Duncans Mills offers great shopping in historic, picturesque buildings, wine tasting, art galleries, old trains, museums, restaurants, general store, wine shop. 8 miles west of Guerneville on Hwy 116.
Just a minute's drive west on River Road from Cazadero Highway and three miles inland from the ocean coast, Duncans Mills, population 75, once revolved around redwood lumber mills operated by Samuel and Alexander Duncan in the late 1800s. In 1877, the North Pacific Gauge Railroad completed its tracks to Duncans Mills and hauled out much of the redwood lumber used to build San Francisco. Redwood was also transported south by ship.
For a while, Duncans Mills was a lively destination for Bay Area tourists who traveled to the town via two daily passenger trains. During its heyday, the town had four hotels, restaurants and a saloon to accommodate visitors. Starting in the 1920s, the increased popularity of the automobile began to diminish the number of train riders. As this trend continued, Duncans Mills began to decline and it eventually fell into disrepair. The last train rolled out of the town in 1935.
Fortunately for modern day visitors, this was not the end of the town. Duncans Mills has been restored to closely match its earlier appearance and it's easy to imagine a train chugging into town with a load of city slickers from San Francisco. The railroad depot has been turned into a museum with exhibits of tools, historic photographs, railroad memorabilia and items from Duncans Mills sawmills, with a few historic rail cars standing outside.
Most of the other buildings have been revived as shops, galleries or restaurants that make browsing in Duncans Mills an enjoyable experience. There is a charming general store with deli, a terrific wine and cheese tasting shop (with a Friday evening “happy hour“) as well as numerous gift shops and galleries. Cape Fear is a wonderful restaurant, popular with locals and visitors alike. Across the road, there is a great pizza restaurant with outdoor patio, coffee shop with bakery, and the Blue Heron, a restaurant and bar, with live entertainment, also with an outdoor patio.
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: Duncans Mills is just three miles from the ocean. Here the river is wide, there is an afternoon breeze that blows in from the ocean making it difficult, sometimes, to ascertain which way the water is flowing. There is much wildlife in this section of the river: otters, harbor seals, herons, osprey, sea birds, and deer will all make a frequent appearance. The homes in this area have beach access, and the river, with its strong tides, will remain deep even when the upper river areas have shallows in the fall before the rain. When boating to the mouth of the river, take great care to stay well above the mouth of the river; strong currents can take a kayak out to sea unless you are an experienced sea kayaker. Russian River Outfitters in Duncans Mills rents kayaks and they have a shuttle service as well.
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 in Guerneville.
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. Pick up a free fishing map at King's Sport & Tackle in downtown Guerneville.
Wine & Cheese Tasting of Sonoma County: This is the perfect place to sample the finest wines the amazing California wine country has to offer. When all the wineries are sold out of their best wines, you can often still find them here. In the shopping area on Highway 116 at B Street, Duncans Mills. T: 707-865-0565
WaterTreks EcoTours: Russian River Kayaks
Kayaking & Hiking, Rentals & Guided Tours 10438 Hwy 1, Jenner
All Reservations By Phone: 707-865-2249
Duncan Mills Museum: Built in 1909, the Northwest Pacific Rail Depot has been turned into a museum with exhibits of tools, historic photographs, railroad memorabilia and items from Duncans Mills sawmills, with a few historic rail cars (three railroad cars and two boxcars) standing outside. Hwy 116 at Moscow Road, Duncan Mills. T: 707-865-1424
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 $1/Mi. delivery charge. Call for inquiry: 1.855.483.3732 (toll free)
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: Duncans Mills has a delightfully restored, historic shopping area located on Hwy 116 at B Street.
Coffee, Dining & Nightlife
Across the road from the shopping area, there's a candy shop, fine dining, and some fabulous coffee.
Gold Coast Coffee: Coffee roasted onsite. Pastry and pizza baked in wood oven. 25377 Steelhead Blvd, Duncans Mills 707-865-1441
Sophie's Cellars: Located in a converted Chinese restaurant, Sophie's houses one of the most extensive and unique collection of hard-to-find limited production wines, specializing in Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Champagne and Sparkling Wine. And they have a fabulous array of local artisan cheeses. 25179 Hwy 116, Duncans Mills, ; T: 707-865-1122
Groceries & Banks
The Duncans Mills General Store is the largest grocery store for this area.
The nearest 24-hour Safeway is at the corner of Main and Mill Streets in Guerneville.
All ATMs are located in Guerneville: Wells Fargo ATM inside Safeway; Bank of America ATM in the old bank building at Main and Mill.
Duncans Mills Festival of Art & Wine: Art, music, and food festival, with wine and microbrew tasting in July.
Civil War Days:, Duncans Mills Contact: 707-664-1559 Encampments and twice daily battles staged each 3rd weekend in July.
Russian River Rodeo: Trailrides, "Playdays." Rodeo, complete with "Cowboy Breakfast" and BBQ, is usually held in June at "Bill Parmeter Field," Duncan's Mills. T: 707-865-9854