Guerneville (don't call it Guerneyville!) is the largest town on the river; mid-way between Santa Rosa/Hwy 101 and the coast/Hwy 1. Charming small town with lots of shops, restaurants, bars, pee wee golf, bike rentals, Johnson's Beach, boat rentals, sport & tackle shop, historic landmark bridge, Armstrong Woods State Park (self-guided trails in old growth redwoods) and Visitor's Center on the town plaza.
Guerneville, with about 3500 residents, is the largest of the lower Russian River towns, located mid-way between Santa Rosa/Hwy 101 and the coast/Hwy 1. With a three block square downtown, the majority of the area restaurants, shops, and taverns are located here. Quaint and eclectic, exuding charm, Guerneville is populated by strongly individualistic folk. Although there is a Safeway, you won't find fast food chain restaurants. At the main intersection in town, Main Street and Armstrong Woods Road, there is a town plaza, with permanent chess tables, at the foot of the historic pin truss Guerneville Bridge which is now a pedestrian way. Located off the plaza is the Visitor's Center, a must stop for anyone new to the area.
Like much of the river area, Guerneville has a largely rugged terrain. Although the downtown area, Armstrong Valley north of downtown, and some riverside neighborhoods are fairly flat, most of the area is defined by steep and heavily forested hills/small mountains. There are numerous narrow, twisting roads up into the hills and even many of the relatively level roads are winding and narrow. Seasonal creeks run into the river in a number of locations; most are dry from mid-July to mid-October.
Although Guerneville has a substantial family orientation as a travel destination, it is also a destination for gay travelers. There are a few gay resorts and bars. There are also two larger resorts and a number of smaller resorts that cater primarily to a straight clientele. Gay and straight couples vacation here, often in mixed groups themselves, and gays with families find this a great destination. The beauty of Guerneville is that gay and straight are not distinctions that matter much to anyone here. What does matter is that loud, raucous, partying groups of any kind are much disliked and the natives are quick to call the sheriff if their tranquility is disturbed. Quiet guests who are looking for a peaceful, beautiful destination in tune with nature are welcome.
The Russian River is clean and safe for swimming. The water is tested frequently to ensure its integrity. Beaches tend to be gravel, with some sandy areas. We recommend that you wear water shoes, which can be purchased inexpensively at several stores on Main Street in Guerneville.
River in Summer/Dry Season: In summer, spring and fall, the Russian River is breathtakingly beautiful. During this time, the River is gentle, with a moderate flow and no white water. Dams in the river are generally installed the middle of June, after the salmon have gone upriver to spawn, to keep the water level in Guerneville consistently high enough for swimming and boating. In the spring and early summer before the dams go in, the river level can be very low, rendering docks above the dams unusable. Therefore docks in Guerneville are not installed until after the dams are in and this varies from year to year. The dams are generally removed the end of September or beginning of October.
Whether or not the docks are in, there are areas where boating is always possible, even if the river is at its lowest. In the summer, the water is warm and the swimming season often runs from May into October. Although the river is never dry, it might be low enough that boats may need to be floated over shallow water areas during this period.
One of the dams provides a summer bridge between River Road and Neeley Road in the Vacation Beach area, a shortcut for people staying on the south side of the river heading into town or toward the coast. On the south side, look for a road called Beach. On the north side, the summer bridge is not marked; look for it a mile or so west of downtown.
Fishing is another important river activity. Spring brings the shad and catfish. During the summer months, large mouth, small mouth, and striped bass, along with blue gills, are caught here. For info about guided fishing trips and equipment rental, visit King's Sport & Tackle.
River in Winter/Rainy Season: During the winter rainy season, which generally extends from the middle of December through March, the River is very swift, cold, deep, muddy, and unsafe for swimming and boating. The Chinook head up river in the fall, followed by the Steelhead Trout. While Chinook must be released immediately if caught accidentally, Steelhead fishing is an exciting winter sport here. As long as the river is low enough for standing in waders, the river will be dotted with the hopeful. One of the most popular areas is just east of the Guerneville Bridge. Pick up a free fishing map at King's Sport & Tackle in downtown Guerneville.
Johnson's Beach: This blast from the past offers food, drink and beer, as well as inner tube, kayak, canoe, paddleboat, and beach umbrella rentals, all at great prices. There's a roped-off, shallow lagoon for the little ones, and deeper water for swimming and boating, plus a boat launch. With real bathrooms and changing rooms, this is a great place for family and friends to while away those vacation hours. Beach open daily Memorial Day into October (while the dams are in) 10am-6pm, except during the Blues and Jazz Festival weekends. No dogs. Free parking. Swim Lessons June-August. Check out this great review of Johnson's Beach.
King's Kayak and Canoes/Sport and Tackle: Kayak rentals and river trips. Camping gear, sporting goods, salt and freshwater tackle. Beach gear, inflatable boats, novelties and toys. Resort and Swimwear. 16258 Main Street T: 707-869-2156
Cemetary: A fascinating pioneer cemetery can be found on the Morningside Hill above downtown Guerneville. Take Woodland right off Armstrong Woods and wind up to Sunset. Turn left and park. Spend an hour or more wandering this beautiful resting place, both for its historic interest and for the interesting contemporary grave sites.
Hiking in Armstrong Woods State Reserve and Austin Creek State Recreation Area: Not to be missed, this is where an ancient stand of redwood trees survives to awe the fortunate visitor. There is a level trail of less than two miles which allows the visitor to get a good sense of the mystic magic of the redwood forest. Combined with the Austin Creek recreation area there are over 6800 acres with many hiking trails, some quite strenuous. Unfortunately dogs are not permitted on the trails, but they are permitted on leash on the road through the park.
Horseback Riding with Armstrong Woods Trail Rides & Pack Station: Horseback adventures through the giant redwoods and coastal mountain wilderness of Armstrong Redwoods and Austin Creek State Parks. T: 707-887-2939
Bike Rentals through Bike Partners: They will deliver your bike rental to your home or into town. They offer an assortment of bikes, Singles and Tandems. You can also rent a child carrier attachment for the bike. The bikes are fold away bikes. Which means you can fold them and put them in the trunk of your car and drive to whichever location you would like to ride. $40 for a 24 hour rental. Plus a $5 delivery charge, for delivery to Guerneville. Call for inquiry: 1.855.483.3732 (toll free)
River Riders Bicycle Rentals: How about renting a bicycle in Guerneville, and riding along the majestic Russian River, through the redwood forest, to a winery, or even to the Sonoma Coast? We are a local bike rental company in Guerneville, and we deliver for free! 707-483-2897 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Korbel Champagne Cellars: Established in 1882, Korbel Champagne Cellars has been a part of America's greatest celebrations for more than 120 years. It has been the exclusive champagne of the past five presidential inaugurations, and was the champagne of choice for the Camelot years of the Kennedy administration. Located a few miles east of downtown Guerneville, on River Road, Korbel offers an extended tour of the famous Cellars to learn how champagne is made, ending with complimentary tasting. The Korbel Wine Shop and Tasting room features Korbel champagnes, wines and brandies. The gift shop presents treasures of wine country, including unique glassware, pottery, cookbooks and wine accessories. Tour the Korbel Rose Garden Tour and lunch at the Korbel Delicatessen. For area information, check out the Russian River Visitor's Center on site.
707-869-5919 / 17121 Hwy 116, Guerneville
Health and Fitness center. Basic equipment and a complete set of free weights. Pet Friendly!
Pee Wee Golf: The first of many sculptural pee wee golf courses created by the Koplin family, Pee Wee Golf of Guerneville opened in 1948. Newly remodeled and looking sharp, kids as young as three can make a hole-in-one. Teenagers often hang out here in the evenings. Two 18 hole courses, video arcade, pool tables and refreshments. Open 11 to 11 summer until Labor Day weekend, and weekends in spring and in September. Usually closed October 1 until Easter, but it doesn't hurt to call. Also will host private parties. Look for the purple dinosaur on Drake Road, just off Hwy 116, Guerneville. T: 707-869-9321
Henry M. Pacheco Memorial Playground: Tennis & basketball courts, baby swings, small play structure, 1 picnic table, wood chips. No restroom. No dogs. Old Caz Rd. just off Hwy 116, west of downtown Guerneville
Public Playground/Drake Road, Guerneville: New play structures on sand, swings, basketball courts. Port-o-let and water fountain. Next to tennis courts. Drake Road just off Highway 116 south of Guerneville Bridge, across from Pee Wee Golf.
Public Playground/Orchard & Summer Crossing, Guerneville Small, newish play structure with rings, basketball court, picnic tables, BBQ, water fountain. No restroom; no dogs.
Public Tennis Court/Old Cazedero Road, Guerneville: Just off Hwy 116, about a half-mile west from downtown. Around the corner from the River Grill.
Public Library, Guerneville: With free Internet access, on Armstrong Woods Road, across from the fire station.
Local Radio: 97.7 FM/The River plays classic rock. 95.1 FM/The Bridge is a non-commercial community radio station which provides a bridge between the Guerneville Community Church and the Russian River Communities.
Shops and Services: Guerneville has a nice assortment of fun shops: antiques, gifts, clothing, pet supplies, an old-fashioned five and dime, sport and tackle shop, video rentals, florist, pharmacy, general mercantile, book store, bath shop (with wellness spa services), jewelers, several nurseries, and a wonderful stone sculptor gallery which also sells stone carving supplies. There are a couple of body workers and beauty salons, as well as an old-fashioned barber. See the shopping section on the Visitor's Center website for specifics: http://www.russianriver.com.
Coffee, Dining & Nightlife
Coffee Bazaar at Cinnabar, on Armstrong Woods just north of Main Street, is an Internet café with outdoor seating (with misters on hot days). They offer a full array of coffee and teas, as well as pastries and light meals.
Starbucks: in Safeway at Main and Mill. There has been much controversy in town about Safeway's decision to add the Starbucks when Guerneville has two good locally owned coffee shops already.
Restaurants: Guerneville has an array of eating establishments, including fabulous Mexican and Thai food, great hamburgers, top-notch pizza, and some excellent dinner houses.
There is no such thing as a "gay" restaurant in Guerneville. Even the Triple R restaurant, located in a gay resort, is frequented by a mixed clientele and locals of any persuasion count this restaurant as a favorite. In terms of gay/straight relations, Guerneville is close to paradise---no ghettos, no off-limits places, just a mellow scene where all are welcome.
Groceries & Banks
24-hour Safeway Bakery, pharmacy, deli, fresh fish, florist, liquor, produce. Corner of Main and Mill Streets.
Food for Humans: Small health food store with produce, bulk food, supplements, and organic groceries. Next to Safeway on First Street.
Convenience Stores: Between Church and Mill on Main Street and in the gas stations on the corner of Main and Mill.
Wells Fargo ATM located inside Safeway. Bank of America ATM in the old bank building at Main and Mill.
West America Bank located in downtown Guerneville. 16265 Main St., (707) 869-0665.