Sonoma County marks the birthplace of California's wine industry and is of wild contrast to San Francisco just an hour away, reached via a spectacularly beautiful coastal drive. Visitors are greeted with beautiful rolling vineyards, vivid green farms and wild cliffside beaches, with world-class food and wine to boot.
Illustrious Napa has long dominated in the wine country stakes, and Sonoma is happy to remain in the background. In turn, sweeping vineyards and family farms play host to a more laidback, countryside culture, where exquisite food and wine is matched only by the spectacular scenery. Public transport is not Northern California's forte, but spectacular coastal drives more than make up for it – specifically the Pacific Coast Highway, where farmlands play host to grazing cows, giving way to winding cliffside trails with miles of remote sandy beaches dotted with sea stacks. Add in the fact that Sonoma is home to acres of Redwoods, some of the world's oldest trees, and you're met with an outdoors that rivals its big name neighbours. Explore it with hiking around forests and vineyard trails, biking among endless hills, kayaking through stunning Bodega Bay and some when-in-Rome Californian surfing.
Food and wine is, unabashedly, Sonoma's highlight, and visitors flock here accordingly. Farm-to-table food is a draw throughout the county, while the vineyards' hospitality is such that no-appointment tours and tastings are the norm, rather than the exception. Expect a countless variation of wineries, from family-owned remote vineyards to enormous acres that offer sensory wine and food pairings, showcasing the region's best Chardonnays and Cabernets alongside ultra-fresh garden-to-table produce. There are over 400 world-leading wineries to enjoy, while Michelin-starred restaurants compete for your attention with authentic taco trucks with hand-me-down recipes kept secret in the family for generations.