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Sonoma County Communities

Sonoma County Communities, Big and Small

There are only nine incorporated communities in Sonoma County - eight cities and one town. However, you'll discover a slew of little villages, burgs, crossroads, small towns, and tiny don't-blink-or-you'll-miss-'em enchanting hamlets.

Surprisingly, the entirety of Sonoma County has a small-town ambiance that makes you feel right at home, even on your first visit.

There are no pretenses here; no highfalutin airs.

Sonoma County communities are down to earth and pragmatic - with a flair for the adventurous thrown in for good measure.

From the county seat of Santa Rosa, to teeny-weeny Cotati and it's world-famous Accordion Festival, you'll love them all!

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Sonoma County Communities:
Eight Cities and One Town

Santa Rosa is the county seat of Sonoma, and the largest city in the California Wine Country.

The first-time visitor to Santa Rosa can't go wrong by starting with Historic Railroad Square: lots of cute shops and great restaurants in an early 1900s brick-building setting!

Sonoma, of course, is probably the most well-known of Sonoma County communities as it - along with its cousin, the city of Napa - is considered the heart of the Wine Country.

Sonoma is acclaimed for its wines, its cheeses, and the part it played in California's early history.

Healdsburg is one of the last vestiges of the laid-back, trendy-but-still-approachable Wine Country towns that many of us remember. But that's not going to last forever, so don't delay a visit!

Petaluma might escape your interest if you were driving by on the freeway, but that would be a mistake! In addition to being Hometown America, it's one of the few Bay Area and Sonoma County communities that somehow avoided damage during the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, thus it has one of the best-preserved historic city centers in Northern California.

Sebastopol CA is all about apples - Gravensteins, specifically - and Sebastopolians are proud of it, with an Apple Blossom Festival in the Spring, and the Gravenstein Apple Fair in August! But one of the most popular sights to see is the Florence Avenue Sculptures!

Cloverdale is a sleepy little city with a charming and whimsical downtown area, lovingly refurbished Victorians, and tree-lined streets. If you really want to know what's going on around town, stop in at the Cloverdale Reveille office - that's the local weekly, owned, published, and operated by members of the Hanchett family. Stop in for a chat, and say Hello for us!

Rohnert Park is an early planned city, one of only two hexagonal cities in the United States (and, not coincidentally, the other one is a next-door neighbor to Rohnert Park). Home to Sonoma State University, Rohnert Park is organized into sections (A-H, J, L, M. R, and S). Generally the names of the streets and parks begin with the same letter as the section they are in, so it's easy to find your way around!

Historic Cotati is the smallest incorporated community among Sonoma County communities, and it's the other hexagonally shaped town in the United States. This little town is home to the annual Cotati Accordion Festival in August, and the Cotati Jazz Festival over Father's Day weekend in June.

Last but not least is little Windsor California, which is a town, rather than a city, but it is incorporated. Windsor has re-invented itself within the last ten years with what it calls Old Downtown Windsor. And it's done so in the most charming way! Wolf and I fell in love with Windsor's Old Downtown during our very first visit there.

Sonoma County Communities:
Villages, Burgs, and Hamlets

Agua Caliente (which is Spanish for Hot Water) originated as a land grant and is located in Sonoma Valley. As its name suggests, there are Hot Springs there.

Asti, along with it's kissin' cousin, Chianti, was part of Andrea Sbarboro's Italian Swiss Agricultural Colony.

Bloomfield was, at one point in the late 1850s, the second largest of Sonoma County communities, but it was bi-passed by the railroads, and its growth dwindled.

Bodega - not to be confused with Bodega Bay - is commonly thought to be the town where Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds was set and, in fact, some of the movie was filmed there.

Bodega Bay California, on the other hand, is the site where the first Russian structures were built in California. It served then, as it does now, as a port for fishing and sailing boats. You'll find pictures of Bodega and the Bodega Bay area on our Facebook Page.

Bodega Harbour - try to keep up, I know it's confusing - is a private community associated with the golf course, known as The Links at Bodega Harbour.

Boyes Hot Springs has always been popular for its hot springs, but now is even more well-known as the location of the Sonoma Mission Inn.

Bridgehaven: Willow Creek Road, off Highway 1, near Jenner - our
first truly don't-blink-or-you'll-miss-it hamlet!

Buena Vista: is off Napa Street, East of downtown Sonoma.

Cadwell: is found along the Gravenstein Highway (116) between Cotati and Sebastopol.

Camp Meeker, named after a lumber baron, is a little village along the Bohemian Highway, between Monte Rio and Occidental. It's very near the location of Sonoma County's zip line company, Sonoma Canopy Tours.

Carmet is a small community - think, maybe, 29 households - along Highway 1 north of Bodega Bay.

Cazadero is a small town along the Cazadero Highway near the confluence of Austin Creek and the Russian River.

Cunningham: is in the same general area as Cadwell, off the Gravenstein Highway (116).

Diamond A Ranch: is along Grove Street, West of Agua Caliente and Boyes Hot Springs.

Duncans Mills is a little town on the Russian River that looks a lot like
it did when it was originally built in the 1870s.

El Bonita: is along the Russian River, East of Guerneville.

El Verano, a census-designated place, was a health retreat for tourists until the mid-20th century thanks to its hot springs.

Eldridge - in the Glen Ellen area - is largely known as the location of the Sonoma Developmental Center, largest facility of its kind in California.

Fetters Hot Springs is adjacent to Agua Caliente, but the two are considered by most to be separate Sonoma County communities.

Forest Hills: is along the Russian River, near Hacienda and Hollydale.

Forestville is a town that was originally named Forrestville - with two "r"s - after one of its founders, but the spelling changed long ago.

Freestone is a small community at the intersection of the Bohemian Highway and Bodega Highway; don't blink or you'll miss it - it's about 1/2 mile from end to end!

Fulton is just to the North of Santa Rosa and was named after its
founders, Thomas and James Fulton.

Geyserville, known to tourists for its restaurants, B & B inns, and wineries, also serves as gateway to The Geysers.

The Geysers consists of a complex of twenty-two geothermal power plants and the people who work there and live nearby.

Glen Ellen is a community of about seven or eight hundred people, and is the location of Jack London State Historic Park.

Just a bit larger is Graton, which is considered to be the furthest Southern and Eastern extent of Russian Colonialism in California. It's off the Gravenstein Highway (116).

Guerneville is a popular vacation destination and mixed gay and straight resort in the Russian River Valley. It was so thoroughly logged of its redwoods during the 19th Century that its first English name was Stumptown. And FYI, its current name is pronounced Gurn-ville, not Gurnee-ville.

Guernewood and Guernewood Park: are along the Russian River, between Monte Rio and Guerneville.

Hacienda: is along the Russian River, near Forest Hills.

Hessel: is off the Gravenstein Highway (116), between Cotati and Sebastopol.

Hilton: is along the Russian River, near Hacienda.

Hollydale: is also along the Russian River, near Hacienda and Hilton.

Jenner is a pretty little coastal village - population not more than 150 - at the mouth of the Russian River.

Kenwood lies in the Sonoma Valley AVA and is known for its vineyards and wineries, its restaurants, and its spas.

Sonoma County Communities:
More Villages, Burgs, and Hamlets

Lakeville is located near the Petaluma River, but its name refers to Tolay Lake, which is about two miles East of town.

Larkfield-Wikiup - gotta love that name! - has a population of almost 9000 people, which makes it one of the more substantial unincorporated areas of Sonoma County.

Lytton: is off Interstate 101, North of Healdsburg.

Mark West is just North of Santa Rosa and was named for the Scottish American pioneer, William Marcus West.

Mark West Springs can be found East of Windsor, in the Mayacamas Mountains, with Mark West Creek flowing through the community.

Mercuryville: is off Geysers Road, East of Cloverdale.

Mirabel Heights: is along the Russian River, East of Hacienda.

Mirabel Park: see Mirabel Heights, above.

Monte Rio sits along the Russian River and is a pretty little river
resort town. It's also home to Bohemian Grove campground, which is a private camp owned by the Bohemian Club, a San Francisco-based men's art club.

Montesano: is along the Russian River, between Monte Rio and Guerneville.

Noel Heights: is along Highway 116, North of Sebastopol.

Northwood: is along the Russian River, between Monte Rio and Guerneville.

Oakmont: is off Highway 12, just North of Santa Rosa.

Occidental, founded in 1876, was a sawmill town and a stop on the North Pacific Coast Railroad between Cazadero and the Sausalito ferry. Today it's known for its Italian restaurants, and its craft breweries and wineries.

Odd Fellows Park: is along the Russian River, East of Guerneville.

Penngrove, between Petaluma and Cotati, was a source of basalt paving stones, which were used to pave the streets of San Francisco and other Bay Area towns. It was also the second largest egg and poultry producer in Sonoma - outdone only by Petaluma.

Rio Dell is located on the banks of the Russian River near  Steelhead Beach Regional Park.

Rio Nido - also on the Russian River, as its name would imply - consists of summer homes and a few small businesses.

Rolands: is along the Russian River, East of Guerneville, but West of Odd Fellows Park.

Roseland served as an entry point for immigrants and refugees, and claims one of the most diverse student populations in the county.

Russian River Terrace: is - quite as its name would imply - along the Russian River, in the Hilton area.

Salmon Creek is located on the Pacific coast just North of Bodega Bay and has a population of just under 100 people. It's here that you'll find the most popular surfing spot in the county!

Schellville: is along Highway 12 between Napa and Sonoma.

Sea Ranch is a planned unincorporated community located along the Pacific Coast about four miles North of Gualala (which is in Mendocino County). It was designed to preserve the area's natural beauty.

Two Rock was so named because it is located at the foot of a hill named Dos Piedros, which is Spanish for two rocks.

Valley Ford only has about 150 people, but it's home to antique stores, art galleries, curio shops and Rocker Oysterfeller's Kitchen and Saloon (now there's a great name!) in the Valley Ford Hotel, and it's one of our favorite Sonoma County communities!

Vacation Beach: is along the Russian River, between Monte Rio
and Guerneville.

Villa Grande: is also along the Russian River, West of Monte Rio.

Vineburg: is along Napa Road, Southeast of downtown Sonoma.

Well, I think we've covered them all, but if we have inadvertently left
off YOUR community, please let us know!

We'll have more from Sonoma County to share with you in the coming weeks; things like:

  • Sonoma County Attractions
    From West to East!
  • Sonoma County Beaches
    They're not all on the Pacific Coast!
  • Sonoma County Hot Spots
    Where the Hot Springs are!
  • Sonoma County Parks and Preserves
    State Parks, Nature Preserves, Marshes and Bogs!

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