even though it’s not far from home, we love having the chance to get to know it better. And, honestly, it’s just relaxing sometimes to take the slower road—especially if it’s Sunday night.


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