The Best Bay Area Adventures Begin in Petaluma
Draw a bull’s-eye on a map of northern California and in the center, you’ll find Petaluma — a railway, waterway, and highway hub for 160 years.
For today’s traveler, Petaluma’s central location means being perfectly positioned to explore the best of Sonoma County and the Bay Area. Head north to the majestic redwoods, south to San Francisco, east to world-class Wine Country, or west to the rugged Sonoma coastline. Whichever direction you choose, adventure awaits — all less than an hour away.
A day trip to the coast from Hotel Petaluma is a (sea) breeze. From Washington Street, head due west; a half hour later, you’re in Bodega Bay savoring steaming clam chowder. Or explore Bodega Head, a rocky peninsula with bluffs that offer incredible vistas of the Pacific Ocean, easy trails, beach access, and whale watching in the spring.
Four miles inland, you’ll find th e village of Bodega, where movie buffs will recognize the old Potter Schoolhouse and church spire from the 1963 Alfred Hitchcock thriller The Birds. Snap a selfie with the life-size statue of the famous director who stands watch outside Bodega Country Store.
After you’ve explored the quirky mix of shops and galleries along the scenic coastal highway, it’s time to think about dinner. Has the salt air got you in the mood for seafood? At The Shuckery, just a few steps from Hotel Petaluma’s lobby, finish the day with locally harvested oysters paired with a glass of sparkling Sonoma chardonnay. After taking your last sip, your cozy accommodations are only an elevator ride away.
The Great Outdoors in West County
The beauty of western Sonoma County is that it offers both surf and turf activities.
Make your first stop at charming Guerneville on the Russian River. Nearby Johnson’s Beach is a favorite summertime destination; rent kayaks and inner tubes from the boathouse for a leisurely day on the water. There’s no rushing on this river as you gently float along in true Wine Country style.
If you’re more of a hiker than a paddler, three miles north of Guerneville is the spectacular 805-acre Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve. Meander through a serene grove on self-guided nature trails (including an ADA accessible trail), where old and young alike will be in awe of the towering redwoods — the tallest living things on earth!
To the City by the Bay
When taking a vacation with the family, there isn’t a better place to stay than the Petaluma KOA. After everyone has had a chance to splash in the pool, pet the farm animals, and scale the climbing wall at the campground, plan a San Francisco day trip.
Public transportation makes it easy for the entire family to skip the hassle of city traffic and expensive parking. There are several options: Make the entire trip on a Golden Gate Transit bus (it runs hourly), or drive to the ferry terminal in Marin County and take the Larkspur Ferry to the city.
If you’re a “getting there is half the fun” kind of traveler, ride the SMART train to San Rafael, then hop on the Wave shuttle bus that will take you to the Larkspur Ferry. (Note: The SMART train is opening its Larkspur connection later this year, which will take you directly to the ferry.) It’s smooth sailing to the landmark Ferry Building in San Francisco, a vibrant marketplace of artisan goods and diverse eateries.
At the Ferry Building, enjoy lunch while watching the seagulls swoop above the bay, then make the scenic half-mile walk along the Embarcadero to the Exploratorium on Pier 15. Designed to see where curiosity takes you, everyone will feel like a child again exploring the 650 hands-on exhibits.