The redwood-hugged Russian River is the best-known stream rolling through Sonoma County, but it’s not the only one. Up north, the Gualala River, on the border with Mendocino County, enters the Pacific near the town of Gualala, which makes a peaceful, fresh-air base for a low-key getaway.
Late fall through early spring is when gray whales and humpbacks migrate along the Sonoma coast, and what better place to observe them than the Whale Watch Inn, four miles north of Gualala on Anchor Bay? It’s a close-to-nature haven with ocean views from all 18 suites, plus wood-burning fireplaces and inn-issued beach towels, bowls, blanket and bed for your four-legged friend.
On a more modest budget? The Surf Motel, walking distance from the center of town, overlooks the ocean and is situated at the start of the Gualala Bluff Trail, offering elevated ocean views and great whale- and bird-watching. Gualala Country Inn, walking distance from shops and restaurants in town, is also just a stroll from the Bluff Trail. About three miles north of town, Serenisea Cottages is a small resort encompassing a cluster of four bluff-top cottages and a dozen nearby rental homes.
As you explore the area, don’t overlook Gualala Point Regional Park, a dog-friendly oasis with a little bit of everything, from redwood groves to sandy beaches, meadows, marshes, picnic area and seasonal fishing. It’s one of a half-dozen Sonoma County regional preserves that between them offer some 140 miles of hiking trails and countless ocean views.
Plan, too, on a short drive south to Jenner, where the Russian River rushes into the Pacific. Be sure to visit Blind Beach at Sonoma Coast State Park, where a narrow trail takes you directly from Highway 1 to the water. Dog-friendly lodging choices on the luxury side include Jenner Inn and Cottages and Timber Cove Resort, each providing a warm and welcoming seaside atmosphere but accepting small dogs only.
Photo Credit: @harper_and_lucky