Healdsburg is located in Sonoma County in the Bay Area of California. It's lovely, quaint town that used to be an agricultural outpost. The three main areas of interest are the town plaza, around which you'll find boutiques, restaurants and Bed and Breakfasts, the Russian River, and the wineries along Westside Road and Dry Creek Road. The Healdsburg/Alexander Valley area is famous for its Zins, though you can't go wrong with goodies like sparkling wine from J Winery, Pinot Noir from Porter Creek and the famous Petite Sirah at Foppiano's.
If you're traveling around California, the best way to get to Healdsburg is to drive. Located about one hour and 15 minutes north of San Francisco, it's an easy get-away into the wine country. Take 101N over the Golden Gate Bridge and there are three different exits into Healdsburg depending on where you're going or staying.
Some companies do specialize in wine country limo rides, buses, etc. There is also a small airport in Santa Rosa, but, again, most people drive into Healdsburg.
If you're wine tasting, you can drive or bike to various wineries, most of which are located on either Dry Creek Road or Westside Road. There are also bike and touring companies that offer various ways to visit the wine country from limo rides to gourmet, speed-racing bike trips.
If you're just visiting the area, you can easily park on or near the Plaza and walk to most places in Healdsburg.
- Stroll along the Plaza. Surrounded by boutiques, two bookstores, several coffee shops and lots of restaurants, the Plaza offers an excellent way to spend a Sunday afternoon.
- River's Edge Kayak and Canoe, 13840 Healdsburg Av., Phone: +1 707 433-7247, . The Russian River has a few very small twists and turns, but otherwise a half-day canoe ride is a pleasant chance to check out the wine country from a different angle. Canoe-goers may need to get out and push (not quite portage), so water-friendly shoes (for the rocky river bottom) are a good idea. There are banks at which to stop and enjoy a picnic and sun as well, so a swimsuit, a snack and some sunscreen may enhance one's trip.
- Bike along Dry Creek Road and Westside Road to winery gems like Hop Kiln, Rabbit Ridge, and Foppiano.
Also, do be respectful of locals. Most residents come from deeply rooted families, and have been born and raised in the town. Thusly, they have observed it's rapid transformation from a quiet village to a yuppie destination dripping with tourists. Do not block the sidewalks, do not double park, and please do not jaywalk.
Most of the unique stores are located on or near the Plaza. You'll find an array of clothing, books, handbags and paperies.
- Gourmet Food: There are several fancy food shops on the Plaza including Oakville Grocery and the cooperative next door to the Healdsburg Inn.
- Books: There are two independent book stores in Healdburg, both on the main plaza, Copperfield's and Levin & Co. Levin & Co. offers a much broader selection of first editions, as well as more recent books. There is also an artist's co-op gallery - Upstairs Art Gallery.
- Costeaux French Bakery, 417 Healdsburg Ave., +1 707 433-1913 . Where the locals go for wine country lunches, award winning breads, desserts, pastries and cakes. Family owned and operated for decades.
- Flying Goat Coffee, 324 Center Street, . Where the locals go for coffee, chai, pastries and, of course, gossip. Packed on Saturday and Sunday mornings, but the coffee and atmosphere are worth the wait.
- Restaurant Charcuterie, 335 Healdsburg Avenue, +1 707 431-7213. Intimate, excellent wine list, unpretentious and pays homage to the "pig" - what could be better. Reservations are strongly recommended on Fridays and Saturdays, unless you're eating later in the evening.
- Willi's Seafood and Raw Bar, 403 Healdsburg Avenue, +1 707 433-9191. Relatively new restaurant on the Healdsburg scene. Pretty hip without being over the top, and the variety of the menu is great. The restaurant is bustling, but you can still enjoy a conversation.
- El Sombrero, Center Street across from Oakville Grocery; Slightly off-the-plaza but one of the best taquerias in northern California. Pray that the Taqueria survives the onslaught of money from the Bay Area, because you won't want to miss their huge burritos, amazing carnitas tacos and soccer games on the TV 24/7.
- Downtown Bakery, 308A Center St., ☎ +1 (707) 431-2719 (fax: +1 (707) 431-1579), . M-F 6AM-5:30PM Sa 7AM-5:30PM Su 7AM-4PM. Only accepts cash and check only, no credit/debt/plastic. Good place to stop by in the morning to get something for breakfast and a cup of coffee. Cafe menu/brunch is served Friday through Monday (over the weekend) from 8 AM til 2 PM. $1-$20.
There are a couple of watering holes in Healdsburg proper, but the best drinks come from the vine. Here are just a few of the dozens of excellent wineries in the area.
- Foppiano Vineyards, 12707 Old Redwood Hwy, +1 707 433-7272, . Daily 10AM-4:30PM. One of the oldest wineries in the area, Foppiano is famous for its Petit Sirah. You can see the ribbons and awards throughout the slightly older tasting room. If you're friendly and unpretentious, you may even get a pour or two of the reserve bottles.
- Hop Kiln, 6050 Westside Rd, +1 707 433-6491, . Daily 10AM-5PM. Hop Kiln just celebrated its 100-year anniversary, and a trip to this winery shows you why it's still in business despite the glut of California wines on the market. Set on stunning, and organic, grounds, Hop Kiln boasts excellent Zins, yummy "Big Reds" and a lovely pond perfect for a picnic. Great stop for those tasting on velo.
- J Vineyards and Winery, 11447 Old Redwood Hwy, +1 707 431-3646, . J features wine/food pairings (for a fee) that illustrate the strengths of the wines and the power of thoughtful food/wine matches. Wine club members and staff are useful resources for other spots to visit nearby. The tasting room art is also worth the stop -- it's a metaphor (just ask) that stands on its own as striking.
- Porter Creek Vineyards, 8735 Westside Rd, +1 707 433-6321, . Daily 10:30AM-4:30PM.
- Best Western Dry Creek Inn, 198 Dry Creek Road, Phone: +1 707 433-0300, Toll-free: +1 800-222-5784, Fax: +1 707 433-1129, .
- Camellia Inn, 211 North Street, Phone: +1 707 433-8182 or Toll free: +1 800-727-8182, ; Another owner-operated inn just off the Healdsburg Plaza, the Camellia Inn offers beautiful grounds, a small pool and a very cozy living room. Beds are extremely comfortable, and the rooms, about $100/night, are quite quiet.
- Fitch Mountain Lookout, 707-477-2528, . Fantastic vacation home perched on the south side of Fitch Mountain in Healdsburg, California. Three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a double-sized living room, a full kitchen, a dining room, an office area, two decks, and accommodates up to 8 overnight guests. The house is very bright and open. All rooms have spectacular views over the Russian River and adjacent hills.
- Grape Leaf Inn, 539 Johnson Street, Phone: +1 707 433-8140, . An absolutely charming B&B in an early 1900s Queen Anne, The Grape Leaf Inn is all elegance with very little unnecessary frou-frou. The best part about the Grape Leaf Inn besides the easy walking distance to the Healdsburg Plaza is the speakeasy hidden behind one of the Inn's bookcases. Evening tastings in the speakeasy include some of the owners' favorite vintages. Often booked solid in the summer, room rates are $180+/night.
- RioVino, 408-679-8890, . Retro Contemporary vacation rental in Healdsburg, two bedroom home thoughtfully furnished for the ultimate wine country and river experience.
From Healdsburg, you can easily take trips to the ocean, to other river communities like Guerneville, or over to Calistoga or other Napa Valley towns. Just 30-45 minutes in just about any direction takes you to another stunningly beautiful part of Northern California.
Day trips include:
- Copia in Napa for more eating and drinking.
- Geyserville farther north if you'd like to take a country drive.
- Bodega Bay along the ocean to beachcomb and check out seals.
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