I've visited Gualala aka Sea Ranch, in Sonoma County, with my family two summers in a row and felt it was a good time to expand a travel section now that I know more about the area. When I told people I was going out of town, the first question was always, "Where?!" I found that most people didn't know where Gualala is or what to expect while visiting. I would describe the area as very low key with a country vibe. I decided to make a list of my top suggestions on how to properly prepare and enjoy your time during a trip to this rural town in Northern California. This place is perfect if you love the outdoors and lots of down time. The weather is also similar to San Francisco in the sense that it is along the coast so it can be sunny and foggy within the same day/week- be sure to check ahead of time.
1. Prepare to Drive:
Gualala is located up North, about 3-4 hours away from San Francisco, CA. Aside from being a decent drive, during my stay there, I noticed there was no Uber or Lyft service available. There are some taxi services, but I would recommend preparing to drive to your destinations within the area because relying on taxi services in rural areas can be expensive and time consuming considering they may have a smaller staff.
2. Prepare for Downtime
It's ironic to say "prepare" for downtime, considering we should be able to just- relax. But, we are so used to the hustle and bustle that sometimes we forget how to put our mind to rest. While packing, think about what you like to do to get your mind off of social media and work. I recommend bringing a good book, a deck of cards, and a portable speaker. There are also a plethora of therapeutic massages available in the area.
3. Bring Groceries in a Cooler :
There are two supermarkets in the small town. The Gualala Supermarket and the Surf Market. The food at the Surf Market has organic options, but is sooo expensive; a block of cheese and carton of eggs can be as steep as $7 each. The Supermarket is less expensive than the Surf Market, but doesn't have nearly as many organic options. I recommend bringing as much food as possible if you plan to stay for a weekend or more. Be sure to pack a cooler with plenty of ice to keep your perishables fresh during the drive.
4. Allergies :
Last year I didn't experience irregular allergies, but this year was so intense! I heard the pollen count was very high, but I was also allergic to something in the house we stayed in. I even broke out into hives one night. Prepare ahead of time to avoid the suffering I experienced just in case.
5. Bring Your Hiking Shoes :
There are several hiking trails in short driving distance from Gualala. However, be sure to prepare your destination ahead of time and bring a physical map or written directions, if possible. Cell phone service is very unreliable in the area and you want to be equipt ahead of time in order to avoid getting lost.
I've attached the "Best Hiking Trails" according to Yelp here.
6. Bring Your Bathing Suit :
There are many small beaches and swimming pools in the area. Bring your suit so you can enjoy the water and bask in the sun!
7. Watch the Seals:
Emphasis on "watch." There are strict rules and regulations to protect the habitat along the coastline. It's fun to see the seals sunbathe and baby seals play in the ocean, but please refrain from scaring or approaching the animals.
More information on the seals available here
8. Go Wine Tasting :
Sea Ranch is located in Sonoma County aka wine country and there are a few wine tasting locations in the area. I've linked the "Best 10 Wineries" in the area according to Yelp here.
9. Visit the Animal Shelter :
The animal shelter is open from 12-3 Friday through Sunday. We are all animal lovers so every year my family and I visit the cats and dogs. The staff is very friendly and their front yard has a beautiful floral walkway. If you decide to visit, and fall in love, it is $75 to adopt a cat and $100 to adopt a dog.
More information on the Redwood Coast Humane Center
10. Go to the Farmers Market :
Support the locals by purchasing homemade organic jam, honey, coffee, and more
Photo by Aleks Gamzin